Minecraft. I like to call it Lego Survival. It has been around for nearly three years (May 2009) and I have been playing for almost as long (July). 24.5 million people have played it, and 5.3 of those have paid for it. I bought it after a day of playing the incredibly early pre-alpha just so I could customise the little dude I was controlling. For a week, I played constantly. I built a tree that went as high as it was possible to build. I was hooked, and I kept playing on and off since then.The game has gone through several versions, from the tiny, bare world of the original (now called Minecraft Classic, and still playable for free on the site) to the current, near infinite world with biomes, varying vegetation, abandoned mineshafts, villages, monsters and kindly beasts. The game is now massive. The core is the same, however: Every single thing in the world can be picked up or destroyed and placed somewhere else. Like Lego.
I played alone when I was in Minehead for a year, building the various things you see in the above video. Once I got back, I made my map playable online and has since messed about with my base together with my oldest friend, Bjørn Henrik. I will do some form of update with that base soon enough. Playing with someone else there has given the game a whole new feeling. Mundane tasks like harvesting building materials or clearing out an area are made less so by the fact that you have someone to work with. We keep the banter going on Skype. Recently, I decided to make Bjørn Henrik a skin as well, so I made the thing you see on the right here. It’s actually uncanny just how much it really reminds of him despite the low resolution. The T-shirt carries a Pixies logo, because he’s badass like that.
There are a multitude of ways to play Minecraft. That’s kind of the point. The game allows you to play it exactly how you want. You can spend all your time building increasingly complex mechanisms, you can just run around exploring, you can build to your heart’s content, and you can even breed farm animals. Want to play as a vegan? You can do that. Aside from that, a lot of people have been developing new rules for themselves while playing, restricting their play to make things more interesting. One popular game type is called Skyblock where all you start off with is a tiny heap of dirt, a tree and a chest with some stuff in it. This is all suspended in mid air. If you fall off, you die. Now, you go. Build. Grow trees and create cobblestone by combining the one lava block on the map with water. Create a fortress in the sky. It’s fun, to a point.
Another popular play mode is Tree Spirit Survival. You pick one tree, cut down all of it but the lowest log. From that point onwards, you can not go anywhere without standing on a log harvested from your ancestral tree. You use the saplings that drop from the tree to grow new trees, and the logs to build your path (roots). Any trees sown from the first tree can be used for your path. You’re allowed to drop off your tree to pick up materials you have harvested, but that’s it. It’s an interesting way to limit your freedom in the game as well as to play for a certain aesthetic.
You are allowed to build using anything you find, but the compulsion to create a massive tree base is strong. I mean, you are a Tree Spirit, what’s the point if you don’t live in a gigantic tree? Remember how I said the first thing I made in Minecraft was a massive tree? Yeah, this game mode is like made for me. Not to mention the fact that the space you have above ground is now tree times as high as it was when the game first came out, so we now have the opportunity to create truly massive World Tree type structures. In good time, my tree will have a farm, animal breeding grounds and probably a coffee shop hidden up among its massive branches.
Now, here you can see my wheat farm. Lovely, isn’t it? In Tree Spirit Survival, even a little thing like this is a bit of an accomplishment. To sow wheat, you need seeds. Seeds are found in some of the tall grass in the world as well as the wheat when you harvest that. Since you can’t move off your tree except to pick up things, you have to keep putting down logs to get to fresh tall grass. This means that making a tiny little farm like this takes a long time, and finally having a farm that fully sustains you is an accomplishment in itself. It may sound like a chore, but it’s actually great fun.
We’re still playing this, and we probably will be for a while. I’m thoroughly enjoying the challenge of trying to make my tree look natural without just making it a mess of leaves and logs. I’m working on a branch right now that will hold a new wheat farm. After that, I will keep working upward. Crafting branches, bedrooms, coffee shops, it all needs doing. And I can’t wait to be doing them. Once we tire of this gameplay mode, I will find my way back to the original base and then lay down a railway track between the trees and the base.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys games like Transport Tycoon, Sim City, The Sims and such, I think you’ll find a lot to like in Minecraft. Try it out!