This is Minecraft. MINEcraft. MINE MINE MINE craft! Not so much a game but instead a metaphor for mans greed and desire to dominate the land around him and make it mine, ALL MINE. Ok, so obviously the “mine” in the title refers to the act of actually mining, like for coal, iron, gold and most abundant of all – dirt. While the “craft” is referencing the many acts of “crafting” you will do, be it ladders, tools, torches or bacon, they all need to be “crafted” somehow.
An easy way to talk you through the basics of this game is to show you my diary that I OBVIOUSLY didn’t write at the time but will make up on the spot right now to illustrate a typical day in the Minecraft world;
7:00 – I wake up. Or do I? I feel like nothing has happened up to this point. Almost as though my life starts now. I must be 40 years old. They say life begins at 40, right? Ha.
7:30 – Ok, so had a little wander around. Everything looks like it’s made from giant blocks. I punched some dirt and it broke into a smaller block that I could easily store in my giant, floating inventory box.
10:00 – There are a lot of farmyard animals around.. Strange, since farmyards haven’t been invented yet. Also, I punched a pig until it gave me it’s meat.
11:28 – I just chopped down a tree with my bare hands!! I feel like Chuck Norris. I continued to chop down all the trees around me. I don’t know why, but it just feels right to stock up on all this wood…
12:00 – Ok, you’re never going to believe this… So I see this guy in the distance and he’s like green, kind of looks like he’s rotting. He hissed at me. Despite this I gave him the benefit of the doubt and approached him to introduce myself but he immediately started flashing and then exploded! He left a giant crater in the ground. How rude!
12:16 – I just climbed into the crater and there appears to be stone and coal down there. I punched the stone (which was way tougher than wood!) and picked up the smaller, more managable blocks of stone, I’m sure they will come in handy later… I punched the coal blocks until my hands bled but still couldn’t get any of that sweet, juicy coal out. This sucks… I really want that coal.
13:03 – Lunchtime. I eat the raw pig meat and sit on a tree stump as I think about stuff and that. Why am I here? Why are any of us here? I wonder what I can do with all this wood?
14:06 – Eureka! Using the wood I collected earlier I’ve constructed a workbench. I then made some sticks and then put stone on top of the sticks to make a spade and a pickaxe!
15:10 – Spent the last hour using my new toy, the pickaxe, to dig up that coal I saw earlier. It works! I now have a pocketful of the tasty blackstuff! (coal, not Bovril)
16:01 – Been digging for the last hour. This hole is now pretty deep!
18:05 – Still digging… But had to stop due to lack of light. I resurface and realise that the huge bright square in the sky is getting lower and everywhere is getting darker…
19:00 – Oh crap! A bloody great big spider that just chased me! I managed to climb to higher ground where it struggled, but it’s slowly making it’s way up to me… I should probably build some shelter.
20:08 – Awesome. I used the wood, dirt and stone to make myself a hut at the top of this hill. I’m safe. But for how long?
22:02 – So… Yeah. Pretty bored now. Been sitting here in the dark for 2 hours looking out of the gap in the wall at the many many monsters that are waiting for me. Starting to wonder if this is it…
23:11 – Whilst mucking about with the stuff in my inventory I create fire! Sweet.
23:15 – Fire sticks now adorn the walls of my hut and it’s actually quite cosy in here now.
23:35 – I feel safe now and confident enough to start digging again. I dig a hole inside my hut and just start going down, putting up torches as I go.
01:00 – This is awesome. I’ve found lots of cool things now! More coal, some browny/gold coloured stones and just more stone…
03:04 – Oh crap!!! Just fell quite far down into a huge, dark, cave!!! I can hear noises, like the monsters I saw earlier. I put torches up but can’t quite see into the distance.
04:09 – Ok… Really scared now. I’m out of torches and can’t make any more because there’s no wood down here! What the hell was that noise!?
04:10 – That noise was apparently a skeleton shooting arrows at me! WTF!?
04:30 – Dead.
04:31 – I respawn above ground. Damn! More skeleton archers!
04:33 – Dead.
04:34 – Respawn. This time I’m in the clear, I can just about see the dim light coming from my hut in the distance. I’m going to make a dash for it…
05:17- Back in my hut. Phew!
06:14 – Damn! Went to check my inventory but it appears I lost everything when I died…
06:30 – Right. So I guess I should…….. Sleep? I don’t really feel tired… Plus I don’t have a bed…. Or any furniture for that matter…. Guess I’ll go back into the mine then…
So, that was my first day in the world of Minecraft. It’s not just about scraping together a shelter for survival though, that’s the basic premise but there is a lot more depth to it than that. Once you start to make tools you can dig deeper into the earth and collect different resources to build and create things with.
You will find yourself constantly needing more material to build more complex structures and tools. This is where I feel it becomes a metaphor for man on Earth and how man is greedy and just takes and takes and takes for his own gain.
The first time I noticed this was after I’d built the foundations for a huge castle and a very high wall around it for protection. I had spent ages just digging and mining and collecting the stone for this massive structure but I stopped for a second and ran across to a hill to get a good overview of the entire space I’d claimed as my own and when I looked back at the gaping hole in the ground and my huge stone building next to it I felt genuinely sad. I had destroyed the beautiful world that was created by chance just to try and make something that I felt was beautiful instead! There was no need for it. I could’ve happily spent my days protected in a understated little hut, but I wanted to “conquer” the land and put my stamp on it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want to build my huge ass castle, I just thought it was an interesting look at basic human behaviour. No one had told me to build a big castle or collect all the resources I can and keep them to myself. I just did it without thinking.
It was after this little epiphany that I realised that this game was something different. I then started to have wonderful little unique moments in the game, like the first time I built a boat. The sun was setting and I was quite a way away from my castle, so I decided to build a boat to sail out to safety just in case any monsters crept up on me. So as I pushed the boat out this song started playing;
The sun went down and after i’d sailed out to a safe distance I turned and saw my castle, dimly lit in the distance. The music actually reminds me of Lost and the moment they first left the island on that raft, which was eerily similar to what was happening in my game, as it was the first time I’d left the comfort of my island.
The music in the game adds a lot to the atmosphere and I’m not sure if it’s randomly generated but it always seems to kick in at the right moment and most of the tracks, if you give them a listen on the video above, make you feel that sense of loneliness. This works perfectly with the game as you are the only person there, which you sometimes forget until a piece of music comes in and makes you wish you had a little blocky wife to keep you company in your stone castle.
I’ve spoken a lot about the atmosphere of the game before I’ve given you any technical details, music aside. This is deliberate as I really feel the technical stuff is much less important than the general feeling and atmosphere you get with certain games, this one especially.
Let’s start with the graphics… I love them. I really enjoy the pixelated, retro look, especially when it’s combined with pretty decent lighting effects. It suits the game perfectly and adds to the character of the game immensely. Everything is in blocks. The hills, the fields and the trees look unnatural at first glance but once you get over that it really is a beautiful looking game.
The physics are pretty basic, your character feels weighty enough to feel real and some blocks actually react to their environment more than others. For example if you hit a block of stone underneath another block of stone then the stone on top will stay in place, floating in mid air. Which is quite strange but helps to avoid massive collapses when you are building things. Sand and gravel has a different set of rules and those blocks just fall down if you dig underneath. This can lead to some problems when you are trying to build a super-awesome tunnel under the sea as if you knock one block of sand out it may cause a domino effect and before you know it water is pouring into your carefully built tunnel. However water has its own set of rules too. It will act as you expect but say the scenario I just mentioned happens and you flood a tunnel, if you block the hole up manually then as soon as the leak is stopped the water will just drain away into nothing, leaving your channel tunnel safe and dry.
You control your character with WASD, jump with the spacebar and look and interact with the mouse, like most first person games on the PC. You break blocks with a left click (providing you have the right tool in your hands) and place items/blocks with the right click. Create with one hand, destroy with the other.
Now, I’ve already gone on far too long about this game, I actually am itching to play it again right now, so I’m going to wrap this piece up now but I urge anyone that reads this to give it a go and just buy it and support the guy that’s building this. His name is Marcus Perrson, his goes by the name “Notch” and he can be found on Twitter here. The more money he gets, the more people he can hire to make this special and unique game grow and grow. There should be more games like this out there, games with heart, creativity and originality.
I’m not going to give this game a review score, as everyone will have a different experience with it but I’m sure it’s obvious that I love it and everything it stands for.
Play it (and buy it) here!
Find out literally everything you need to know about the rules of the Minecraft world at Minepedia. There is also a lot of help on the forums at the Minecraft site.
Now…. GO PLAY!!!