Minecraft and the complex simple
Once upon a time, there was a Swedish programmer named Notch, and he decided to make a game about blocks. Notch's game was going to be all about blocks: blocks for grass, rock, and earth, blocks for ice and snow, even blocks of wool that you could dye different colors (but would be flammable if struck by lightning).
And thus was Minecraft born.
Every so often a game comes along that's truly innovating, pushing the boundaries of what it means to have a satisfying gameplay experience. With examples such as thatgamecompany's flOw and Flower (and presumably Journey), and Valve Corporation's Portal, gaming is no longer necessarily about how many lives you have, or winning and losing. It's all about creating a really wonky alt world in which the rules of reality are different.
My husband started playing Minecraft not long after we moved (in my case, back) to Maine. I didn't quite know what he was up to at first; my husband is an extremely creative person, and when he's deep into something, it's best to let it unfold without pushing. Then he began showing me what he'd been up to, beginning, as most Minecrafters do, in creative mode (easier to break blocks, no survival aspects to worry about), and I was all like, "What is this fell science?"
Minecraft takes something that's such a simple concept — blocks — and transforms it into high art. If nothing else, I highly recommend just generating some terrain and flying around to check it out, or poking around in a mine or two. This is not digital Legos, nor is it the far more facile Duplos; it's a complete alien world.
A word about the music: fantastic. This stuff is so simple yet dreamlike that you get completely lulled into a fantasy 'verse that you yourself create. I'm pretty sure I heard the game's soundtrack playing in a local yarn shop the other week, and I almost started stacking the skeins in complex patterns ... I jest, but seriously, it was an awesome moment.
Try Youtubing Minecraft. You can find an architectural representative from practically every movie and film you can think of, encounter giant — yet fully operational — calculators and (my meta brain geeks out just thinking of this) older, 2D video games. Truly, the Minecraft experience is only limited to the scope of your own imagination.
During a cardboard box race last weekend (yep, just what it sounds like: ornately decorated boxes sliding down a snowy hill. It was fantastic), I saw a little kid wearing the most excellent Minecraft costume, including a creeper for the box and another, smaller box printed to looks like a Minecraft character's head (the kid wore it over his own head). It was flippin' brilliant, and a great reminder of this game's demographic: absolutely everyone. Whether you're a child, an adult, a casual or hardcore gamer, Minecraft has something to offer, from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to WoW's Dark Portal, with all sorts of conveyances to take you there.
So if you've got some time to burn, support an indie game and check it out. But if you use the game in survival mode, remember to bring your trusty sword to fight the spiders.
Courier Publications reporter Bane Okholm received her M.F.A. in Screenwriting from U.C.L.A. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @MediaHeathen.