‘Craft’ game more addictive than quilting

The author’s avatar rides a saddled pig in this screenshot from Minecraft.  — Game content © Mojang AB

The author’s avatar rides a saddled pig in this screenshot from Minecraft. Click for slideshow of in-game images. — Game content © Mojang AB

Most current video games offer players a chance to do one or two things on an infinite time scale then respawn and repeat. These games simulate shooting everything in sight, working on friends’ farms, or raiding the same dungeon five nights a week in the hopes of getting a pair of boots that have a 0.0000001 percent chance of dropping.

Sure, it’s great to fly into Orgrimmar mounted on a dragon it took you six months to acquire. Yes, it’s exhilarating to take down hordes of Nazi zombies. And if I get one more Farmville™ invite, I swear I’ll block everyone on my friends list. But where can a gamer who has seen it all turn for something different?

The answer is Minecraft.

Minecraft is a whole different animal. It is a game of infinite destruction and creation. Many years before Minecraft was around, an Internet crackpot wrote, “Creation is cubic.” While in reality he was just a crazy man ranting about “nature’s harmonious time cube,” in Minecraft he was absolutely right.

Minecraft has purposely simple graphics. Almost everything is rendered with 1-meter cubes. Because of this visual oversimplification, the game is able to generate a random world roughly eight times the surface of the earth.

That’s a huge explorable area, it’s chock full of sublime landscapes and vast underworlds of spooky caverns brimming with treasure and bad guys and lava. Yes lava—actually it’s technically magma since it’s under the earth’s surface, but when my avatar falls in it, he burns up the same either way.

Also, you can saddle up pigs and hop on for a ride. I haven’t really figured out the purpose of this feature, but it’s good for a laugh.

So, where do the destruction and creation come in? Minecrack—oops, I mean Minecraft—is like virtual Legos™. If you can imagine it, you can build it in blocky splendor.

Multiplayer servers are filled with massive user-generated cities, home to all sorts of logic-defying buildings. I’ve seen everything from floating houses made of glass, underwater laboratories, massive castles, and simple log cabins. On one server, a scale model of the Taj Mahal sat next to a lighthouse topped with a glass sphere full of lava.

But before you can build all that great stuff, you’ve got to harvest resources. You’ve got to mine before you can start crafting. Get it? I know, you got it.

Players start with nothing in a brand new world populated by day with pigs, cows, sheep, and chickens. By night the baddies come out. Zombies, skeletons, giant spiders, and creepers (little green men with permanent frowns and insides full of dynamite) converge to kill you.

In order to survive, players must quickly learn to punch trees. Literally, punch them. Punch them till your little avatar fist should probably be a bloody pulp and yet magically it is not. And how else does one gather wood without an axe?

Once you get some wood, you can craft it into tools. Wood can be crafted into simple tools to gather stone, and stone crafted into better tools to gather iron. With iron one can craft fairly awesome tools. Then things turn toward the quest for diamonds, because diamonds are forever—almost. But much like the real world, diamonds are deep in the earth. Unlike the real world, diamonds frequently appear near pools of hot liquid magma, which as I mentioned before, I am really good at falling into.

I initially dismissed Minecraft as an indie game unworthy of my $20. But six months later, I found out I was completely wrong. The game is incredibly addicting, its blocky visuals are endearing, and its monsters an endless challenge. Check it out today at minecraft.net!

The majestic lake view, with distant mountains, seen from Kevin's starting point. — Game content © Mojang AB
This formation is geologically impossible. But not in Minecraft! — Game content © Mojang AB
Yet another breath-taking Minecraft view. This game is awesome! — Game content © Mojang AB

Here’s a delightfully overly-dramatic Minecraft trailer made by YouTube user Vareide:

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