Minecraft: Virtual Legos

minecraft

Introduction

For the final blog I decided to dive into the world of Minecraft. Minecraft is an open sandbox video game created by Markus Alexej Persson or “Notch” that revolves around you trying to survive and build things. In Minecraft you are a character named Steve, although there are a plethora of skins that you can use to customize your character, and you are thrown into a world. The world is also has customization options as well as you can change the skin that the world is covered in, like a Halo theme, Skyrim, and many more. Minecraft is essentially a survival game where the goal is just to survive and build things. I first heard about Minecraft years ago when it was first released on the Xbox 360. My friends and I all bought the game to try it out as it seemed fun and man were we correct. Immediately when I began to play I thought to myself, “this is essentially virtual Legos!” As a kid I loved Legos and having the ability to have an infinite amount of virtual Legos was incredible!

Notch

The Legendary Notch  who became a BILLIONAIRE off of this game!

Game Modes

Minecraft has three main game modes. The first is survival mode which is the traditional mode in Minecraft. Survival mode is when you as a player are dropped into a new randomly generated world and have to survive. No two worlds are the same as the game generates a new different world every time! Your character can grow hungry and must eat food to stay alive. You also have a health bar that does not regenerate unless your food supply is at 100%. There are also monsters in the world that can kill you. You can kill the monsters in order to gain experience and level up. If you are killed you lose all your experience. Along with that you must get all your own material. You have to mine  and farm for anything that you want and need. Dying will also result in you losing all your materials you had on hand. If you wish to retrieve them you must run back to the location of your death. If you die you will spawn in the location where you last fell asleep.

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An example of a user created world!

The second main game mode in Minecraft is creative mode. Creative mode is similar to survival mode except you do not have to mine for anything. In creative mode you can open a menu and every single material available in the game is at your disposal. Another bonus is that it is almost impossible for you to die, although dying really does not have any negative consequences in this mode. The biggest benefit of creative mode is the ability to run super fast and FLY! Yes you can fly in creative mode and can make anything that you can think of.

A video showing some AMAZING player creations!

The third main game mode in Minecraft is multiplayer. Multiplayer is a relatively new game mode where you engage in a competitions against other players. In multiplayer you spawn in a map that is littered with items that you can pick up and use. The last person standing/reaches the end first wins.

Playing Minecraft for the past few weeks I fell in love with the game once again. I stopped playing for a while and this class gave me the motivation to play the game again. My friend Felipe and I created a new world on our Xbox One and began to create. We played survival mode because it is the real way of playing Minecraft! Having not played Minecraft in a while I had to learn a lot of the new mechanics to the game.

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Minecraft is so popular a friend gave me these as a gift. A replica diamond sword and cobblestone pick ax!

Is Minecraft a Game?

Before we can move on we must briefly describe what a game is and the easiest way to do so is with Jesper Juul. Juul describes a game as a

“rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable.” – (Juul 2005)

So does Minecraft fit into this criteria? I will argue yes! Minecraft is not your traditional game but it does have rules. You must survive as long as possible without dying and build as much as you can. There is technically an “end” to the game if you manage to kill the Ender Dragon, but GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! If you can accomplish that then you will be extremely proud because I have tried and I have not been able to do so! Minecraft is not a slam dunk in the game department but rather is borderline. However, there are not many games that will give a player a sense of pride like Minecraft. The joy of creating something new is unique to the Minecraft experience.

Someone successfully killing the Ender Dragon! they have a ridiculous amount of supplies to accomplish the goal!

Is Minecraft Art?

Next up is Minecraft art? In order to say why it matters in terms of art we must know what art is. While the game is not a graphical master piece it is still a master piece of art. The game is rich mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics. Minecraft has extensive game play mechanics that are used to build an almost infinity number of things. Minecraft is one of the most emotional games because you create things. When you create something extravagant in Minecraft you cannot help but feel proud. In terms of aesthetics Minecraft is one of the most fun games ever. Players are only limited in Minecraft by their own imaginations. In the 8 categories of MDA Minecraft falls into sensation, fantasy, fellowship, discovery, and submission. Minecraft is art because it falls into these categories. Minecraft also has the distinct attribute of allowing players to create art themselves! An argument can be made that the creations within Minecraft is art! As shown in some of the videos before the creations people make are astonishing.

image1Here is something that Felipe and I made within the last month. This is our castle!

Why does Minecraft matter?

Now that we know that Minecraft is a game and art we ask, why does it matter? First of all, Minecraft’s biggest draw is that it is a game with endless possibilities and fun. As Koster says,

fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. In other words, with games, learning is the drug.”- (Koster 2001, p. 40)

Minecraft is game that can never truly be “mastered” as there over 2000 items in the game! Yes over 2000 items that can be used together to build anything your hearts desires. I have been playing Minecraft for years and yet I still find myself building new things. My friends come up with new designs as well and we just build upon that. Not to mention the countless ideas that float around on the internet. Taking a quick glance over at Pinterest you see how people are incredibly creative! Not to mention the fact that Minecraft is constantly being updated by Mojang. The developer is constantly adding new items and mechanics to the game. Further adding to the fact that Minecraft is a constant “drug” that provides a new high at every turn. In essence you can never get enough of Minecraft.

image2Another angle off our castle! This was a quick world we put together for the sake of the class. Huge THANK YOU to my best friend Felipe for the help!

The interaction between player and developer

With the player taking on such a huge role in the game this echoes the sentiment of Roland Barthes in “The Death of the Author.” In this reading Barthes states that,

“The birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the author.” – (Barthe 1967, p. 6)

In Minecraft, the developers created an open sandbox game that allows the player to create anything that enters their mind. The author essentially dies as soon as the player loads into the game. Minecraft offers very little rules for the player to follow and thus it is up to the player to create their own. Not only do players create buildings, statues, bridges, etc. but players have also been known to create games inside Minecraft! Yes within the confines of Minecraft players have created their own game within the game. In a way the players can be considered the author as well.

A quick video of some user created games. Some people have too much time on their hands with the creations they have made!

The community of Minecraft is one of the nicest and most welcoming community. As opposed to some other ones I know, I am looking at you Call of Duty, the Minecraft subreddit is awesome. A quick glance shows a flurry of people sharing their creations, offering feed back, and bouncing ideas off one another. The Minecraft community is one of the reasons why the game is still so popular today 6 years after its initial release. Similar to art communities, Minecraft has people who love to talk about the game and what the game means.

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The Simpsons, yes one of the greatest cartoons ever, parodied Minecraft with their intro for episode 17 of the 25th season.

While Minecraft is immensely popular in the video game community and pop culture it is also popular in the art world. As evident by the fact that Minecraft has been added into the Museum of Modern Art. John Maeda defends the addition of video games into the MoMA by saying that video games are,

“A narrative that you, the player, gets to drive and live through until its game over. This is where video games become an art-like act of ‘personal imagination.’” – (Maeda 2012)

Along with this Maeda continues to say that video games allow the player to create their own experience and ask questions just like traditional art does. The player has a unique experience every time in Minecraft every time they play as no two games are the same. Minecraft matters in the art world because of the wide range of emotions it can bring. You can be extremely proud when creating something new. However, nothing is more aggravating than having a monster blowing it up! It is a modern work of art!

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An example of the destruction by monsters the most infuriating part of Minecraft!

What sets Minecraft apart?

One of the most underrated aspect of Minecraft is how it has helped people around the world. This article is just one example of many of how Minecraft is helpful to children who suffer from mental disabilities.

“So, in 2013, Duncan, a web developer in Timmins, Canada, set up a server to run a version of Minecraft exclusively for children with autism and their families. He thought the invite-only server would attract 10 or 20 people. To his surprise, hundreds requested to join in the first few days.” – (Rutkin 2016)

The server flourished and allowed children who normally cannot socialize to socialze with children just like them. I know children who are autistic so I have seen first hand the benefits Minecraft provides. The children can have problems with “normal” kids but in Minecraft they are free to create as they please and explore. When Dr. Kulman interviewed children about Minecraft he got a sense of what makes it so special. The seven most common answers were that Minecraft,

“1. There are no rules.

2.It’s easy to get into.

3.It’s real but it’s not.

4.You can build whatever you want.

5. You can follow your own interests.

6. Minecraft is forgiving.

7. People can’t mess up your stuff.” – (Dr. Kulman 2015)

Minecraft may be a game but it is so much to some people. Minecraft matters in this regard because of the opportunity it provides to children with autism.

Minecraft Matters!

At the end of the day Minecraft is not just a game but also an experience. Whether you are using it to create a bridge or an elaborate replica of your favorite building. Minecraft is the apex of video games as art! It provides smiles, laughs and joy to everyone who loads into a world along with rage. Just like traditional art Minecraft takes you on a roller coast of emotions while playing. It is a game that can bring joy to everyone including autistic children that may have trouble expressing themselves. Minecraft is a piece of art developed by Notch at his house that shows how powerful a video game can be. Minecraft is so powerful that it was introduced into the Museum of Modern Art. A video game can be just as influential as a painting, sculpture, movie or anything else that is considered “art.” The is why Minecraft matters in terms of art!

Work Cited

Barthes, Ronald. (1977 [1967]). “The Death of the Author.” In Image, Music, Text. New York:Hill and Wang.

Juul, Jesper. (2005). “Video Games and the Classic Game Model” in Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge: MIT Press: p. 23-54

Koster, Raph. (2004) A Theory of Fun for Game Design. Scottsdale, US: Paraglyph Press: pp. 48-111

Kulman, Dr. Randy, and LearningWorks. “7 Reasons Kids with Autism Love Minecraft.” LearningWorks for Kids. N.p., 30 June 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.

Maeda, John. (2012). “Videogames Do Belong in the Museum of Modern Art.” Wired Online. December 4.

Rutkin, Aviva. “How Minecraft is Helping Children with Autism Make New Friends.” New Scientist. New Scientist, 27 Apr. 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.

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One thought on “Minecraft: Virtual Legos

  1. This was a great read. It’s really amazing to see how Minecraft has evolved over the years. I still remember when the game was just in alpha and relatively unknown. It’s really interesting to see how so many gamers have made their Minecraft creations their own.

    That said, would you like to share your articles in our FB group? We’re a growing community of gaming bloggers and we’re always looking for more writers to share their work and discuss all things gaming. Just search for “Game Bloggers United” on Facebook. 🙂

    Like

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