I had a very nice childhood. I had two parents still very much in love with each other and very enthusiastic about being parents. As a single child, I received a lion share of their attention, so I remember my childhood as one of happiness and love. Still, parents need time away from time to time and my parents would routinely go to football games, taking me to my grandparents and letting me stay over the weekend. This was fine by me because -as great as my parents were- my grandparents absolutely doted on me. My grandfather treated me as a young equal and I had virtually two full days of uninterrupted ‘Sean time’. Beyond Doctor Who and Benny Hill (I knew it was naughty, but had no clue why, at the time) on Saturday night, this usually meant dumping the contents of a particular crate on the living room table and delving into the infinite and varied wonders of Legos™.
The magic of Legos™ is that the game I played with them changed every time I started putting bricks together. One week I was constructing Ghidra and MechaGodzilla to battle against my Godzilla action figure. The next week I was reconstructing the stalwart Space Battleship Yamato so that the Star Force could save Earth from the Gamillons. Legos™ provided unlimited replay and were only bound by my imagination and my determination. The most valuable and enduring game play is the type that challenge both your mind and your reflexes.
This brings me to my final entry of my Games With A Voice posts. I love all types of games. I regularly play Star Wars: The Old Republic and am always a fan of the Starcraft series. I regularly play shooters and loved BioWare’s Mass Effect series, as well as games like Deus Ex. Each of these games is a favorite of mine, but few truly tap into that old core creative part of me quite like Mojang’s Minecraft.
For those of you who’ve not heard of Minecraft, it’s a sandbox game wherein you are spawned onto a world of unlimited size where you.. dig.. and build. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? It is, but it’s not. There are thousands of items you can mine, farm or harvest in some way and the complexity comes from what happens when you put them together. The game is filled with hundreds of recipes for everything from mushroom soup to diamond swords. What you do in this game is limited only by what you want to do. Want to build soaring cathedrals or sprawling dungeons? You can do that. Want to explore the worlds and vanquish evil creatures? You can do that as well, fighting zombies, skeletons and even the ubiquitous creepers. Expansions to the game have added extensive adventure maps and even a way to breach into the dimension of the Nether.
Minecraft is an incredibly personal game. What a player does and what their goals becomes are created purely by the players themselve. It’s true that their’s an adventure goal to ultimately face down and defeat a Nether dragon, but there’s no true intro to that goal, so it can be completely ignored if the player only wants to just mine and build stuff. Survival of course is a constant challenge, since nighttime brings monsters, but part of the fun is crafing your stronghold to wait out the long darkness. In addition, a rich and varied community have also created various mods to use with vanilla Minecraft, adding a more RPG flavored spin on the game with Hack/Mine or by radically re-engineering the variety of blocks and recipes and allowing the player to create intricate machinery in Tekkit. Like Legos™, this game can be as simple or as complex and intricate as you want, but it is always involving, always consuming. Ultimately, the narrative of the game is left to the player’s imagination.
By far the absolute best aspect of Minecraft -to me- is its multi-player capabilities. Of course, there are dozens of MMO games out there that offer extensive cooperative gameplay for the sophisticated game, but none truly can reach the pinnacle of community effort like Minecraft. There are numerous communities on the web that are creating simply awe-inspiring stuff, like Voxelbox and their vast metropolis of Mechanicsburg, WestrosCraft and their amazing reproductions of the various castle towns from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice (aka Game of Thrones) or -my favorite- a 1/28th scale recreation of the entirety of Middle Earth from -of course- JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Where most gamers are content with logging on for a few hours just to slaughter some big bad in WoW or run-and-gun newbs in Call of Duty, these people are actually creating something magnificent and enduring, something cooperative and worthwhile. What could be a better advocate for the wonder and potential of online gaming? I gush, but look at these amazing images of what the world and mind of gamers can create:
This is why I consider Minecraft to be hands-down the best game available currently. Its game play is simple, yet lends itself to infinite possibilities and enormous complexity; it’s completely motivated and fueled by the imagination and spirit of the player. It takes what is usually a largely fractured and fractious online community and inspires them to feats of breathtaking creation and community. This is what games can be and truly should be.