It takes a pretty special game to get a non-gamer artist and Newton historian, a former gamer (distracted by graduate studies in Chinese history), and myself to sit in a cramped room in front on one computer. This game, which I have mentioned before, is Minecraft. A game that is essentially about using the randomly generated world to craft tools to help you build, well, anything. Think digital Legos.

At least a million people are playing it and I suspect, much like my friends, most of them are not hardcore gamers.. Chris Lepine takes a stab at why:

Play, by its nature, is difficult to confine in any strict definition. It includes all kinds of activities, from pushing around Tonka toys in a sand box, to kids building a hidden fort in the forest, to jamming in an improvisational jazz session. There is something playful and unexpected in all of those activities: the child in the sand box is not moving around sand for any serious purpose, the children in the forest are not architects trying to erect an office building, nor is the jazz group trying to perfect a piece that they have all memorized. In all of these cases, people are exploring the limits of their expressive abilities, creating different kinds of social relationships with other people, or discovering new kinds of properties or relationships that things have. All of these involve re-imagining and transforming our spaces with or without other people.

Spot on, IMHO. There is no better illustration than turning to youtube. There are countless of videos of folks showing off their craftsmanship. This, along with multiplayer allows, for a game based on creation and collaboration rather than destruction and competition, a game which taps into a person’s creative side and makes you earn it.

What do I mean by earn it?

Well, here is my modest contribution to Minecraft showoffery, an underwater glass structure that probably took me about three hours to build.

underwater structure

Three hours because I had to scout out an area that I could dive deep enough to survive (you can drown, naturally), gather sand and heat it into glass, create a solid underwater structure and then surround it with glass, then mine up the structure inside the glass, chop down some wood to craft myself a ladder, and mine some coal to place torches inside so I can see it at night.

underwater structure at night

Pretty cool, huh?

I’ll just let you contemplate the possibilities over a sunset.

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