I have a lot of favorite games, not surprisingly. I’ve been gaming a long time. This is obviously one of my more recent favorites, but what a game it is. Elegant in its simplicity, and yet, there are so many different ways to play. Minecraft really does have something for everybody in a way that’s just . . . inspired.
This isn’t exactly news. Minecraft was released in 2011. But there’s something about it that calls me back in a way that my other favorite games can’t. I play for a while and then move on to something else . . . but then, inexorable as the tide, Minecraft resurfaces in my life and calls me back in. A friend brings up Minecraft in a conversation. Someone mentions they have a Realm or a private server and I’m welcome to join. My buddies and I are going to have a LAN party– yes, sometimes people still pick up their computers and move them into an actual room to be with their friends physically. Crazy, I know.
Most games you play, and then they go sit in the happy land of memories, for the most part. Maybe once every few years you’ll pick them up again, if that often. There’s always something else great to play, who has the time to replay games? But every few months, Minecraft pulls me right back in for a while. And it’s awesome.
I’ve heard Minecraft described as “Legos for adults.” I suppose that’s true, in a way, though that puts it far too simply. You spawn in a Minecraft world, which is created uniquely every time you start a new game, and you have absolute freedom.
You can play in Survival, start with nothing and focus on gathering the resources, against all kinds of odds and opposition, to make and do whatever you want.
You can focus on adventuring, gathering the materials to get to the Nether to raid Nether Fortresses, or The End to face the Ender Dragon, or far out to sea to fight Guardians in an Ocean Monument.
You can focus on exploration in a world that literally ends when you’re tired of seeking the edge, and not before. If you get to the edge of the known world, more spawns for you. Jungles, forests, oceans, snowy plains, fields of flowers, mountains, islands, and more, all filled with unique loot and interesting landmarks.
You can focus on building incredible structures just for cosmetic purposes, because you want to have an awesome home, boat, sky island, subterranean kingdom, etc.
You can focus on building intricate machines– yes, machines, despite the simplicity of the graphics– to do all kinds of things: self-harvesting farms, fast transportation (can’t have a game called Minecraft without minecarts!), traps, secret entrances, elevators, item sorters, dispensers, notifications (Ding! Your steak is done!), and more.
Don’t want to play alone? Minecraft has a paid multiplayer server hosting service, called Realms, designed to be easily set up and used by you and up to ten of your friends. Or just run a server, if you want, or play on someone else’s.
Work together to build an awesome base, everyone playing the way they prefer and doing the tasks that suit them. Go off on your own if you like and just talk to people in chat. Prank each other, putting traps in other people’s bases or hiding their gear or dyeing all their sheep lime green. Or skip all the friendly banter and go to war. Build a cannon, load it with TNT, and blow up your rival’s fortress.
Don’t want to deal with all that gathering, all those monsters? You just want to build? You can play in Creative mode and do anything, practice building your machines, build whatever you like without gathering any supplies or needing any tools. If you don’t want monsters, change the difficulty to Peaceful. By the way, in Creative you can fly and don’t have to eat, making building even easier.
And the community! Artwork, music, player skins, texture packs, game modes, YouTube, and more. Minecraft has a lot of fans, and many are happy to contribute. I love to farm, and to build machines that do it more efficiently, but I want to get it done so people can benefit from them. Some people prefer to figure it all out themselves, and more power to them, but I jump onto YouTube for tutorials. Sometimes I build exactly what’s in the video. Sometimes I use the video for inspiration and modify the machine to my preferences.
Also, being a new parent, I can easily see BabyGMR and I playing this game together some day. It’s as hard or easy as you want it to be, and somehow, it’s fun no matter what the difficulty is. It’s not stressful, and it’s exactly as mentally challenging as you want it to be. And it’s the most pause-able game I’ve ever played. In lots of games, you need a minute to wrap up, to save, to get your mental space in order. You might be in the middle of a cutscene when your baby starts crying, or in the middle of a puzzle you’ll have to start over if you stop this second. If I suddenly need to stop playing Minecraft, I can. it’s easy, and I start exactly where I left off.
Have you ever played so much Tetris that when you close your eyes, you see the echoes of the puzzle pieces drifting down still? Minecraft is that game for me. I can go months without playing, but when I’m in, I’m in, and when I’m done and I go outside, the world just kind of appears to me in 8-bit pixel blocks. I imagine the trees as Minecraft oak trees with their blocky green foliage, and I find myself wondering what treasure might be under the asphalt of the street.
I like to farm in Minecraft, and play with other people. I tend the base, taking the things the other players bring me and turning them into food and supplies, so that when their explorations bring them home, they never have to worry about having food and wood and tools. They can come in, raid a carefully labeled treasure chest, and go back out to explore without doing the stuff they find tedious.
I love being part of a team. I always make an AFK fishing farm, so that I can easily enchant things with all the enchanted books I fish up, while the slime farm I’ve already built is working away, patiently gathering up slimeballs I can use to make more complicated farms later. Sticky pistons, for the win!
Then, with what I drag up from the depths, I can pay other players for services. It’s always good to have a blaze farm, for example. Blazes give great experience, which you need to enchant things, and if you have Mending on your tools or armor– fishing is the only way to get enchanted books with Mending on them!– the experience from the blaze farm will repair them quickly and easily, with no danger to you.
But I hate going into the Nether, it’s dangerous, and I don’t like fighting monsters. I like getting their sweet loot, preferably in a way where they are outsmarted and helpless! So I offer a player that does like to do those things a sweet enchanted tool if they’ll build it for me. Enchanting is a grindy task, not a lot of people have the patience for it, so somebody always bites, and then my farm gets built and everybody benefits.
This approach would probably bore some other Minecraft players to tears. But it’s how I like to play, and I can totally do that, the game allows for all kinds of play styles and strategies. And I’ve never been on a server where people don’t love to have me on board!
I always mean to build an awesome treetop estate in a jungle biome for myself, but I never get around to it. Too many farms to build. That’s all right. Maybe this game will be the game I get it done. And if not, I’m not worried. Minecraft’s siren call is steady and patient. I’ll be back.