Minimal Minecraft

minecraft alpha screenshot

There are few games that I would use the word “beautiful” to describe, but Minecraft is one of them.  I’ve been playing the game from one degree to another for the past four years – around the time that alpha version had been released and was in testing.  It’s been such a satisfying gaming experience for me because of the interplay between the game’s randomly generated environments, and it’s capacity for audience expression.  Even while utilizing a low-res aesthetic, it’s composition and depth have potential for beauty in surprising ways.

  • The audience would begin to explore their environment. (Listen.)
  • Then would create the tools and structures they felt they needed to respond to it. (Speak.)
  • And the game would challenge the player with enemies and offer new resources to expand on what has been built. (Respond.)

Even in the alpha version of Minecraft, this core game provided a tremendous degree of interaction between the game, the player, and other players.  And the game itself has continued to build on this pattern ever since.  I think it’s worthwhile drawing a distinction between earlier and later versions of the game, however.  After Markus Persson stepped down from leading development of the game, Mojang was still left with audiences that had a voracious appetite for more in their Minecraft worlds.  And to meet that demand, Minecraft expanded as a brand.

World’s in Minecraft can be populated by towns, dungeons, nether realms, many species of animal, and a never-ending series of new gameplay systems.  This isn’t even to mention the Minecraft brand expanding into physical merchandise. (I just received my collection of Minecraft handbooks today – a item that I’d been looking forward to for years.)  Minecraft is a game, a world, and a brand that has exploded to meet the demands of its audiences.  I still enjoy playing it quite a bit, but it feels noisier.

When I think of playing Minecraft, I think about that core cycle of interaction between players and the game.  And I think of my time playing the game during its alpha and beta phases.  It was a period of time where it was a polished core that encapsulated that cycle almost perfectly.  Today’s Minecraft still does, but with so many potential paths to travel down, or listen to, it’s difficult for the game to speak to one message.  And during that time that I remember playing it, the message I got was that the world is a beautiful place that we can participate in creating.


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