Blog: MINECRAFT 1.0 was released last week, so what better time to look back at the profound effects it’s already had? Here, BeefJack contributor Adam Harshberger explains how, just over a year ago, discovering a new kind of game saved a core part of his existence.
There is satisfaction in finishing things. Little in life feels better than the contemplative sadness one feels as they close a novel upon completion. Similarly, I would like to imagine that all novelists smile and take a triumphant swig of coffee when they finish the last chapter of their masterpiece.
It isn’t just readers and writers, though: gamers feel it too. Beating a game is the topic of many tweets and Facebook statuses. Getting every achievement is the stuff of legend.
Eventually, it gets to the point where you’re playing games just to beat them. In our time-crunched lives, finding the opportunity to really dive into a game can be exceedingly difficult. We find ourselves less concerned with playing a game and more concerned with finishing it, just so we can cross it off the list.
This approach is pragmatic, at least. Being a gamer is an integral part of many of our personalities. And what would we become if we stopped doing the most gamer-ish thing possible: defeating games? Busy players have to optimise their time spent with their hobby, or they’ll be forced to watch part of their existence wither away.
At least, that is how I felt until I first experienced Minecraft. [Continues below...]
UK release date: 18/11/11
Formats: PC (with separate iOS/Android versions)
Review: Minecraft review
“The greatest game you’re ever likely to have a hand in making”
[...Continued] Minecraft was a profound experience for my gamer-consciousness. It is brazen in its non-design: there are no goals, no achievements, and no levels. You do not rack up a score; you simply create. Most importantly, you cannot “complete the game”.
Because of this, Minecraft is a liberating experience. There is no reason to hurry anything and there are no hoops to jump through. You simply plays the game – progressing towards a pre-defined goal never enters the equation.
At first, I thought this loose design would leave me fumbling for something to do, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within moments of starting my first world, I was hooked and enchanted. There was intrigue at every turn – I was a stranger in a strange, silent land. Much in the way that Dark Souls would a year or so later, Minecraft transported me to the time when games were thicker, quieter, more impenetrable – and more engaging – things.
And it was a brilliantly active experience. I was liberated from both constrictive, overly designed games and ‘open-world’ games that are actually ‘awkwardly restricted worlds’. I had to think about what I wanted to do, not what the designers of the game intended. I was no longer a rat in a maze; I was making the maze, and the rat, and the table that the whole contraption sat upon. Progress had been de-emphasised, and it was empowering.
As I built my world, I could feel something returning: the unbridled joy of videogames. Compulsion-driven progression systems and Gamer Scores faded away. Stripped of needless complication, I found myself thoroughly enjoying just being within Minecraft, toiling away towards my own goals. I had my own kind of infinitely awarding progress – the rush of staring down at all my creation from a top a tower of my own creation – and I found that closure was not necessary for it all to be meaningful.
Above all, Minecraft reminded me that the best games deserve and demand to be experienced and fully explored, not rushed through. And maybe the linear, frantic design of many modern games encourages rushed play – maybe Minecraft’s more relaxed approach stirred up echoes of an older style of game playing. I can’t know for sure.
One thing I do know for sure, thanks to Minecraft: the most gamer-ish thing possible is not beating a game, but playing a game. Realising this saved me from the abyss, restored joy to one of the most important aspects of my life, and for that I can’t thank Minecraft enough. -Adam Harshberger