Jon Bentley explores the world of Minecraft
With over 70 million copies sold Minecraft is one of the biggest selling computer games of all time. Having spent a week playing it I can fully understand how so many people find it utterly addictive. Being able to create whatever you want out of blocks in a fantasy world in the game’s “Creative” mode is an appealing infinity of possibilities. Learning how to stay alive by punching trees to harvest wood, which you turn into planks and crafting tables, and use them to make tools in “Survival” mode comes with a certain satisfaction. And mining blocks to convert scarce resources into swords and armour to fend off the nasty creatures that come to get you when darkness falls every twenty minutes or so – that’s the length of a Minecraft day - is a challenge that certainly concentrates the mind.
The makers don’t make the learning curve easy, though. For those of us used to intuitive interfaces that guide you through how to do things without any need to consult instructions, blogs or YouTube videos this initially comes as a bit of a shock. Open the game for the first time and you find yourself in an unfamiliar landscape without the slightest clue given as to what you should do. But there’s a whole host of material on the internet to help, even if it’s of very mixed quality. I was soon making a regular beeline for it, pausing the game every few minutes to seek answers to my questions and discover what move to make next.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of my week was when I entered Multiplayer mode and was guided round by my experienced tech tester, 15-year-old Daniel. He knew what to mine and what to do with it and was a dab hand at defending us from the evil monsters and creepy crawlies of the night. Watching an expert at work is always enjoyable and Daniel’s prowess with the game made me appreciate it more.
I now have a great deal of respect for Minecraft and can understand its allure. But, like most of my fellow more senior tech testers, I don’t think it’s for me. I get more out of interests like photography, cars or technology, or simply going out for a walk, watching movies and TV or keeping up with what's going on in the world. As a result I know that I would ultimately resent spending any more time getting embroiled in the addictive domain of Minecraft.