As I understand it, Minecraft is a computer game
in which a first person player named Steve
wanders through a seemingly endless outdoor landscape
made entirely of blocks of things. The grass, the trees,
the water, the hills, the clouds in the sky–all blocks
(nothing in this world is curved, arched, or angular-slanty).
In his wandering,
Steve digs holes in the ground, holes that consist
entirely of right angles. In his digging,
he finds things and collects things and stores them
away for future use. This is the mining aspect,
I gather. Steve can then build things with the stuff
he has collected, whatever he wants, again, using
only square blocks of collected stuff: wood, iron, dirt, glass,
brick, grass, and a dozen or more other kinds
of material, the names of which escape me.
Steve can build a house, a restaurant,
a library, a fort, a shelter, a tower,
a tunnel, a roller coaster, he can plant
a garden, he can make any thing that might
amuse him. This is the craft aspect, I assume.
So he wanders, mines, and crafts. But Steve is not alone.
The world is inhabited, if Steve chooses it to be,
with blocky entities called Creepers and Zombies,
cube-constructed animals like chickens, cows, and pigs,
all of which, I think, Steve can “spawn” for his
use and amusement, or even kill, if he likes.
If he kills a chicken or a cow or a pig, the death
of that animal can become food for Steve.
It is necessary in this game, I think,
for Steve to consume food. To kill a Creeper
or a Zombie, or an animal for that matter,
Steve must simply hit his target with something,
some kind of weapon he has mined and crafted,
and as he hits his target it jumps back a few times,
stunned but decidedly unharmed. But if
Steve continues to hit at the Creeper or
the Zombie or the animal, it flashes red
as it jumps back, indicating, I think, its eminent
demise. When it dies, it falls over on its side
and then simply disappears. Not a gory
affair, by any measure, but violent, nonetheless.
But the killing of things, or the fighting of
bad guys, does not seem to be the game’s primary
purpose. The goal of Minecraft, at least from Dad’s
perspective, is allusive, ambiguous. But he thinks
he may have stumbled on a working theory.
Dad has finally reached the conclusion
that the ultimate goal of Minecraft
is to continue to play Minecraft.
The graphics are surprisingly primitive,
the soundtrack minimal, often soothing,
but what gives the boy the ultimate thrill
that keeps him going and going until Dad
and Mom pull the plug is this feeling perhaps
of unlimited possibility and unfettered control
to move and manipulate this endless space,
this landscape, this mutable and ever-changing
environment that becomes entirely his
and only his. And if he chooses, if he tires
of being Steve, he can reinvent himself
with a new skin and a new identity.
And, if he is feeling lonely, he can join
others via the mighty web in worlds
they have created and opened up
for visitors. This is the aspect that makes
Dad nervous, but so far, as far as Dad can tell,
no harm, no foul. What also worries Dad,
to a lesser degree, is that what seems to interest
his son is a game called Minecraft. After that,
Minecraft comes in at a close second.
His third choice: Minecraft. And finally,
in a tight race for fourth place but moving
steadily and stealthily into stiff competition,
are videos of other guys playing videos