Angry Robot

Minecraft 1.0


I wonder if some of Minecraft’s appeal will dissolve now that it’s a 1.0 product and will probably see less frequent updates.

I seem to play it once every few months and whenever I do, I see something new, not just because the human perceptive system is selective blah blah but because quite literally new things have been added to the game since I last played. I was roaming around and I saw a wolf. Wolf!

One’s natural reaction is to search on the Minecraft wiki to see what you can do with a wolf. If you feed it a bone, you can tame it. Then it will follow you around and attack your enemies. You can even tame a whole pack. God damn!

The preceding paragraph indicates the other arcane appeal of Minecraft that is rare in games: it’s almost a game about looking things up in a wiki. The game does a notoriously poor job of telling you what you can and should do, so you’re trained to consult out-of-game sources from your first in-game night, when you were probably eaten by zombies since you didn’t build shelter before nightfall (surprise!) because you didn’t run up to a tree and punch it to make wood blocks (surprise!) enabling you to make a craftbench enabling you to make tools etc etc…

That’s the risk, that what any rational game critic would call improvements to the early game will take away some essential charm. Similarly, the cessation of the perpetual beta, if it does in fact mean the game needs fewer updates, could take away some of those surprises, which were legion this last play: wolves. Breeding animals. Enchanting. Potions. Back to the wiki!

There’s so much good there though that one needn’t fear too much. Almost certainly that sense of wonder, exploration, and enterprise will remain. I watched a doc about early man whose thrust was that homo sapiens was unique because of his ability to imagine what wasn’t there. He could imagine the path of a herd of big hairy prehistoric elephant type things, and conceive of a trap to put there. He could imagine the path of a projectile.

He could see a near-infinite world of blocks and imagine building the USS Enterprise out of those blocks.

It’s not genius but it’s ingenuity, and that’s what makes Minecraft feel so human. I know as a downtown champagne-socialist elitist I should decry the path of human history which paved paradise with highways and clogged our seas with oil, but you can’t help sometimes being impressed.

Like if you ride on a jet, don’t you sometimes think, “Dude! We fuckin’ made this. What have monkeys built lately?”

The hero of Minecraft is born with nothing in his hands and then he punches a tree and soon his basic needs (hut, torches, pork chops) are taken care of and after a bunch of lifting he is riding a minecart out of the earth’s core up into his sky castle. It’s the ascent of man in a nutshell.

If games have real-life value inasmuch as they train us to deal with life in certain ways, Minecraft teaches us to see how much is possible in this world of ours, to learn more about it, and then go fucking build that.

BTW as of press time (ha! I love saying that) Minecraft is actually version 1.1, and the latest snapshot release added, amongst other things, the breeding of ocelots.