The first time I heard of Minecraft, ironically, was on Steam’s forums, advertising how it sold 10,000 copies purely through word-of-mouth. And back when I ran a weekly podcast with two friends, somehow I thought the news important enough if we needed filler content. A slow news week beckoned the need, and the bit was used. I mistakenly pronounced it as “MineShaft” and pointed out its objective-less nature. Or how the objective was nearly as simple as its concept: survive.
In June of 2009 Minecraft had barely passed headline status, only to become a powerhouse of independent development and establish Notch as king of the Internet. And a culture was born: one transcending the original premise of survival to a gesture far more grand, one promoting creativity as a mindset to be successful. For limited cost and with infinite resources, players displayed proudly their artistic side through pictures and YouTube videos. An interactive gallery in a way.
Unrestricted freedom gave players purpose to spend countless hours manufacturing works of blocky, pixelated art. Thus, intrinsically, building grew into an integral component and not just something to do. Perhaps unintentionally, the framework of Minecraft shifted. The objective-less game now had an objective.
Survival was simple: gather resources, find or build temporary residency, and work through the ten-minute nights preparing for an easier tomorrow. But that was single-player; creative mode was far different. In Patch 1.8 a separate “creative mode” was added emulating what classic was when playing Minecraft in-browser during beta; limitless squares and absolute, unbridled independence.
This dichotomy led to unfathomable undertakings from the game’s masses, most notably YouTube user “halnicholas” rebuilding the Starship Enterprise 1:1. These projects regularly score millions of hits and have led to users gaining huge fanbases like disco. Slowly, Minecraft manufactured a new league of geniuses taking over from Lego-heads of the 90s. But on a grander scale and broadcasted to a wider audience.
I noted before Minecraft had turned into “an interactive gallery”. In art galleries we only ever see the finished product. Never the edits or touchups, or if the creator has a momentary lapse in creative authority and drastically changes something. On YouTube, videos showing the process of articulately crafting these masterpieces are as popular as the tours themselves, because viewers have the means (and ostensibly the time) to build unto these contraptions.
These viewers are then compelled to point out changes in video responses or one-up the original build, a friendly competition to see who can build the more captivating object. Fans are an active participant in the process, not standing on the sidelines wondering the artist’s message or intent. Instead fans interpret the object directly, in full view, radically shifting the definition of what we know as “art”.
Art itself is deeply interpretive, so to understand what constitutes as art is also interpretive. Is Minecraft art? Simple question but complex to answer. An answer to which I don’t know if I have the mindset or tolerance to get into, with some profound discussion over breaking down “art” and relating it to the game.
I leave the floor open for a part two.
So that last point is to you, the readers: one, do you view Minecraft as an “interactive gallery”; and two, would you consider architecture or giant remakes within Minecraft as art? Sound off in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Extreme-Games.net.
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