Celebrating what could be the most far-reaching game in a generation, Minecraft-ers converged on Paris last weekend for the annual Minecon. Many rockstar LPers played for adoring crowds of thousands, exemplary as to how the game is so undeniably popular.
Beyond its success, though, came the realization of how significant Minecraft is on everyday society, not just the gaming realm, with the announcement that Mojang is collaborating with the United Nations. The new project — deemed “Block by Block” — will allow the UN to digitally build ravaged locations for residents to tour, give input, and aid in constructing their homes.
It’s a brilliant application of Minecraft‘s adult Lego-head persona, and shows games can have significantly more uses other than entertainment. Not simply to build stuff, but allow victims of wartorn or undeveloped areas to not feel so powerless in determining their future. The UN program entitles them to make adjustments or completely redesign buildings without costing a penny.
Exploring themes in a broader sense
The mechanism for genuine freedom is not lost on games these days, especially because of Minecraft‘s rise to fame. More games than ever exercise the player’s curiosity, leaving him or her to choose how the adventure plays out. And in the beauty of Minecraft‘s blocky, randomized worlds, the adventure is everlasting.
Because humanity needs basic things to survive, even though it isn’t necessary, triggering the instinct to build is one of the game’s most potent strengths. In an unknown environment with no development, the first thing we do is find food, water and shelter. Minecraft plays no different — and in Steve’s world, housing is not necessary to survive.
The desire of survival ferments into something greater, to self-fulfill or fulfill that of others, the passion to create. What better place to explore our blossoming creativity than in Minecraft, where infinite resources and a Neptune-sized world (on PC) are at our disposal.
What’s regarded as beautiful in Minecraft is manyfold; with architecture, though, seeing destruction is almost as enjoyable as the creating process. In this, Eurogamer posted an interesting account of a writer’s experience with his kids. The kids employed a scorched earth policy — dismantling the house and setting the area ablaze. And why? Because they could.
Sharing the process with millions
Early in Holygrenade‘s lifetime, I wrote a short article questioning if Minecraft was art. I labeled it an “interactive gallery” because not just the finished product drew interest. One last bit of self-promotion — to define building in Minecraft, I wrote: “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.”
And they ended up sharing it with the world.
YouTube has become a playground for enthusiasts and assorted blueprint types, posting lengthy videos of the construction process as well as the finished product. It primes viewers to expand their own creative genius, taking that YouTuber’s contraption to another level. It also allows for people to go into incredible depth about their projects, sometimes for financial gain. These brainy builders have amassed subscribers numbering in the hundreds of thousands — notably FVDisco, who of this writing has 293,000 fans and over 35 million views.
Most of Disco’s work is superbly technical, like this one video showcasing the temple of Notch. Another (and my personal favourite) is the delightful Minecraft version of Plants vs. Zombies. No doubt these mechanical contraptions took dozens of hours to plan, construct and perfect, due to their lavishness and unique complications. Meaning real architects need not worry about redstone placement.
Kids can do this sort of thing too
The greatest effect of Minecraft‘s influence is perhaps its ability to engage children. In understanding architecture, and in spreading the well-being of games, kids are actively subscribing to notable YouTubers. Minecraft is slowly engulfing the collective imagination of kids everywhere, taking the role Lego had as recently as ten years ago.
One anecdote: I was with a friend checking out some new release, and we walked downstairs to find his five-year-old brother watching a Minecraft stream intently. His mother then said something to the effect of he was always watching. He spent his computer time researching all things Minecraft.
In reading about this, I came across MinecraftEdu, a program for bringing Minecraft to schools everywhere. Created “by teachers, for teachers”, the mod lets players explore blocky versions of ancient locations and other architectural wonders, among many other uses.
Minecraft is one game bridging the gap between generations of current and future gaming fans, even crafting some aspiring architects. I’m excited to see what the future holds: in-game competitions, more time-consuming masterpieces, and perhaps a bright future for architects everywhere. Minecraft may not be the sole reason but it is certainly helping.
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