The future of video games is kind of ugly, but if you squint, they’re also really fun. In case you haven’t been exposed to many video games or if you just haven’t been paying a lot of attention for the last 5 years or so, Minecraft is just about the most popular all-ages game there is. We see books, toys, posters, pillows, t-shirts and all kinds of paraphernalia for this game, and they’re all dog-ugly. But, like pointillism, it’s defining a new way to look at new games, and with a depth and breadth to gaming that was never realized before it.
Minecraft is uniquely your craft
Minecraft is a massive game. There are literally tens of thousands of ways to play Minecraft. You play Steve, the voiceless avatar of your desires in Minecraft, and through which you are able to explore, exploit, tend, rend, manipulate and survive the world in which you are thrust. And no two worlds will likely be the same, so your experience starting out could be a volcanic island in the sea, mine could be a lush rain forest surrounded by desert, with different advantages and disadvantages starting out.
That is, if you play the default game, dubbed “Survival”. As the name suggests, playing Minecraft in Survival mode means you have to work for a living. For my five-year-old, the game is all about “Creative Mode”.
Creative mode is a spectacle for the imagination to run wild. The player can fly, tunnel like mad, create anything that the poor survivors have to spend hours or days to build. Creative mode is basically AutoCAD for the impossible. Sure, it’s a game, but there’s no winning at creative mode – there’s no losing, either.
You Can Dig It
Creators get to create – build massive, block-based structures with working water, lava, doors, and animal creatures. Virtual farmers can breed cows, chickens, pigs, and sheep. Digital wizards can cast spells on items and creatures alike. Engineers can build entire cities, and connect to them with working rail systems, electrical switches for lighting and doors, set booby traps for rogue villains (or, set it to “peaceful” for no villains). Spelunkers can explore the famous cave systems – although our family tends to stay above ground in Creative mode, even though I like to spend time in the catacombs in Survival.
The surface of Minecraft in Creative Mode is pretty straightforward, and fun for literally all ages. Things get really, really interesting once the player begins to recognize the power in some of the specialty blocks, and the magic fuel of Minecraft, dubbed “redstone”. Redstone is basically electricity, but it’s mined in Survival as a resource. In creative mode, and because of the ability to apply switches to redstone circuits, functional machines can be created. Lifts, presses, transportation, and really any working circuitry is possible with redstone, switches, relays and inputs. Some folks have even made working calculators, synthesisers and computer processors from within the game!
Anybody who appreciates the creative freedom LEGO offers can see and appreciate the wonders and creative freedoms of Minecraft. That said, playing video games is never the same as the real thing. What I’ve found to be really exciting is that after playing an hour of Minecraft, my daughter’s next play is usually building LEGO structures, train tracks, or crafting – it’s creative play that inspires more creative play. I appreciate that there’s no clean up, we call it quits and power down the Playstation. No bricks to slice my feet in the night, either.
Minecraft is rated E-10, due to some Fantasy Violence, which is absent from the Creative Mode play discussed here. Survival mode can be moody, has a fixed day/night cycle, and yes, the creepers come out at night. If you’re able to scope the play to just Creative Mode, it’s age appropriate for even 4-year-olds. Players will find it’s easy to get sucked in – and whatever screen-time limitations are the house rule, they’ll go quickly with Minecraft.
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