Bargain Gaming – Minecraft

Posted on Sep 15 2011

This is all Tyto’s fault. I had purposely been avoiding Minecraft for some time now, although not for the reasons you might suspect. It’s not that I thought the game’s concept was without merit, nor did I harbor any delusions of it being a bad game or that it was in any way mechanically flawed. No, I avoided Minecraft because, after all the years of time I have invested into gaming, I could recognized the game for what it was: The quintessential time sink. Minecraft is a game with a huge amount of freedom and content that exists solely for the purpose of sucking players in and never letting them go. As such, I had resisted the hounding of my friends, insisting that it “Just isn’t my type of game” with the hope that they’d let it slide. This worked well enough up until last week, when Tyto approached me about it once more. Sick, restless, and ailed by a case of writer’s block that threatened to make my head explode, he began to pester me into downloading a copy to play with him. So, being the husk of a man that I am, I finally gave in and downloaded the darn thing (against my better judgement), with the intention of playing for just a few minutes before telling Tyto to leave me alone.

Yeah. That didn’t happen.

So here we stand, at the edge of an abyss from which I may never return. But before I vanish into the endless expanse of a cubic horizon, I want to relay the essence of this game to you, so that you can determine for yourself whether this game is worthy of your time, or a trap that devours lesser mortals like lambs led to the slaughter. Lambs full of wool…

I think it’s safe to say that we can skip the story aspect of this review, as Minecraft doesn’t actually have one (at least, not yet). You spawn in a randomly generated world with nothing but a set of rock hard fists and your own desires and goals. Whether you choose to explore, gather resources, build, or some combination thereof, there’s really nothing telling you what you can and can’t do. In fact, this can actually be fairly overwhelming to a first time player with no previous knowledge, as the game doesn’t hold your hand at any point. You are left to your own devices and -unless you have either played previously or read the wiki- you might find that you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing. But then that’s half of the fun in this game, as there’s really no right or wrong way to play. Sure, you can streamline your harvesting and building process with a bit of knowledge and practice, but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is what you take from the game personally. Whether that’s building a giant monument to commemorate your greatness, or just cobbling together a tiny shack to serve as a base camp in your explorations, it all comes down to what you, the player, want to do. And it is that freedom that can get you hooked.

But let’s take a look at something that is actually tangible: the game’s graphical presentation. I’ll admit that I had disparaging first impressions of the game’s graphics; after all, it’s just a bunch of polygonal blocks stacked against each other which happen to represent different materials. Not exactly the prettiest of sights. But as I played the game I began to understand that it isn’t the independent blocks that matter, but the cohesive whole that they create. Sure, close up each individual block may seem flat and uninteresting, but when looking out over a field, up at the mouth of a towering cave, or down from the top of a mountain, you can see how all of these individually dull little blocks can create something incredible and breathtaking. I still remember coming across an underground canyon while exploring a cave system, a pool of lava just around the corner lighting up the edges just enough so that I could see its outline in the dark. Visuals like this are what really make the game stand out, as it takes something as simple and unrefined as a block and turns it into something spectacular.

The game play takes a similar approach, granting you what at first seems like a very simple tool set. You quickly realize that your character has an inventory and that you can change and combine certain materials within it, but the options seem limited at first glance. But through experimentation, luck, or research you can discover a huge variety of materials and combinations that might otherwise elude you. The first time the player builds a crafting table is a truly pivotal moment, as it is then that the player realizes that they have only begun to scratch the surface of what is available to them. And as you discover more interesting and complex techniques you discover even more possibilities, until you finally reach a point where you are content with the resources at your disposal. And then it is time to build.

For while I enjoy exploration as much as the next gamer, I must admit that there is something incredibly cathartic about creating something out of seemingly nothing. Perhaps it is the artistic streak inside of us, but the desire to go out and create is a part of who we are, a part of what makes us human if you will. I’ll spare you the philosophical debate, but suffice to say that Minecraft taps into a primal urge we have to make something, regardless of what it is, when faced with the opportunity. Heck, the first thing I did when faced with an open field was construct a massive tower just to see if I could. You could spend hours looking at all of the incredible things people have made in Minecraft just by doing a quick Youtube search, but trust me when I say that the coolest looking thing in the world can’t compete with something you built with your own hands. If you have a bit of a creative streak then this is definitely a game worthy of consideration, as the ability to build almost anything you can imagine is always fun. Just be wary of creepers, lest they negate all of your hard work.

But what really makes this creative aspect comes to life is the true heart of this game: the multiplayer. Sure, it can be fun to mess around by yourself and build all sorts of crazy things, but it pales in comparison to the fun you can have while sharing a world with others. Whether all of you work on the same project or you all work separately on the same server there’s something incredibly fun about working alongside your friends and fellow players. You can even turn it into a kind of competition of sorts, as you see who can build the most impressive monument or find the rarest resources the fastest. This added social dynamic really makes the game come alive for me, as a simple task that might bore me on my own can become tolerable when done with friends. And God help you if you’re doing something fun, as hours can slip away while you horse around. To top it all off it is actually incredibly easy to play with others, as all you need is for one person to have the “host” computer and the rest can all play through them. This combination of easy accessibility and the added social dynamic creates a dangerous combination, turning an already addictive game into a dangerous, if fun, time sink.

Because of this it is tempting to warn people away from this title lest they lose control of their lives like I have. But no, I have faith in the fans. I believe that you are stronger creatures than I, able to control yourselves even in the face of such overwhelming freedom. As such I cannot help but recommend this title to all PC gamers, as it is at worst a charming diversion and at best a creative experience unlike any other. Especially when you consider the fact that the game is still in Beta, which means there is even more content to come if you can believe it. As such if you have even a passing interest in this title then I recommend that you pick it up now, while it is still in Beta, as it is currently twenty five percent off with the guarantee that all future content will be available.

And hey, maybe if enough of you pick it up we can start our own server and play together some time. Drop me a comment below if you’re interested in getting a group together and I’ll see what I can do. In the meantime though, this is Bargain Gamer, logging off!

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  • Kayarath September 15, 2011 at 8:59 PM

    Don’t fear the creepers! They only want to hug you!

    • Bargain Gamer September 15, 2011 at 9:49 PM

      Perhaps, but if that’s the case then THEY’RE DOING IT WRONG! Stop “hugging” me next to stuff I just finished building! >.<

  • Kagra September 16, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    A Server pleeeease! I havent played multiplayer before (unless you count the crappy overcrowded free build ones) cause my only friend who plays it doesnt own the official game (illegal ;_;) and my computers too jacked up to host one even if she gets it. I would love to hang out with yall on a server sometime. It would be cool to do a survival one and see how chaotic it would be with a group of people πŸ™‚ Plus im not a very creative builder :<

    • Bargain Gamer September 16, 2011 at 10:52 PM

      Heh, I’ll see what I can do. Honestly my biggest concern is how many players I can run on my current setup. I believe this calls for some experimentation. ^ ^

      • Kagra September 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        That all depends on who can play at a certian time :/ im assuming one that could hold like 5 people at once would be good. Not everybody can go to it at once most likely. We would somehow have to plan times to do it if we do a survival

        • Kagra September 18, 2011 at 7:50 PM

          I made a server that could hold quite a bit of people if you want to use it but its a survival.

          • Bargain Gamer September 19, 2011 at 4:58 PM

            Sounds awesome! Send me a PM with the details and we can see about setting it up via the forums and IRC. ^ ^

            EDIT: Also, it looks like Eternal has set up a server for the site already. If you’re interested you can check it out here:

  • drewid September 16, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    just bought this game today, haven’t had much time to play around yet but hopefully it was worth the money. Also very good read Bargain Gamer πŸ˜€

    • Bargain Gamer September 16, 2011 at 10:53 PM

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed the review! I was feeling a bit snarky when writing it, so I was curious to see how people would react. :3

  • Haku October 2, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Scholar has a multiplayer server up. JOIN US, BG. And Bring Tyto. πŸ˜€

  • Sho September 25, 2012 at 9:48 PM

    Mmmm, Minecraft. Tastes like chicken. Cool, how much time did you sink into it?

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