I had heard of this game a lot on the internet over the last few months, but everyone who mentioned it seemed wholly unable to explain its premise or gameplay. I have played it now and I understand why. I think that the best and maybe only way to communicate its many splendors is with New Games Journalism-esque storytelling.
I was working tirelessly at my dig, clearing out a flat surface for future development. Down to my last iron pick and lacking the materials to make more, the time had come to set out into uncharted lands to search for raw ore. It was night and I would not be able to identify the faintly gleaming metal in the dark. I climbed out of the dig site and searched the horizon for a mountain to plumb in the daytime hours.
I set out at daybreak, hopeful. Travelling west, I came upon a mountain I had been to before, but not explored fully. The side of the mountain was carved out by nature and a small, sunlit corridor beckoned me just above ground level. I built a stepping stone up to it and peered within. An almost perfectly shaped hallway of stone extended forward and jogged right, but before the bend was a large crevasse, too far across to jump. I inched up to the edge and looked down. It was quite deep, with water at the bottom. I thought I could see some ore. I hastily built a stone bridge across the gap and surveyed the other side of the corridor, beyond the turn. It dead-ended quickly. Feeling bold, I decided to jump down the hole instead of leaving.
It was deeper than I had thought. I landed and looked around. This new underground cave was quite expansive, but the only resource I spied was coal, of which I had plenty. Being far below surface level, I decided to conserve my finite tools rather than mine much of it. The cave seemed to split off into small rooms in many directions. I lit one with a torch on the wall and explored inward. Soon I was finding iron–just a little bit here and there. No major veins. I skipped from wall to wall quickly in my search, failing to keeping track of my direction. Finding a block of iron ore on the cave floor, I foolishly mined it while standing atop. There was nothing beneath and I fell deeper in.
This new area had a little underground river, and mining iron next to it, I watched the flow change, filling in the space. I moved inwards, now starting to get a little concerned about my inevitable return journey.
After a couple more unfortunate falls I found myself in a pit with a large lake of lava. Scattered about was a red ore that I hadn’t seen. It seemed to be giving off a faint light in the room. As I mined it, this light died and I was in the dark with the lava glowing eerily. I decided it was time to head back to the surface.
I crafted a load of torches and started lighting them as I climbed upwards–something I should have been doing from the start of my journey. Before long I started finding the torches I’d left, and realized I was walking in pretty small circles. I couldn’t find the hole in the ceiling where I had dropped down last and my mining had changed some of the features of the cave, making it unrecognizable. I decided to start digging.
I started spiraling my way upwards into solid rock. Carving a space for my body at a higher level, jumping into it, turning and repeating. I figured this was the most efficient way. I worried about my supplies. This entire mission was launched because of my lack of pickaxes, and now I was depending on their ever-waning number to return me to the surface safely. I continued. Now and again I would find gravel and dirt, signaling a possible proximity to the surface. My primitive stone shovel did not last me long, and I found myself digging the earth with my hands, saving the pickaxes for their intended use.
Digging straight up, a large mass of gravel collapsed down on top of me, and I heard myself gasp for air. I cleared it away quickly with my hands and in the flash between waves of rock, I thought I saw sunlight. I tried to dig faster. Eventually, I outpaced the flow and saw the daylit sky above.
Climbing out, I saw–fantastically–that I had surfaced up through the bottom of my dig site not 10 feet from my base of operations. My furnace, workbench and wooden chests were lined up as I had left them, seeming to greet and congratulate me.
This is Minecraft.
Doesn’t sound much like any game you’ve played, does it? Probably doesn’t sound much like a game at all, but that account is 100% accurate with no embellishment. That’s just what the gameplay is like.
I am able to have these experiences because a single, incredible person created this game and sold it to me for 13 dollars. It is in the alpha stage of its development and is nowhere near completed. The files you purchase and download are miniscule; the game world literally infinite as it creates itself in front of you as you explore.
Minecraft, in its infancy, is the superior of almost every single game that you will find on store shelves today. They cost 5 times as much. Minecraft’s graphics are 8-bit and its entire game world and functions are at the mercy of your own imagination, rather than that of some egotistical developer who thinks you deserve a six-hour action movie for your $60 dollars.
This is a modern video game that does not suck.