I recently discovered the game Minecraft. It’s an open-world sandbox: basically, you just build things out of blocks. Technically, there are two modes: creative mode, where you have an infinite palette of materials, and survival mode, where you start with nothing and have to mine raw materials in order to build things and craft other items. In survival mode, there is an optional added challenge of monsters that roam around at night. The presence of these “mobs” imposes some focus on your activity, as it becomes important to build a defensible shelter.

Somewhat surprisingly, I find that I prefer the survival mode. I don’t care much for dealing with the monsters, but planning how to collect or create the materials needed to build interesting structures requires just the right amount of strategy, in my opinion, to keep the creativity fun without becoming frustrating or boring.

(There is also a “hunger” mechanism that requires you to occasionally hunt or harvest food in order to stay active. This only applies when mobs are enabled. Ideally, I would like to be able to toggle these challenges independently, so that I could face the logistical challenge of maintaining adequate levels of both food and supplies without also being harassed by giant spiders.)

Anyway, here’s a dome I built in peaceful survival mode:

The glass (lots of it!) was smelted from sand using charcoal derived from trees I chopped down. Trees are a renewable resource – you can plant the saplings that sometimes drop from their leaves – so, yes, I’m practicing sustainable forestry.

Here’s another sunset scene. As you can see, there are different biomes in Minecraft. This fort was built in a wintry forest with mobs (and therefore also hunger) enabled. It started out as a mere bunker and grew to include the tower and courtyard pumpkin patch you see here:

(The game is updated frequently, so it’s worth noting this post is based on version 1.1.)

The popularity of Minecraft and the apparent vitality of its peripheral economy (subscription-based multiplayer servers; ad-supported map designers and mod-makers; revenue-sharing YouTube channels) makes me rethink the viability of my old idea for a custom LEGO kit store. People do like to build stuff for fun, and will support accessible services that enrich their hobby.

Posted on Sunday, February 26th, 2012. Tags: , .