Free Games I Like: Minecraft
Posted on 13th Jul 2010 at 15:25 by Joe Martin with 8 comments
Minecraft isn’t technically a free game – it’s a free playable alpha of an indie game that’s still in production. It’s playable online, in a browser, in both singleplayer and multiplayer formats.
Best described as a minimalist, retro sandbox, there’s no real aim to Minecraft, at the moment anyway. All you do is run around a world carved out of rudimentary, regularly sized blocks, fending off critters and bashing holes in things or piling up blocks. It’s the bashing and piling which forms the focus of the game.
Everything in Minecraft is made of blocks. Blocks have different attributes and toughness. You can smash blocks by holding down the left mouse button, removing them from the world and allowing you to pick up debris. Then you can put the debris elsewhere, making blocks of your own. Smash a dirt block, pick up dirt blocks, put down dirt blocks. It's all explained further in the Minecraft Wiki, but that's pretty much all there is to it.
And that’s it.
It might not sound like there’s much fun to be had with that – what’s the point of actually playing, after all? You can’t win, you can’t level up; all you can do is create houses and things, then look at them. That shouldn’t be all that interesting, right?
And yet it is. By using such a minimal and stylised world, Minecraft has a gentle and immediate visual charm – one that’s accompanied by the lovely piano music that gently fades in and out. It feels very nostalgic and familiar. On top of that it’s got a huge player base that’s still finding new things to build and make. Working with other players to build or destroy things is remarkably fulfilling
More than that though, Minecraft’s appeal lies in the simple joy of exploration – or it does for me, anyway. The worlds are randomly made every time you start playing (though you can save and load if you want to preserve your creations), so there’s always something new for you to set as an objective or go and find.
One time I, out of curiosity, tried burrowing straight down through the ground. I was 30 blocks down when I stumbled across a massive underground cavern, completely filled with mushrooms and sealed off from the outside world. The sense of whimsy and quiet happiness I had in reaction then kept me searching through the ground for a further half-hour, just trying to see what else I might have missed.