While the Minecraft of today allows a lot more nuance in how players achieve those results, the guiding principle of “dig and build” remains paramount. It wasn’t the first game to try this idea – as many Persson detractors observed in relation to Minecraft’s earliest releases – but it remains the only game to have sold well in excess of 100 million copies, making it the second-most successful video game of all time, right behind that eternally-evolving gift from the USSR: Tetris.
While Tetris is often used as an easy shorthand for video games as a whole, Minecraft arguably represents something else entirely. There is certainly a “game” in Minecraft, depending on how you play it: you can strip those titular mines, do battle with zombies and dragons, train wolves as pets and take care of a pumpkin plantation. Some players have worked collaboratively on these pursuits, and others have used the game as an analogue of global human conflict, starting online territory wars and resources disputes.
But to the wider world, the thing that keeps players of all ages coming back is that ability to dig and build anything one’s imagination can afford. Players have built entire cities – real and fictional, some borrowed from properties like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Lost – along with a replica of the 1969 Space Shuttle launch, the Tower of Babel, the USS Enterprise and a level from Sonic the Hedgehog.
The introduction of “redstone” – the mysterious, mineable resource that functions like an electrical conduit and can move and create different cubes – pushed the creative capabilities of Minecraft even further. Redstone has introduced many a player to the basic concepts of circuitry, including logic gates and diodes. In fact, bringing history full-circle, one player has actually managed to organise countless redstone switches to fully recreate a playable version of Tetris within Minecraft; a game within a game. The best-seller built within the second-best.
It’s for these above reasons that Minecraft has become such a global powerhouse, to the extent that it’s now being used as an educational device within many classrooms throughout the world. Whether it’s teaching children about electronics or encouraging them to collaborate in creative pursuits, Minecraft exists as an easy, accessible and cheap facilitator of these important lessons.