Minecraft and Time Wasting
Today I was ploughing through Philo’s Quis rerum divinarum heres sit when I suddenly hit a mental wall. Maybe it was the peanut M&Ms I had been snacking on earlier in the day or just the post lunch lethargy that slowly leeches at my concentration everyday around 3pm. Either way I couldn’t go on.
Looking for a method of distraction, I opened up an old favorite app on my iPad, Minecraft PE. I can’t explain exactly what drew me to this app. I could have been studying something or involved myself in a nice little nap on the bean bag under my desk. All the same I started playing in a Minecraft world that I had previously spent hours developing.
For those who have not played this game before (or perhaps are supercilious enough to think you are above such trivialities), Minecraft is a sandbox styled game that gives you the ability to stretch your imagination to the limit and shape an imaginary world by crafting tools, mining blocks of different material (dirt, stone, sand, diamond, etc), and then stacking them to create whatever you want. There is even a survival mode where if you get caught outside at night you get attacked by all sorts of weird creatures (in all their 8-bit non-scary glory).
It is crazy, given its low resolution and simple gameplay, how this game has taken off. In the stunning graphics and super realistic first person shooters, this game is still breaking sales records worldwide.
There is something unique happening here. Maybe it taps into a deep desire that humans have to shape the world around us. Maybe the success of this game indicates that we desire to get lost in the simplicity that an 8-bit world has to offer. I find the repetitive motion of smacking stone blocks with a pickaxe soothing in way. It is fun to dig as deep as you can, discover a vein of iron, gold, or diamond and then craft better tools for further digging or shaper swords for whacking zombies with. It’s also fun to build on the surface, making a mansion out of glass and hoarding precious metals in a double sized chest. (My kids love to sneak on to my ipad and pilfer my hard earned materials to create frivolous things like diamond hoes. (Seriously! Diamond is hard to come by!))
Years from now someone will probably do a psychological study on why this game succeeded where so many others failed. I for one would be extremely interested in their findings and might even read them, if I am not too busy adding crenelations to my stone castle and gathering obsidian blocks to construct a portal to the netherworld.