The point of Minecraft seems simple: build practically anything you can imagine. Some kids recreate famous pieces of architecture, others express their creativity through grand designs.Since 2009, Minecraft has sold over 20 million copies. And if that seems like a typical blockbuster, don’t be fooled — it isn’t. Graphics are boxy and blurry, and sounds are primitive at best. So why do kids obsess over it?
Players begin on any number of randomly-generated terrains — square blocks that make up deserts, mountains, prairie and even clouds. To survive the unknown world, they’ll have to create buildings and items — like say, an indestructible pickaxe or a stove to cook on — which means they’ll need to gather raw materials from the world around them.
When night falls, mobs of monsters — spiders, zombies and skeletons — chase them with a single-minded purpose. Lock up the goods. With sword or bow in hand, they’ll have to fend them off until daybreak, when the sunlight sends them back into hiding. While there’s no blood or gore, fighting monsters and feasting on hunted animals is part of the gameplay.
Minecraft is an open-ended “sandbox” that doesn’t come with instructions, so the gameplay is confusing — but that’s what makes it irresistible. Kids are forced to explore — first in the game, then out of it.
To figure out what to do next, they’ll need to read sites such as Minecraft Wiki, where they learn to build an intricate maze of mine shafts or design their dream house. Slowly, they begin to see what’s possible, and develop skills of observation and perseverance.Through experimenting and working together, kids begin to develop skills in creative thinking, math and geometry, and even a bit of geology. And to complete large tasks, they need to plan a strategy, define goals and work together to execute and see the mission through — sort of like having a real job.
The Journal of Adolescent Research published a study comparing children that played video games to those that didn’t. “Video game players, regardless of gender, reported higher levels of family closeness, activity involvement, attachment to school and positive mental health,” Paul Adachi and Teena Willoughby, the authors of the study, concluded. “Video game players also had less risky friendship networks and a more favorable self-concept.” Even schools are taking notice, with some classrooms integrating the game directly into their curriculum.
The success of Minecraft is largely due to its open gameplay — kids don’t play just one mission, they choose from many activities. Regardless of the task, teamwork is a key part of the experience. That thriving subculture lets kids experience all things Minecraft. They connect online on forums, and offline at conferences and summer camps, sharing their love of the game and even collaborating on real-world items. This game can be played by children of all ages. This alone makes the game shine and also can be used as a tool for children to learn how to concentrate, and ironically enough, teach lessons about life. This game is an example of how a game can make people happy and bring them together.