Until you’ve played the game yourself it can be really hard to understand just what it is that kids find so fascinating about this world of blocks. It’s often called ‘online Lego’, but although they might be visually similar the two offer quite different playing experiences. Minecraft is like building something with Lego after you made and moulded the plastic yourself, and then going on an adventure inside it through jungles and oceans and deserts while monsters are chasing you. And when you tire of that, you can blow it all up and start again.
Kids are attracted to Minecraft by the chance to be super creative in a cool environment with just a few simple rules. The first-person player perspective really immerses them into a world of their own creation, in which they’re in control and can decide where to live and when to eat and what to do. They build their own safe spaces from which they feel emboldened to venture out and take risks. They experience the thrill of the chase and the freedom to run and explore and just be.
They can also decide when and what to destroy, and that combination of both construction and destruction is part of what makes the game so much fun. And even the basic movements themselves just feel good to do – pounding on a tree until it breaks with a satisfying pop is like playing with virtual bubble wrap.
But really one of the reasons that Minecraft is so absorbing is that it’s not just about building and being creative, it’s doing these things in an environment that makes it hard to do. It’s just the right balance of challenge and reward and fun – not so hard that you give up, but not so easy that it becomes boring. That makes it incredibly attractive and engaging to play.
And for many kids, Minecraft is so much more than a game – it’s a way to express themselves. What they choose to create, the adventures they invent, even the way their character looks is a reflection on their experiences and interests and skills. They can put their individual stamp on the game, and have an instant connection to a whole community of like-minded people with whom they can share all of that.
On the outside Minecraft can seem simple, but it’s actually quite complex and almost every moment is filled with learning and new discoveries. You’re continually presented with new challenges, and the reward of solving them just opens the door to another round of things to figure out and achieve. The world itself is endless and the challenges never stop… this is not a game to be played in half an hour.
There’s also constant novelty. Unlike most video games, every Minecraft session is different from the last. It’s impossible to get bored because you can always change what you’re doing and have many projects on the go at once, all of which are challenging and super fun. There’s no repetition of levels, no pre-rehearsed sequence of moves, and this never-ending cycle of novelty and discovery can really hook you in.
Minecraft is usually played from the first-person perspective, where the point of view changes as your player moves around. This is incredibly powerful and immerses you deep into the game, where the things you see and experience feel much more real than if you were watching your character run around onscreen from an outside third-person perspective. In this way you literally become your character, and this can be a very intense experience for many kids.