A guest post by Alex McClintock.
When Alex fronted me a while back with a mad gleam in his eye for an 8-bit gme called FTL, I was very much WTF. I've never understood the appeal of retro games. Except maybe Defender, and then only in retrospect. I have fond memories of wasting hours in the common room at uni playing that one. Doesn't mean I'd want to repeat the experience. But his enthusiasm for FTL made me wonder if he might be some sort of Minecraft fiend too. No. Sadly, he couldn't explain the appeal of it. But his nine year old sister had a go - JB.
I’m standing in a small town. It’s quiet and the streets are lush with vegetation. The green hills in the distance are dotted with strange rock formations. But what really draws the eye is the enormous, pixelated statue of a 9-year-old girl that rises from a hill behind the village. Perhaps 20 storeys tall, it fills my vision and shadows the town.
Of course, neither the town nor the statue is real. At least not physically – my precocious 9-year-old sister Marlo created them using Minecraft, the popular 2011 sandbox game.
Minecraft has a huge number of devotees (more than 10 million people have bought the game), many of whom are a lot older than nine. Because, creative as they are, nine-year-olds don’t have the attention span or the disposition to build USS Enterprises, King’s Landings, scenes from BioShock Infinite or giant, functioning computers.
But despite critical acclaim and legions of fans, Minecraft leaves many people (JB and myself included) scratching their heads. A quick Google reveals thousands of forum posts along the lines of “WTF Minecraft”.
It’s probably something to do with the game being ridiculously open ended. You’re basically dropped in a field with no instructions. If you’re playing survival mode, zombies emerge at night to eat your pixelated brains. You can’t really fight them effectively, so you have to build fortifications. THAT’S IT.
So, in an effort to explain the phenomenon I turned to Marlo, who was pretty chuffed to be interviewed. Unlike adults, her enjoyment of the game can’t be explained by some kind pixel nostalgia. This is a girl who was born 14 years after the first Prince of Persia came out. In other news, I feel old.
I don’t know if Marlo totally explained what’s going on (something to do with creativity, I guess), but she sure was cute.
Why do you like minecraft?
Because you can create lots of things on it and you can make a house under the sea or you can make it on a really big hill. You can do anything you like and that’s kind of why I like it.
What do you usually build?
I like to build, like, really big mansions that are made out of gold and things like that. Or just brick cottages which are fun to make lots of.
What’s with the town with the giant Marlo statue?
It’s from Rio. I was inspired by Rio de Janeiro where they have a giant statue of god.
So you are god in Minecraft?
What’s the name of the city?
I haven’t decided. The save game is called Marlo’s model but I think I want to call it something better like Marlo De Janeiro.
Does it bother you that it has bad graphics?
No, because you can change the graphics. You can go into the settings and change it from normal graphics to fancy graphics.
But it’s still very pixelated…
Yeah but I kind of like that because in like, the dirt block, you can see all the little things, the bits of dirt. I like the way it’s basic because you know what everything is rather than having it too complicated.
So how do you play?
There are survival and creative modes. In survival when night comes zombies and creepers who might kill you come. I don’t like that because you have to collect resources. In creative you get to create whatever you like. There’s things that you can have and put them in your house but in survival you have to gather things and do that sort of thing.
I only play on the iPad but I want dad to buy it for the computer. When you have it on the computer it’s a bit different because there’s more resources. You can hatch a zombie out of an egg and stuff like that.
Is there anything you want to add?
Not really except Minecraft is awesome.