Did you know that Minecraft has collectively sold NINE MILLION COPIES? Did you? You do now. Why is Minecraft so popular? There is no objective answer. Oh wait, yes there is-- it is the funnest game ever made by humans. I know, I may be accused of mistaking objective with subjective, but I assure you, as a hard-hitting journalist my brain is only capable of seeing facts and eschewing judgment calls. Try to remember that whenever you read my works or look up into the night sky (I like to call myself "The Night Writer").
So we have established the fact that Minecraft is the world's funnest game in all of history. For those of you who perhaps are unsure of what Minecraft is, I'll tell you first what it isn't. Minecraft ISN'T Warcraft for dwarves (the fantasy kind of dwarves, I mean (the non-sexual kind of fantasy, I mean)). Minecraft ISN'T a first-person shooter about modern armed conflict. Minecraft ISN'T a game you can just play for an hour. You see, you will end up playing it for many, many hours. At its most very basic, Minecraft is a game where you make things out of other things.
You begin at a spawn point with nothing in your inventory, much as all of us began life at our own spawn points. From there, you start smashing into stuff with your hand, again just like in real life, until whatever you're smashing breaks and leaves a floating item behind. This should be familiar to all living humans.
You collect the item, it appears in your inventory, and now you can use it. Got a few dozen blocks of dirt? Build a dirt hut. Got some wood from punching trees? Make some wood planks at your inventory screen. Then make those wooden planks into wooden sticks, or make a crafting table from a 2x2 grid of wooden planks and take the whole thing to the next level. Suddenly you can craft tools, so you don't need to punch stuff anymore, at least not in the game. I find myself punching trees in real life, but only because they're so cocky, just growing there, swaying in the wind and showing off a bunch of flashy colors in autumn. God, I hate them so!
Once you build tools, like a pickaxe, you can start mining. Just point down and start smashing away. Ideally, you don't want to dig straight down for many reasons, the largest of which being you might fall into some lava, or find the ceiling of a naturally-occurring mine is now gone, because you made a hole in it, and now you're falling into the inky blackness of oblivion. Eventually you find coal, various ores, and precious stones, and you use them to build your totally awesome house. The purpose of building a house is to keep monsters from murdering you. It's for this reason I call my bottle of Thorazine my "Li'l Minecraft House."
People build some pretty amazing things, like this guy, who built a scale replica of Germany's Neuschwanstein castle in survival mode. To give you an idea of how hardcore that is, imagine building a model of it out of Lego bricks, but gathering all the chemicals first to make the Lego bricks yourself, only after you gathered the materials to build the machines to make the Lego blocks.
Minecraft is available on several different platforms: PC, Xbox, and portable platforms like iOS and Android as "Minecraft: Pocket Edition." I haven't seen a Tiger Electronics LCD version yet, but I hope it comes soon so poor kids can have car trips ruined like I used to with Tiger versions of NES games.
Since this is GAME FIGHT!, it's up to me to report the facts and come up with an objective presentation on what game you should be getting. The winner is, of course, the PC version, but only for about a million zillion reasons. The Xbox version is fine, I guess, if you are a total moron who hates figuring things out. In that version, you're dumped into... a tutorial? Whatever, dudes. When I first played Minecraft on my computer (my LINUX computer, double-bonus points awarded to Mojang), I had literally no idea what I was doing. I didn't bother to learn anything about the game, I just knew Scott Sharkey used to talk about it on the Oddcast back in the day, and I love Scott Sharkey. I ended up digging a 1x5 hole in the ground and riding out the first night while a skeleton fired arrows at me. Only I didn't know they were arrows because it was pitch black and all I could parse was a strange sound and my health getting depleted. When the sun finally came up after what seemed like an eternity, I vowed to learn a thing or two about the game on my own. But I did so only when needed. Occasionally I might look up a few tips or a crafting "recipe," on the internet, but other than that, I try to figure stuff out on my own.
The Xbox version says "Hey, you play Xbox, so you might be dumb," and just holds your hand on everything. Why does it have to be this way? Fez, which is one of my all-time favorite games OF ALL TIME, is so vague and obtuse that it managed to corrupt itself during the last update process, ostensibly as a conscious decision on the part of the game designer. So why can Fez be compelling and terrific on Xbox without holding your hand at all, but Minecraft has to have everything laid out in neat little rows? I bet because of the tremendous pile of actual diamonds Notch was able to purchase with the profits from the Xbox version, that's why.
I will say that the Xbox version does have some features that debatably beat the PC version. Local co-op, if that's your bag, and an easier way to play with your friends online spring immediately to mind. But as is so often the case, playing with a controller is sort of clunky when compared to the mouse-and-keyboard version, and playing on an Xbox is just so pedestrian. It feels like it's against everything Minecraft stands for. That's why I prefer playing it on the computer I built to be a Linux file server but converted into a dual-purpose file server/Minecraft machine. Oh, and if you say "Yeah, but the Xbox version is on a huge TV and the PC version is on a monitor, derp," I will counter by pointing out that my computer is hooked to an HDTV so nyah!
Pocket Edition is not even close to the preferred method of play. If you want Minecraft, get it on PC and then get the pocket edition to feed your addiction while you're away from your computer. Think of it like a pocket-flask of your favorite whiskey, but in Minecraft form.
You don't need a giant gaming rig to play Minecraft on PC; as I said, I play it on a computer running Kubuntu that contains guts that weren't really even cutting edge six years ago when I built it. It costs €19.95, which is not a made-up currency like Linden dollars, but it turns out is a real currency called "Euro," which alludes to a made-up place where Minecraft was created, Euronia. If you want to get the Xbox version, because you're the sort of person who read the novelization of the Hollywood film "Little Women" rather than the actual work of literature, you can buy it on Xbox Live Arcade for 1600 Microsoft Points. The pocket edition costs $6.99 on Android and iTunes.
Seth Macy is a funny guy who makes a funny blog you should check out. Now then, are you hooked on Minecraft, or is the whole thing overblown? Let us know in the comments!