I love creating in Minecraft, but my gratification is due, at least partially, to the fact that I have to earn everything. Survival Mode generates a random world with nothing to your name, forced to gather resources in order to construct food, shelter and tools. By the time I crafted and installed a wooden door in my first mud hut I felt a sense of ownership . Other games let you buy a home with the money you earn, but none of them really challenge you to forage for the materials and build it yourself. When I look at my home and see every piece of furniture and wall is exactly where I wanted it, I love it all the more or change it at my whim. From the moment my home was built, my mission was clear: tunnel into the earth in order to get whatever I needed to carve out a fortress in my little part of the world.
Creating items in Minecraft is one of the most important actions you do. The problem, though, is the necessary information isn't found in Minecraft. The first time I beat my way through some trees and gathered wood, I had no clue what to do with it. Thankfully, like many Minecraft players, I had a mentor who pointed me to the various online forums, communities and wikis. I have pages that I return to all the time, often tabbing out of the game itself when I can't remember exactly how to craft an item. For many this is just a rite of passage, but mostly it's an obtuse way to handle crafting. I'd love for the recipes to be integrated into the game somehow, even if I had to find them throughout the world. There's not much of a sense of accomplishment in reading a wiki and just following instructions verbatim.
Even after you find a good resource, it still takes a lot of effort to learn everything. The sheer amount of recipes and items you work with in the game is intimidating and time consuming to learn. Many games have poor documentation, but Minecraft has none at all, and what's available isn't easily digestible.
But Minecraft is still more than fun enough to warrant the learning curve. The addiction, though, really begins as you craft items and gain mastery over your surroundings. Suddenly night time, when monsters spawn and take over the unlit portions of the world, isn't as scary. I mean, it's always a bit scary, but having a sword in hand – even a simple, wood one – instills a sense of power. Like a caveman whittling their first spear or stoking their first fire, building simple tools and torches in Minecraft makes me feel safer, like I am the master of my fate because I have the power to create the items that can save me.
Beyond safety, crafting creates a whole new set of goals in Minecraft. I crafted items as needed (tools and torches), but eventually I expanded my repertoire to include superfluous pieces. To finish my first stone keep I had to craft stairs and ladders; simply jumping up a simple series of platforms was unbecoming of the king of the land, after all. Crafting slowly became something I did less to survive, and more to complete the next big project I set out for myself. Creating panes of glass didn't really give me an edge in my world, for instance, but it did make the viewport of my scale Star Wars AT-AT look a lot more badass. Crafting even gets more complex if you want it to. You can create tools and buildings or elaborate self-powered rail systems, taking you from the stone age to the 20th century,, and making you feel like the fate of my world lies squarely in my hands. It's exhilarating, and instills a sense of power that I rarely feel in games.
After I secured a plot of land in my world, my intentions during a session with Minecraft changed. Each session became an adventure, wherein I challenged myself to go exploring for the next crucial component parts needed for the next recipe. These self-imposed quests are why I sometimes venture into the Nether, a hellish other world where monsters – who just so happen to drop precious materials – live. Other times I venture into dark caves, donning crafted armor and enchanted weapons so that I can tackle whatever enemies I come across. I don't know what exactly I'll find, or what terrors I'll face, but I do it all in the name of finding precious blocks – and the thrill of the experiencing the unknown.
That thrill, that experience of unplanned and unpredictable adventure, makes every session with Minecraft exhilarating. Sometimes I might end up spending the evening doing mundane activities like farming or hunting for food, but other nights I might end up stumbling upon a gigantic, randomly generated mine that's full of monsters and treasure. Because each world is procedurally created, I never know just what I'll stumble upon next. One day my character may be a simple builder, the next he's a dungeon conquering hero who slays horrors in the dark.
Of course, adventuring is always better with friends, and Minecraft's multiplayer is great fun if you can get it working. It isn't broken or a completely buggy mess, but requires a lot steps to get started compared to most games. If you want to start a game you'll need to download additional software, and go through all kinds of online tutorials to get it working. Players who just want to join a game have to know the server's I.P. address, since there is no server browser built into the game. Still, annoyances and tedium aside, if you have the option to play with others you definitely should; exploring, adventuring and building up epic structures is a lot more fun with friends. Besides, if you're going to spend hours of your life building gigantic monuments, you might as well have someone else to show them to. You can post them in online videos, but it just isn't the same as having your friend right next to you sharing in your accomplishment. Or, even better, having them log on after a period of inactivity to be stunned at the marvels you've built in their absence.
If you're not the type to play with others, and you don't want to earn all your materials, you can always jump into Creative Mode. In this world you're invincible, and have access to every item in the game. It's great if you want to, say, create a gigantic Wampa from Star Wars, but it doesn't give me the same sense of reward or accomplishment I get when playing Survival since I don't have to earn the blocks or fend for my life while doing so. Many blocks take considerable effort to acquire (some even make you journey into monster filled labyrinths), so when I build them in my Survival Mode it's a lot more impressive. Still, it's a fun distraction.
I give this game a 10/10