Minecraft – The Ultimate Sandbox

When discussing Juul’s essay in class about about narratives in games, some good points were brought up, including how with games, the story really depends on the player, and their experience while playing the game, even when the game itself has a story. One game that I found very interesting, especially regarding this topic, is the game Minecraft. Minecraft is a game which does not provide you with any sort of story, yet on the other hand, it does not provide you with any scoring system or ways of “winning” either. Initially, you may think this would lead to a boring game, or a game with no point, but in fact,  this is where the true beauty of the game lies. While the game does not provide any narrative of its own, this gives the players full control over any story they might want to put into the game. Want to build a small mine shaft and gather enough stone to build a giant castle, which you would then defend from zombies and other players? Sure go ahead! Want to make a floating paradise in the sky, safe from any harm? You can do that too! This is where the game gets it’s reputation as “The Ultimate Sandbox” from. It gives the players all of the control to do as they please, and make up their own stories as they go. This leads to players being more invested in the game, as the game is literally made around what they want it to be. I found this example very interesting because it seems like the absence of story is actually in essence the best story.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaMTedT6P0I

A fan made trailer for Minecraft showing off the expansive world and the creativity involved in the game. The point to keep in mind while watching this is that these are all things of the players own creation. The game is essentially a blank canvas and the player has imagined and created all the environments shown.

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2 Comments

  1. I think the concept of Minecraft is very unique. Personally, having never heard of this game before now, there are probably some aspects of it I still do not understand.

    This is a game is interesting because the player is creating their own narrative as they go along– which is the case for most games– but with this one in particular, the player has even more freedom.

    But what confuses me the most is the idea of how it gives players so much freedom, yet is still a game. If it has no goals and nothing attain, it is virtually never-ending (unless the idea of the game is to stay alive… is it possible to lose your life in this game?).

    Also I was thinking that if the worlds are created by the player, are they choosing from a database of options or is it completely free for all? There needs to be some kind of control from the creators to make the player encounter “the others” on the island that I’m assuming you have to defend your place from. The manual of the game probably tells the player that they can build places to live and store stuff or people would literally spend all of their time exploring and very slowly learning to interact with the world around them.

    I am going to assume that this game is not one to draw in a large casual audience because the fact that the win-lose aspect is not clearly defined will lose the attention of casual players very quickly. As a casual player myself, this is probably why I have so many questions about why someone would be drawn to this game in the first place.

  2. Minecraft is an interesting case. If it can be said to have any videogame predecessors, it’s in the Sim City sort of mold, making its “relatives” other simulation type games, such as The Sims and Spore.
    Some definitions of games–for example, Salen and Zimmeran’s, in their book, Rules of Play– argue that digital devices like these aren’t really games, any more than the Tamagochi pets of the late 1990s were games. Rather, they are more properly characterized as “objects to play with”–or toys, perhaps. Personally, I’d expand the definition of a game to include these objects–remember, if we’re going by the Wittgenstein definition, a game is an artifact that has many, but not necessarily all of a set of “game-like” characteristics. Things like goals and competition are just some of the elements a game may have.
    Actually, chinyeamanda, your previous post on Harvest Moon may shed some light here. If you take out the “one year limit” of Harvest Moon, and just let a player play forever, is it still a game? How does removing the goal change the nature of the game?

    –MH


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