Minecraft, the Journey

I first encountered Minecraft through gamer-friends, who whispered and then shouted ‘You should really try this.’

Minecraft text
Minecraft has many familiar “icons”.

I didn’t. How could any pixelated game offering hope to capture the game world? ‘But it’s digital Lego. You gotta try it.’

The eldest daughter started nattering for the Pocket Edition of the game shortly after. In hind sight I am glad we didn’t pursue it, as it was restricted to an in game reward narrative and not the expansive open world game my PC gaming friends were addicted to.

A year later, Minecraft raised itself again at the Writing Room/Immersive Writing Lab Workshop. A case study in developing immersive and cross platform gaming. The potential in immersive story sparked ideas, my path crossed with Professor Ian Gwilt from Sheffield University who enthused about the game once more. I helped my daughter download the free PC version, Minecraft Classic the restriction of the mapped out world, lack of creatures and our poor internet service ruined any potential of game-play.

We purchased the Xbox 360 game version shortly after. My experience and interest with it didn’t last long, the first person motion of the game triggered motion sickness. (This happens a lot to me in first person pov games. I should be grateful it stops me from spending anywhere near on games as my mates do. )

My eldest daughter learned how to survive her first night thanks to in-game tutorials that did not exist in the other versions she had tried, she went on to followed endless YouTube accounts in her quest to explore the crafting system new to the Xbox 360.

Crafting sceen
Crafting Screen

I became a passive-user. I knew what a Creeper was, I had an inclination of how important Redstone would be, but it was a surface level building game. My opinion of the game didn’t improve much from the idea that Minecraft was a world much the same as World of Warcraft, while it appeared to be a world of infinite opportunities and development, the developers of the consoles and placed a virtual wall around some of Minecraft’s universe.

I had hoped it would compare to the hours lost on the Microdot game on the Commodore 64 or from the hours spent coding basic programs, and user interactions within HTML and PHP.

minecraft block
Green Green grass of … Minecraft.

More downsides to the Xbox 360 version revealed themselves as she continued to play.  Limitations on adaptation and modification. You Tube videos revealed mods, but the ones that held the most appeal, animal mobs and texture packs could not be applied to the console version, user generated content was inaccessible again. It also didn’t help that our own internet connection does not hold the Xbox Live account well.

More of the console version’s limitations became apparent when we first encountered HullCraft. As a household of Lego ‘enthusiasts’ this sparked everyone’s attention, but, we were soon to learn that we could not be a part of that server, although we could take screenshots and share the work for me that was far to removed. Like watching your friends play through the glass window, while you’re stuck in detention.

Now both my daughters play using the split screen function on the console. Our Minecraft held recreated versions of Cbeebies Land which my eldest daughter built for my youngest, not to mention a now burning Francis Johnson building. Fireplaces require thought in Minecraft!

Some playability improved on the console when Microsoft purchased Mojang, but we were still waiting for mods and new version updates. YouTube replaced the Disney Channel in our house, and we explored the Titanic for a school project. The pressure was on to purchase the PC version.

I finally succumbed after attending a Digital Utopia event. Playability is so much more improved for me. Perhaps this comes from my past experience of my gaming past, Diablo, WarCraft, and other RPG based PC games, the keyboard interface, the ability to redefine your keys. The fact that I know I can code alterations. It isn’t a matter of supply and demand any more.

Other differences that immediately struck me were that Xbox 360 version presented a different graphic. Arguably, more modern then the PC’s original version. The speed at which the world spawned was also won by the console version. Though our PC isn’t designed for gaming at all and adapting its specification would improve that.

Other things about the PC appeal too.

I can create safe server space for my children and their friends to play in multi-player without being a “concerned parent”.

It did not matter where you placed some items on the Xbox 360 when crafting and this is frustrating to those used to using the Xbox version, just as having to use the keyboard baffles the console players. They like their game-pad.  Not to worry, there’s a mod for that… 😀

While I get to grips with Minecraft’s survival mode, I’m exploring Forge too. There’s a lot to learn.

For me, the biggest difference is how the PC game has allowed me to interact more with my family as a whole. Minecraft is a family gaming event now, albeit so that those more experienced in the house can laugh at how many times I have to respawn before I kill the zombie.