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The Tech Deck

What makes ‘Minecraft’ so memorable?

An in-game image from the wildly popular
An in-game image from the wildly popular "Minecraft" video game. From DeviantArt user MrMrannoying. (MrMrannoying)

Title: Minecraft
Genre: First-person sandbox survival
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4
Also available for: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Android, iOS, Windows Phone ($19.99)
Developer: Mojang, 4J Studios
Publisher: Mojang, Microsoft Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date:  Nov. 18, 2011

Somewhere around our fourth hour playing the wildly popular Minecraft on a Saturday afternoon, my girlfriend shrieked in horror.

“What the hell is that?” she said, pointing to a tall, dark figure with glowing red eyes, snatching dirt and rocks for some undoubtedly nefarious purpose. I wished I could save her, but I was miles away in a mine of my own, tunneling for gold and trying to fend off a growing number of skeleton archers who were making a pincushion of my giant, blocky head.

If you don’t get the attraction of “Minecraft,” you probably haven’t played Mojang’s genre-defying experience. The indie title has been lampooned in mainstream and gamer media alike, particularly by those “hardcore” among us who insist that something has to die or be destroyed for a virtual experience to qualify as a game.

A "home" built in Minecraft
Be it ever so humble...

To be sure, there are things that must be destroyed, and death, in Minecraft. But the focus is instead on creation and survival, if indeed there is such a thing as a “goal” in the game. You can play Minecraft for hours and never slay a living creature nor achieve what any would call an accomplishment by traditional gaming standards. You won’t progress through levels or gain character-defining experience points (though they do exist in a limited fashion in the game). What Minecraft is all about is handing you, the player, an imaginative, blocky world to play in, and I mean that in the deepest sense of the word.

Narrative is something that’s created, not handed to you as it is in most other games. The defining moments of the title are experiences you share with other characters and with the world around you. That’s what makes the PS4 version of the game the ultimate Minecraft experience: 4-player split-screen means you can have a bevy of builders all working on the same structure, affecting the world in their own unique ways. Sony’s “SharePlay” option on its new console allows you to experience the title with friends who don’t have to buy the game, either.

Mushroom Island in Minecraft
Don't tell your friends you spent your Saturday sailing to Mushroom Island. Trust me.

That afternoon, I succumbed to the skeletons and the dark creature decimated my girlfriend. We were stripped of our hard-won stone pickaxes and swords, a moment of frustration after a long period of creation. But, as a testament to Minecraft’s addictive pull, we left the front door of our wooden-plank home in search of new adventures, our anger fading away with that ambient music and the rising hills of stone in the distance.

Verdict: 5/5 stars

Kip Hill
Kip Hill joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the City Desk, covering the marijuana industry, local politics and breaking news. He previously hosted the newspaper's podcast.

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