Minecraft might be my new obsession.  Due to Ken’s blog and glowing review of it, I ended up watching a couple of YouTube videos of a guy starting out and I was convinced to download and purchase it.  Turns out, it’s extremely addictive, even to a gamer like me, who generally dislikes (1) 1st person shooters, (2) crafting in general in games, and (3) open sandbox worlds.  Kind of odd, but I have been self-examining while playing, and I think I know why I enjoy it so much – it’s a kind of game design game, in that you generate your goals and the style of gameplay you want as you play.  It’s kind of similar to how I imagine Dwarf Fortress plays out, which many of my friends have played but which was entirely uninteresting to me.

In Minecraft, you start in a randomly generated landscape with nothing.  You can go “mine” wood from a tree, and then “craft” it into wooden planks.  Two planks become sticks, and four planks a workbench.  The workbench gives more space to craft, so you can then make larger objects like a wooden pick – which is betting at mining, and so can get you stone.  Stone can make you furnace.  Eventually you can find other resources, like coal (torches), sand (glass), iron (steel) and even diamond and this crazy mystical substance “red stone” (which can power things at a distance, a la electricity).  Add to this the fact that the world autogenerates around you in an almost infinite fashion, and that there’s a survival component (at night, the zombies cometh), and you have a recipe for a very interesting game with only a small number of core mechanics.

One major drawback of Minecraft is it is extremely simple, pixelated graphics, which means it is not super compelling visually.  But honestly, it ends up being both endearing and undistracting, letting the mechanics shine through.  If you enjoy sandbox type games, or building (Sim-style) games, or quest-adventure games, or you are interested in exploring a world populated only by you and uniquely formed for you, Minecraft is worth a try.

Overall: A-
Mining to Crafting Ratio: 10:1 or greater, depending on how much of a “quester” you want to be
Variety of Speckles in Stone: B-

p.s. My current house has a lava floe into a lake outside, and I am planning on hollowing out the mountain I built it in to make the Mines of Moria.  Hopefully I won’t spend every waking moment on it!