It all started with Sim Tower. I was in 4th grade and my uncle handed me a floppy disk that would change my life forever, possibly for the worse. Building my tower, floor by floor: adding emergency staircases, elevators, movie theaters, with all my little Sim people running around enacting the rat race I would one day become a part of. Back in the days of Sim Tower I didn’t have much to escape from, but by god, I lived in that tower. I spent so much time there that I got my very first “D” grade and my mom had to take away my beloved floppy disk and hide it from me. Throughout my life, as technology advanced, I found similar games that sucked me into a virtual world of my own creation where I would have rather resided than the real one. Most of the ones that really got me had something to do with building. I typed in “rosebud” thousands of times to make the fortune that built me some of the most extravagant Sim’s houses I could have ever imagined. Keeping that in mind, you can probably understand why I put off trying Minecraft until it recently came to Xbox. With all of its glory right in my living room, it could no longer be avoided.
I live in New York City and every day I rush around, subway to subway, go to work in Time Square at a job where I don’t get enough hours to sustain a living, then go home to my cockroach infested apartment and sit in front of the TV to try to escape from it all. This is where a game like Minecraft becomes so dangerous. A world like Minecraft is an easy place to lose yourself. I started playing this past weekend, and by Sunday I had two castles, a wolf companion, and an absurd amount of resources. The soothing music, and simple, yet lovely surroundings put me in such a state, that hours flew by without my noticing at all. Playing on “peaceful mode” (A game mode where there are no enemies) made me think back to my childhood when I would spend days on end exploring the woods in my back yard with my friends. Soon I had uncovered the entire world map just from walking around with no agenda whatsoever. There was no pressure to accomplish anything, fight any monsters, or level up in any way. Minecraft gives you the freedom to explore and create with only your own personal agenda to dictate what the game is. I want to tell everyone I know to play this game, but once you start exploring, it’s sincerely hard to stop.
One of the other reasons why I have enjoyed playing the Xbox version so much is the fact that it has one of my favorite game features, couch co-op. If you can get a friend or family member to sit down and play this with you, wonderful collaborative things can happen. Since my boyfriend and I enjoy playing games together, once we started building our world together, it was difficult to come up for air. Especially since lately we’ve been unhappy with our actual living situation, spending time working together building on a “home” of sorts, was a refreshing and incredibly positive experience. There is something truly gratifying about collecting resources with your own “hands” and using them to build something you can see. Especially in today’s worlds where so many people our age are up to their ears in debt from degrees they cannot get a job with, having an experience where the work you do pays off, even in a virtual world, it creates a sensation more gratifying than most of the thankless jobs we have to beg to get.
Although the regular game modes in Minecraft include monsters that can do a variety of terrible things to you and your beloved constructions, playing in “Peaceful mode”, takes that all away, allowing you complete freedom and serenity. By removing all the monsters, in a way you also remove the “experience curve,” which allows the freedom to create and explore without any hang ups on holding each other back when one player has insufficient experienced with gaming. The game is fairly simple and would be easy for most anyone interested to pick up on, especially with a little coaching from a friend. I also think that playing Minecraft is a great introduction to a 3-D world for gamers unfamiliar with navigating new generation graphics. It is an incredibly low-pressure way to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of the Xbox and could be a great gateway into trying other, more conventional types of games. It is also advantageous that you can easily switch out of “Peaceful mode” to various other difficulties that include monsters and other trials and tribulations. This allows players to spice things up a bit, and could also be used to help familiarize a new player with combat after they have gotten comfortable enough with the game.
Minecraft is a lovely cubic world of exploration and creation. The newly released Xbox version allows non-PC gamers to experience something truly unique to console gaming. It is a wonderful way to bond with friends, family, or even strangers, and come together in a positive way, outside of constantly shooting each other in the face. With settings that give you control over exactly what your gaming experience is, Minecraft is the kind of flexible game world that lends itself to any kind of player. We need more approachable games like this to allow people to experience games within their comfort zone, where you can define your own world and choose exactly how you want to interact within it. If you don’t have the resources for a real-life getaway, do yourself a favor and take a Minecraft vacation. Soon you’ll be mining squares of gold in your sleep and you’ll understand what I mean when I say it is the best and the worst thing that you can do with your time. I’d expand upon this, but I have some mining to do…
Video GameGirlfriend (aka Heather) is a freelance video game writer and gamer. Check out more of Heather’s article at videogamegirlfriend.tumblr.com.