Mining away hours of my life

Hi, my name’s David, and I’m an addict. It’s only been about ten minutes since my last fix, and already, the ants are crawling all over my body. Why does my neck itch? Oh man, I forgot to change my spawn point back to the main base. Hold up, this will only take a second…

…and I’m back. Crisis averted. I swear this all started innocently enough with one quick hit of a free online demo. What harm could that possibly do? Shelling out $20 to support an indie developer and snag a reasonably priced game is justifiable, right? Configuring some server software to run 24/7 on the home file-server and setting up a nightly Cron job to back up my progress, that’s smart, no? Oh, it’s 4 AM on a work day again. Crap, addicted.

Fortunately, I’m not alone. There are currently about 4.4 million fellow addicts paying the same dealer to satisfy their craving for this innocuous-sounding diversion: Minecraft. I’ve even managed to get some of my friends hooked and burning away their spare time busting rocks on my server, but why? What is it about this simplistic realm that keeps us signed in well past any reasonable bedtime?

When explaining the game to the uninitiated, I’m often met with a quizzical stare and uncomfortable attempts to change the subject. At best, the conversation will elicit the response, "…and that’s fun?" Now, I’ve never been much of a salesman, but pitching the idea of collecting and relocating various digital cubes for hours on end is a tough sell just about anywhere. That said, I’m going to try to outline my fascination with the game, if only to admit my dependence and start down the road to recovery.

There are three primary gameplay modes in Minecraft: creative, survival and hardcore. Creative mode is useful for ambitious projects requiring infinite resources and a focus on design rather than resource gathering. That mode is fun in its own right. However, I find the lack of adversity and challenge makes any accomplishments seem somewhat hollow and unfulfilling. By contrast, survival mode introduces such hardships as death, resource scarcity, and time management, which add a hint of strategy into the mix. Honestly, 99% of the times I’ve logged into the game, my mode of choice has been survival. I enjoy the added challenge it presents, and the objects I construct block-by-block seem somewhat more legitimate when I’ve served hard time collecting the required resources. Hardcore mode exists for the truly masochistic among us. It is similar to survival mode but offers a higher degree of difficulty, and you only get one life to live. Once dead, the world you’ve created, along with the hours of your life spent creating it, are simply wiped away.

Here’s the gist of your mission in survival mode: begin gathering the resources around you to build shelter and infrastructure before the sun goes down, because at nightfall, monsters will begin spawning and make your life more difficult. After collecting various resources, you can begin crafting new items out of your inventory. That allows for the creation of tools and enhanced building materials to aid in your construction projects.

So, in a nutshell, you mine assorted resources and craft them together. Minecraft. Get it?

To keep players on their toes, the developer has implemented a rather fast day-and-night cycle. Daylight lasts for approximately 10 minutes, during which the amount of light present is usually adequate to ward off any monsters. Those monsters can spawn in just about any location where light levels fall below a certain threshold, though, so even during the daytime, you can run into trouble in dimly lit rooms. Because the monsters can kill your character, some strategy must be employed during long overnight or underground travels. In standard survival mode, being killed causes you to respawn at the last bed you slept in or at the nearest spawn point on the map. However, when resurrected, you are relieved of all your tools and resources that were on your person at the time of death. If you’re lucky, you can return to the place of termination and retrieve these items. Still, planning ahead and stashing unneeded or valuable resources before embarking on long journeys or dangerous activities will prevent much frustration.

Other ways to maim and kill your character exist: fire, lava, falling, drowning, and arrows to the, err, patella, courtesy of other players on the server. One must therefore be constantly cognizant of their environment whilst whittling away the landscape for resources.

However, this vein of strategy borne from fear of death is not the reason millions of people have dropped an Andrew Jackson for the privilege of playing the game. Nope, the primary focus is on creation. The ability to manipulate nearly everything in the fully destructible environment is akin to having an infinite number of digital Lego blocks at your disposal. You are only limited by your imagination and the upper and lower boundaries of the Minecraft world. Elements exist that allow for various degrees of automation and the creation of complex machines, and some have even gone so far as to produce 8- and 16-bit processors using Minecraft elements as transistors.

As for me, I have been toiling away on two main projects: building and upgrading a respectable house and digging a big hole. Architecture is fun in this environment and is part of the natural evolution of nearly everyone’s Minecraft experience. The large hole, on the other hand, is just an extension of some pathological need of mine to dig large holes. It probably explains why I choose to live about as far away as one can get from any coastal beaches, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

Unless you’re predisposed to reclusive behavior, Minecraft‘s single-player mode will only entertain you for so long. The real fun begins when friends and family can all work together on the same map to build a virtual world from the ground up—literally. The ability to share accomplishments and collaborate with others is the addictive catalyst that keeps me logging in for more.

In order to create a common world that can be shared among many users, special server software must be downloaded and installed. Like the game itself, the server software is Java-based and can run on just about any machine with a Java interpreter and loads of RAM—Minecraft will graciously nibble on as much memory as you can feed it. Since my primary PC goes to sleep during idle periods, I decided to install the server software on my Ubuntu-based home file/web server, which I leave running 24 hours a day. If you’re looking for something a little less permanent and easier to manage, there is also a GUI-based server for Windows that is designed to get you up and hosting quickly.

Whether or not others can access your server over the Internet is highly dependent on your ISP and its open-port policy. By default, the server software listens for and accepts requests on port 25565, but that can be changed as desired. Once the software has been configured and a port number has been pointed to the appropriate internal IP address in your router’s settings, people should be able to access your newly hosted world by feeding their Minecraft client your server’s public IP address (which can be easily discovered with a quick Google search for "what is my IP").

So, there you have it: Minecraft. Are you convinced yet? As I read back over this post from the perspective of an unfamiliar bystander, I still find myself asking, "…and that’s fun?" You know what, unfamiliar bystander? Don’t take my word for it. I know a guy, who knows a guy, who can hook you up with a free online demo over at Minecraft.net. Just don’t come back to me complaining when it’s 4 AM and you’re $20 poorer.

Comments closed
    • xtalentx
    • 8 years ago

    I had a heavy Minecraft addiction until I got Skyrim. I have like 180 hours in Skyrim (I don’t sleep) and now can’t get back into Minecraft now that I have SKyrim out of my system. I think it’s time to go back to LOL.

      • Kollaps
      • 8 years ago

      You’re trapped in a weird gratification loop. I recommend taking a lengthy break from games.

        • xtalentx
        • 8 years ago

        Ha, you may be right. I herniated and disk and torn one in my back in an accident. My mobility for the last 7 months has been pretty limited so video games took over my activities. The pain meds they gave me knock everyone else out but me – I don’t sleep every other night or so.

        Maybe I can read more…

    • Ihmemies
    • 8 years ago

    I think the sandbox mode is pretty fun for the $10 I paid back in the day. Since I don’t have that much imagination I’ve been reproducing existing buildings.

    I like getting the blocks just right more than whacking some mindless players or monsters. Batman: Arkham Asylum? Battlefield 3? Witcher 2? zzz snooze.. I’m not very good at enjoying killing or destruction.

    Biggest problem is that I never seem to find time to finish the builds… I’ll give a few examples of what I’ve made, and they’re all still unfinished >_>

    Currently I’m making New York Public library, some screeniess: [url<]http://imgur.com/a/Ld0xN[/url<] I also made The U.S. Capitol: [url<]http://imgur.com/a/9M1E6[/url<] And the gothic cathedral of Amiens which I made for FyreUK server's contest: (screens) [url<]http://imgur.com/a/8GpL4[/url<] & (video) [url<]http://youtu.be/2a-g_8pw3-g[/url<] Somehow building feels a bit like coding.. getting all the pieces together is quite rewarding.

    • willmore
    • 8 years ago

    I keep meaning to take a look at Minecraft, but I’m hoping to finish Terraria first. Oh, crap, there’s a new update with more content and a ‘hard’ mode. Okay, looks like Minecraft is going to have to wait a bit longer…..

    • puppetworx
    • 8 years ago

    I found this game fun for a while. After a certain point I realised how unproductive it was and how it was barely even fun for me. There is little joy in mining – real or virtual – and that’s what I spent most of my time doing.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      I think if all I ever did was mine and didn’t make anything it would bore me to tears too.

      • bwcbiz
      • 8 years ago

      I think there’s a certain amount of OCD-feeding in building and perfecting Minecraft creations or (more positively) meditation and trance-like state that comes with a monotonous activity like mining. Kind of like the highway hypnosis people can fall into when driving long distances.

    • Vivaldi
    • 8 years ago

    I tend to agree with most of the comments that have been made regarding the lack of understanding with regard to Minecraft’s appeal. It may be as simple as the uninitiated simply not grasping the potential and limits of this game. If you have an addictive personality then you’ve officially done yourself a favor–run in the other direction as fast as you can.

    Here’s some cool stuff to pique curiosity:

    “Building Megaobjects in Minecraft”
    A 1 to 1 scale model of the Starship Enterprise
    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn2-d5a3r94[/url<] "Minecraft.Print() - Printing Minecraft Creations via 3D Printer" MIT Media Lab [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CLfNIZ4LNo[/url<] "Real World Minecraft Block" [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-6KEPApJ7s[/url<] "16bit ALU in minecraft" [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGkkyKZVzug[/url<] "'Minecraft' The Last Minecraft" [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uyxVmdaJ-w[/url<] "Engage!" Minecraft Wedding Proposal [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-MfrT0wvMg[/url<] There are even enthusiasts linking Minecraft to Arduino DIY builds. Google. Just like young children playing with Lego for the first time, they have no idea what they are going to build, they just put pieces together and build, and voila, creations are born. With projects like those flowing out of the MIT Media Lab and cheap open-source platforms like Arduino, there's absolutely no reason why your imagination need be confined to the digital realm.

    • ludi
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]The real fun begins when friends and family can all work together on the same map to build a virtual world from the ground up—literally. The ability to share accomplishments and collaborate with others is the addictive catalyst that keeps me logging in for more.[/quote<] So...who has seen [i<]Inception[/i<]?

      • xtalentx
      • 8 years ago

      I just saw inception and thought of minecraft immediately.

    • travbrad
    • 8 years ago

    I tried Minecraft and it was okay, but it felt way too time consuming to create anything. Maybe it’s just because I’ve done map editing for Wolfenstein/HL/CS/etc.

    Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 seems like a better game platform for creation to me. It was originally focused mainly on amusement parks but there is an enormous amount of user created content available for it now that expands the capabilities probably 20x (if not more)

    [url<]http://www.shyguysworld.com/my%20pics/Expo%203000/Transport-Center-early.jpg[/url<]

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    “The large hole, on the other hand, is just an extension of some pathological need of mine to dig large holes.”

    You made me LOL ridiculously hard; Sadly, it’s because some lonely Minecraft nights when I have nothing better to do I, [i<]too[/i<], feel the need to dig a large hole for no reason... Although, I've managed to advert such urges because they seemed stupid, it's nice to see someone dig the hole I couldn't!

    • anngemina
    • 8 years ago

    hole

    • SecretMaster
    • 8 years ago

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the people who don’t “get” the game are ones lacking imagination and creativity. Because that is the essence of the game. The survival aspect is also very fun and enjoyable as well, but again I think it requires some degree of imagination to truly be enjoyable.

      • bwcbiz
      • 8 years ago

      Nah, that’s way too judgemental. It’s just that people’s brains are wired differently. It’s more like the difference between super-tasters with a supersensitive taste sense that think brocolli and cilantro are overpowering, and the desensitized taste buds of the folks that eat super-hot foods made with scotch bonnet and habanero peppers.

    • crose
    • 8 years ago

    Wow, I need to try this game the same way I need to try crack.. like, not at all.

      • cynan
      • 8 years ago

      That about sums it up for me as well. It’s bad enough when I get addicted to single player RTSs or RPGs and stay up till “4 AM” consecutive nights. But at least single player campaigns have imposed limits that usually don’t last more than a couple of weeks and often much less.

      People who have a tendency toward compulsion (ie, me) need this like a hole in the groun.., erm, head.

    • rythex
    • 8 years ago

    It’s ultimately pretty pointless.

    It’s a very dead feeling “game” unfortunately. I think it would be more fun if the world would be populated with more than pigs/skeletons.. Running around in some vacant land as the only miner doesn’t really pull me in. They could do so much more with the game but it doesn’t seem like they’re capable of doing it. R

    ight now it’s just a block building app with a little bit of basic NES game play put in. Swipe sword, monster flails back and runs back to you..
    Unfortunately the AI is non existant, there is no real sense of urgency as soon as you spend 10min and get a few basic requirements.

    It pretty much appeals to people with some slight form of ADD.

    • indeego
    • 8 years ago

    I chaperoned a bunch of 8-12 year-olds on a science-trip this summer for half a week. The only thing they talked about was missing Minecraft and wanting to get back home to play it. Fairly eye-opening from when I was a kid, as I kinda just, you know, missed my parents and pets.

      • danny e.
      • 8 years ago

      So, really, the Matrix movies had it all wrong. The humans were not enslaved at all. Twas their choice.

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        These are the same people who will bash things like Facebook and Twitter all day but have no clue they’ve been hypnotized by a game that at best does a poor representation of digging in your back hard. That’s not saying Minecraft is some evil conspiracy. It’s just a furthering of the problem. People have replaced the real outdoors with virtual representation. They rather explore Skyrim than a forest. Just how it is.

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          I’d argue that the creative freedom in Minecraft is quite a bit different then that in your back yard. The punishment isn’t there either (pissed off parent). You may see that doing things in real life ‘accomplishes more’, but I don’t think you put into perspective what you accomplish mentally.

          Go play kick the can and accept that newer generations do things differently.

            • Kollaps
            • 8 years ago

            I’d argue that the small, but steady, stream of gratification you get from Minecraft keeps you stuck in a chair for hours. It’s not about accomplishing anything, because we’re talking about playing. I’m suggesting that you’re playing a game that sucks only because these games are constantly triggering your sense of reward. It’s an addiction, one you’re clearly struggling with. You think digging pointless holes is hilarious and not a sign of complusive behavior.

            There may be two generations “newer” than mine, because once again, I’m only 22. I think video games are pretty awesome. But spending hundreds of hours doing the same highly repetitive tasks is not.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 8 years ago

      A 12 year old missing his parents after just 3 days? Toughen up.

        • indeego
        • 8 years ago

        Internet Tough-Guy: Reaches far with 20% of specified age-group.

          • BobbinThreadbare
          • 8 years ago

          That was supposed to come off as more of a joke

    • ew
    • 8 years ago

    Dwarf Fortress is what has been consuming all my spare time recently. [url<]http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/[/url<] I have a feeling the Minecraft was inspired by it but that's just a guess. It's hard to imagine but Dwarf Fortress has even worse graphics than Minecraft.

    • internetsandman
    • 8 years ago

    I downloaded Minecraft during the beta. For a while I was kinda into it, but I guess I’m just not creative or motivated enough to devote the time necesary to create such impressive structures for the hell of it. It’s a very interesting game, it’s just not one that was able to keep my attention away from RTS and FPS games which make up the mainstay of my gaming library

    • Kollaps
    • 8 years ago

    Why do my work in real life when even more boring work is always available in the world of Minecraft!

    I don’t get it. The structures you can build are not that interesting. The favorites are always just recreations of something else. The collecting of resources couldn’t possible be more boring. By default and even with plug ins there’s nothing to do once you’ve built your structure. The combat couldn’t be more simple and that “end game” dragon they just showed? Hilariously little content for so much hype.

    Minecraft… I just don’t get it. It’s a non-game. The mechanics are broken. People like it because they feel more adult rather than just pouring out some Lego bricks and having much more fun.

      • fershnickety
      • 8 years ago

      It’s cheaper than Legos. Also, I’ve never seen a toddler choke on Minecraft.

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        It is cheaper than Legos. None of us are toddlers.

          • Forge
          • 8 years ago

          My 7 year old daughter plays it nonstop, building little treehouses and dirt towers. She loves it.

          I’ve gotten a little burned out on it, but still enjoy building things now and then.

          My four year old son is wanting to play. I’ll need to kludge together a third machine soon….

            • Kollaps
            • 8 years ago

            I use to build tree houses and dirt towers… outside.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            Yeah yeah, blahdy blah. “Back in my day”.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Older generations want kids just as computer illiterate as they were back in their day too.

            • Kollaps
            • 8 years ago

            I’m 22. I built my first computer when I was 13. My entire life was around computers, I grew up with the Internet. I’m not advocating for computer illiteracy. I’m advocating for parents to stop letting their kids waste away in front of computer monitors and TV screen. Going outside is awesome and using your imagination with actual dirt and sticks with friends you can physically touch is far more rewarding than staring at brown blocks and holding the mouse button down… you know, half of Minecraft.

            • etrigan420
            • 8 years ago

            You seem to have life all figured out then…

            You’re probably the first 22 year old in the history of the world to do so. Unless, of course, we asked anyone who was ever 22 before.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Some people escape to computers because they want to play with more then dirt and sticks. I would encourage kids to be able to build something amazing in minecraft then make mudpies and kick the can around.

            It is sorta interesting that your entire life supposedly focused around computers, yet you want kids to replicate your non-existant simplistic childhood. I wonder how much you would poopoo on more traditional geeks who spent all their childhood reading or playing with a chemistry set.

            A kid that likes playing with a minecraft could be a possible future engineer. There is no way playing with sticks helps foster that in a child.

            • MadManOriginal
            • 8 years ago

            Right, because there were no engineers whose love of building stuff was inspired by actually building stuff before minecraft.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      And some of us prefer the carrot over making their own carrots.

      Not to seem elitist, but if you’re accustom to always having your goals set for you, then you’ll never be able to understand or like Minecraft. Just the same that some of us go to work everyday to bring home a pay check and others of us go to work by providing the opportunity for others to gather paychecks. Somethings you just can’t ‘get’ simply by wanting to if the drive and willingness to achieve isn’t there.

      If you want to hear something prolific… your life is just a knock off of someone elses life. Everything has been done already so really there is no reason to live right? It’s not about what has been done, it’s about what you enjoy doing and find worth your time. Life can be as monotonous or as interesting as you want it to be.

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        It’s amazing how much you missed my point. It’s not Minecraft lacks of goals that is the problem, it’s the lack of mechanics that even allow decent creation of your own goals. You’ll notice that I specifically mentioned doing the same thing, conceptually, with actual Legos. My problem with Minecraft is that none of the mechanics are fun or interesting and there’s nothing else in the “game” to make up for it. I can have a way more fun and interesting time digging real dirt piles or stacking real bricks.

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          I think you missed mine as well. What sort of ‘mechanics’ are you looking for that would change the game in such a way that would make it fun for you?

          The way you make it sounds, these mechanics represent structure… which is having goals set and outlined for you. It’s possible to make almost anything in minecraft, including devices to accomplish tasks you see fit (like an automated monster farm or someone taking a crap, which I ran into on youtube).

            • Kollaps
            • 8 years ago

            Holding the left mouse button to dig and clicking it to place a block is what I’m talking about. The crafting is another gameplay mechanic. They’re entirely separate from the goals you would set for yourself in Minecraft. The problem with Minecraft is in large part because of the mechanics. They’re boring from top to bottom, they’re very limited and Mojang has been very slow to add anything knew to the game that really expands what you can do.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            The entire game is it’s own mechanic… Digging and crafting are just tools to accomplish your overall goal.

            You don’t even need to dig or craft! You can simply play in sandbox mode and give yourself bricks to build your dream contraption.

      • Game_boy
      • 8 years ago

      It is the best survival horror game of the last 10 years. You really fear the enemies, how many modern games does this happen in?

        • travbrad
        • 8 years ago

        Amnesia? Scariest game I’ve ever played.

        I admit that’s a rare exception though.

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        I never feared the enemies in Minecraft.

          • SecretMaster
          • 8 years ago

          Everyone who plays Minecraft fears Creepers

        • Meadows
        • 8 years ago

        How can you fear something as unrealistic as LEGO?

          • Game_boy
          • 8 years ago

          I feel sorry for you that you require a $20m budget on games to suspend your disbelief.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t have budget requirements, I have quality standards.

        • Bensam123
        • 8 years ago

        That lasts till you dig a hole in the ground and find a torch.

      • bwcbiz
      • 8 years ago

      “The favorites are always just recreations of something else.”
      That says more about the originality of the players than the openness of the game.

      “The collecting of resources couldn’t possible be more boring.”
      True, but it’s very conducive to a meditative trance.

    • ratborg
    • 8 years ago

    Thanks for the writeup but I still don’t get the appeal of the game.

      • normalicy
      • 8 years ago

      I didn’t get the appeal either until I bought it. I’ve now logged somewhere over 200 hours. Unless you play it, you’ll never understand.

        • Chandalen
        • 8 years ago

        I played, I didn’t like it for much past an hour.

        I suck at create your own fun games =/

          • etrigan420
          • 8 years ago

          Me too…I keep starting a new game hoping to “get into it”, but just can’t.

          My 4 kids love it though.

      • Walkintarget
      • 8 years ago

      Read a very good article on why some of these ‘games’ appeal to casual gamers more than many of us would believe:

      [url<]http://www.bogost.com/blog/cow_clicker_1.shtml[/url<]

        • Kollaps
        • 8 years ago

        They appeal to everyone. Minecraft is popular for the same reasons Farmville is popular, why World of Warcraft hit the motherload in MMO-land, why games like Call of Duty rely heavily unlocking and leveling, etc.

        Compulsive behavior.

        Players are fueled by the need to either dig/place this set of blocks, to spend 20 hours a week for a month in a dungeon for a piece of gear they’ll replace at the end of the next cycle, to get 300 headshots with assault rifle X, etc, etc, etc. A constant stream of small rewards just keeps people going and they completely forget they’re not having fun.

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