Games press and technology correspondents tend write about Minecraft a lot. Here I am writing about Minecraft again. Its massive variance lends to a bunch of opportunities for discussion, but this makes it hard to pin down exactly makes it such a powerful force. It’s also hard to to appreciate second hand and in full. But here is Robin Sloan coming pretty darn close to distilling its magic into a simple blog post, revealing its implications for other media and commercial undertakings:
We’re in a new century now, and its hallmark is humans doing things together, mostly on screens, at scales unimaginable in earlier times.
In the 2010s and beyond, it is not the case that every cultural product ought to be a generative, networked system.
It is, I believe, the case that all the really important ones will be.
To ignore the creative power of all these brains—millions and millions of them, young and old—leaves too much on the table.
I’m a writer, and don’t get me wrong: To publish a plain ol’ book that people actually want to read is still a solid achievement. But I think Markus Persson and his studio have staked out a new kind of achievement, a deeper kind: To make the system that calls forth the book, which is not just a story but a real magick manual that grants its reader (who consumes it avidly, endlessly, all day, at school, at night, under the covers, studying, studying) new and exciting powers in a vivid, malleable world.
I’m not a huge Minecraft player myself—my shelter never grew beyond the rough-hewn Robinson Crusoe stage—but I look at those books and, I tell you: I am eight years old again. I feel afresh all the impulses that led me towards books and writing, toward the fantastic and science-fictional… except now, there is this other door.
It’s made of blocks, I suppose.
“A generative, networked system laced throughout with secrets.”
When you write it that way, you realize it doesn’t have to be software…
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