Indisputably, Minecraft has remained one of the most popular and recognisable games in the world over the years.
Released in May 2009, the 13-year-old game is still being played by millions today, with its content creators still raking in billions of views every year.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact date I started playing the game. But at the time, it was already somewhat of a cult classic. In the next few years following that, it would continue to skyrocket and go on to become the best-selling game of all time, as reported in 2021.
In any case, though, my earliest correspondence that involves Minecraft dates back to September 9, 2013—almost exactly 9 years ago.
So, in commemoration of that, here is my ode to Minecraft, the game that never seems to die.
Welcome to Minecraft
My first time playing Minecraft was on my friend’s account. I liked it so much that I ended up downloading a cracked version of it.
At the time, the newest version of Minecraft was 1.6. My cracked launcher could only run 1.5.2, but it didn’t matter—I was just happy to play the game.
Still, I saved up for the real game. At nearly RM100, it was a distant dream. But eventually, my friend’s mum bought the game for me as a birthday gift. (Thank you, Auntie.)
Nine years later, I’m still playing on that same account. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Throughout those years, I watched the sandbox world of Minecraft slowly change. Trends within the community rose and fell. Netherite became the new diamond, Dream’s Minecraft Manhunt became the new meta.
As Minecraft has grown and evolved, so have I. I grew up, I graduated, and I entered college. But once every few months, I find myself thinking about Minecraft, which ultimately leads me to boot it up.
And each time I do, it feels like a homecoming. The world looks so different, and somehow, it feels like nothing has really changed. Same as always, I collect my wood, make my crafting bench, and start looking for ores and other materials to build my new home.
Minecraft is still ever-so dutifully Minecraft, despite its strange new biomes and curiously unfamiliar mobs.
Keeps you coming back for more
While the sandbox genre easily lets Minecraft stay relevant over the years, it’s also been able to do so due to Mojang Studio’s own initiative to actively roll out updates throughout the years.
More than just adding new blocks, each update is based around particular themes that really work to sell this idea of plot progression in a game that has no plot.
For instance, the latest update, The Wild Update, seems to expand on the previous Cliffs & Caves update, which brought us deeper, more beautiful caves—absolutely pivotal for a game that partly hinges on mining underground.
To keep the game interesting, The Wild Update ups the difficulty level of the game, giving players a powerful new beast to fight (the Warden). It also gave new blocks (e.g. Mangrove wood) and concepts (e.g. sculk sensors) to satisfy those who enjoy building and creating elaborate mechanisms.
And Minecraft doesn’t seem like it’ll reach any roadblocks any time soon. There are still so many more things the developers could add to the game.
In essence, what’s really bolstering the continual relevance of the game is the content around it. Being such a popular game, the Minecraft ecosystem is never short of new ideas and video formats to keep old and new players entertained.
Plus, there are so many niches within Minecraft itself. There are those who build, those who create roleplay videos, those who play player versus player (PvP).
With immensely popular creators present in each field who personally have a stake in the game of relevancy, Minecraft barely has to do much to market itself at this point.
But of course, it still does. For instance, Minecraft also harnesses the power of its creators and existing players with events like MineCon (or Minecraft Live), an annual interactive livestream and fan convention.
Other than meeting top creators, this event gives players an opportunity to vote on new mobs in the game and play a part in the direction of the game.
Solo-ing an infinite world
To some (such as my colleagues), Minecraft sounds like an incredibly boring game, even though there are so many ways to enjoy Minecraft.
While I do understand how playing survival on single-player mode might sound juvenile and stagnant, Minecraft can actually be pretty exciting.
After all, Minecraft was what taught me the ins and outs of gaming culture. I had my first encounter with toxic gamers through popular servers like Mineplex and Hypixel. I made my first online friend through them, too.
But stripping off the friendships, stripping off the servers, stripping off the current content cycle, Minecraft at its core is a single-player game designed for exploration and survival.
There’s no real story, no real development, no real endgame. There’s the Ender Dragon, but unless you’re a speedrunner, slaying it isn’t really the point.
Yet, the game works so spectacularly well. As a sandbox game, Minecraft is designed to be up for boundless interpretations. Players get to set their own goals, be it creating an automated mob farm or designing the most elaborate castle.
This creativity is what makes Minecraft so wonderful, and so lonely. And I say the latter as a compliment.
Because I think Minecraft hits the hardest when you’re playing it alone. And boy have I played it alone a lot.
There’s a myriad of reasons why, but ultimately, it’s probably because it’s the first game I really invested my time in, so it’s the first game I turn to when life gets hard.
This might seem somewhat ironic, though, because in Minecraft singleplayer, it’s just you against the universe. It’s so trivial. It’s so… life.
So, yeah, it might seem counterintuitive to play it when you’re feeling particularly bleary.
But what makes it work is the fact that the game knows.
The universe loves you
I know I said the game doesn’t have an ending, but it does have an end credit scene. After the player kills the Ender Dragon and jumps into the portal, an End Poem starts to play.
It’s a bit of a drag, so I doubt most players actually read through the full block of text.
But the poem has stayed with me. It has stayed with me for nine years. If you’ve read it, you’ll know why. So here’s an excerpt, edited for length:
“…and sometimes the player believed the universe had spoken to it through the zeros and ones, through the electricity of the world, through the scrolling words on a screen at the end of a dream.Minecraft’s End Poem by Julian Gough
And the universe said I love you
and the universe said you have played the game well
and the universe said everything you need is within you
and the universe said you are stronger than you know
and the universe said the darkness you fight is within you
and the universe said the light you seek is within you
and the universe said you are not alone
and the universe said you are not separate from every other thing
and the universe said you are the universe tasting itself, talking to itself, reading its own code
and the universe said I love you because you are love.
And the game was over and the player woke up from the dream. And the player began a new dream. And the player dreamed again, dreamed better. And the player was the universe. And the player was love.
You are the player.
“It’s you against the universe,” I had written just a few paragraphs up.
And yet, “The universe said I love you,” the game says. “You’ve been fighting yourself all along.”
Like the game itself, the poem could be interpreted in various ways. I’m pretty sure most people take it kind of satirically, and would probably tell me that it’s not that deep.
But I’m a little sappy, so I take it pretty sincerely.
As a grownup now, Minecraft and its end poem is a reminder to take life by its horns. It’s a reminder that the world is lonely, but it’s vast, and it’s creative, and it’s ours for the taking.
Craft on, miners
A few months ago, my 11-year-old cousin in Singapore called me up one Saturday morning. He never calls, so of course I picked up.
The call connected, and all I could see is his not-so-little-anymore forehead on my screen. After a hasty greeting, he flipped his camera to show me his computer screen.
I recognised the window he had open. It was Minecraft.
I waited for him to say something. A beat passed, and finally, he asked me how to play.
I couldn’t help but laugh, amusement breaking through my weekend grogginess. Minecraft lives on.
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