I’ve started playing with a (somewhat) new game called Minecraft. At first, it looked boring... then I started playing it.

I have to say - this game is remarkable in many ways. It seems to go against the idea that great graphics are a fundamental requirement, and focuses on gameplay.

The graphics are, to be fair, bad by modern standards. Everything is made from very square blocks, with rough textures on them. Primitive mipmaps fill out the rest. The graphics look on par with games over ten years old. Oddly enough - that’s one of the advantages of the game, and it’s part of its built-in mechanics. Each block is something you can move, change, etc. The entire world is changeable.

The game is written in Java, and uses OpenGL. This means that it will run practically anywhere. (Though iOS is not one of those places). You can run it from your web browser, if you’d like, in fact. Java is surprising, because it’s not normally perceived as a language that’s suitable for game making. However, Minecraft breaks the mold. It performs quite well, in spite of the truly vast size of the world around you.

First, the basics: Minecraft is like an entire world made up of Lego bricks. It looks similar as well. Now, imagine being stranded in such a world. You take the blocks to build pretty much whatever you’d like. Palaces, underground catacombs, amusement parks — whatever you want.

Then the sun goes down. At night, monsters start appearing. Zombies, skeletal archers, swamp-man things that explode, and giant spiders. These things want to do horrible things to you. One of the first tasks you have in the game is to create a safe place to spend the night.

The game is very flexible — you can ‘craft’ new items from resources you collect — mine carts, tracks, tables, torches — all kinds of things.

The amazing thing: The entire world is generated by the computer each time a player starts a new game. Each world is different. The game generates terrain, land, water, trees — even caverns below the surface. All is there to explore. It’s a neat feeling, to be able to carve out the world and make it as you see fit. There’s a sense of wonder while exploring underground caverns, and traveling across the vast landscape.

According to Wikipedia, the game is able to handle a generated world with eight times the surface area of the Earth before running into problems. That’s what I call a game world! Combine that with multiplayer worlds, and it has an amazing amount of potential.

And the game is quite fun — you don’t kill everything in sight, there are no real ‘missions’. It’s like you’re a castaway, and making your own shelter, farms, etc. Everything is up to your own ingenuity - it’s about creating.

I think it’d be a great game for kids - it’s not particularly violent (though you do have zombies trying to eat you), but it not only encourages, but requires problem solving and ingenuity.

I’ve been playing for only a few days and I just love it… it’s such an amazing experience to play Minecraft. I’m starting to understand why it has won ‘game of the year’ in some publications. Minecraft really is that good.