There are hundreds of indie games released each year, to the point it would be nice if we could all stop referring to them as ‘indie’ games. Have there not been enough examples of small teams self-publishing work that can rival multi-million pound productions from major publishers that we can all stop making a big deal out of it? Apparently not.
Every year a couple of these games are picked out for special attention. Not just from the sites that regularly cover indie games, but from the mainstream gaming press as well. How do they even select which game to focus on them? Is it just random or are they literally the best examples of a particular genre? Maybe they simply offer something so different that it would be plain neglect not to champion them for everyone?
Perhaps it’s a bit of both, because 2010’s clear winner for ‘lavish attention afforded to an indie game’ comes in at number 4 in this countdown:
Yup, it’s Minecraft.
Okay, in some respects it feels entire pointless writing about Minecraft because just about every gaming website and blog ever created has already done so. That said, I know for a fact a couple of regular readers won’t have played it or read anything about it, so what the hell…
My initial experience with Minecraft ran pretty much parallel with this webcomic. Except I didn’t get as far as realising you could make things with wood; just the experience of punching trees was enough. I mean, just look:
Obviously there’s no force-feedback through a mouse but because of the way each block crumbles and pops out of existence, sound effect and all, it’s easy to imagine there is. That’s what makes Minecraft work for me, the tactile nature of this blocky, slightly abstract world keeps it feeling real and keeps up the immersion, even when your punching out perfect square blocks of tree and soil.
It was some time after that initial thrill that I even realised there was more to the game than punching out bits of the world. It’s a sandbox game in the true sense of the term – no rules, no objective, just a world and a series of tools. You’re then set free to do whatever you want: construction, destruction and exploration are all possible. One of the most frequent criticisms of Minecraft that I’ve seen, primarily by morons, is “but where’s the game?” It’s actually kind of sad; do these people really have so little imagination that they’re unable to find something to do in a world that doesn’t require them to meet a series of set tasks? Can they not find their own objective to pursue?
My task usually involves mining for rare minerals. I’m not entirely sure to what purpose yet, but the general gist of the idea seems to be: create mine, get minerals, build home, build weapons and armour, explore places. That’s been the plan at least. In practice I tend to start mining, build up a healthy collection of blocks, mine into a naturally formed cave, die in lava… or die by skeleton… or die by exploding fucking zombie. I then get completely lost trying to find my mine from the spawn point and spend days wondering round aimlessly. Eventually the loss of all that stuff is too much to take and I delete that world, hoping that I won’t fuck up the next procedurally generated one quite so spectacularly.
I’ve not had chance to play the game since the Halloween update, but it sounds like it increases the chances of exploration immensely. With a hell dimension and a system for generating different terrain types, it will hopefully be enough to tempt me out into the world more, to explore further than is necessarily a good idea. Because that’s what Minecraft is best at, presenting you with enough temptation to journey a bit too far into the unknown, to take more and more reckless risks in pursuit of your own personal quest until it’s snatched cruelly away from you – your own mistake or carelessness leading to your demise.
With the game having gone into beta now, and a whole host of changes promised for the continued development of the game, who knows what the future holds? Of course, in the unlikely event that things do all go tits-up, there’s always plenty of trees to punch.