Every time my daughter tells me about Minecraft update 1.19, she describes it in completely different terms. Excited: “One thing that 1.19 introduced is these little animals, Allays, and if you give them an item, they’ll go find more of them.” Frantic: “There’s a new boss called the Warden and he’s the first blind mob in Minecraft. He can’t see you. He only does things by listening, that’s why you always want to carry a fleece sack when you try.” to find one.” Oddly frank: “I think a lot of people think Minecraft swamps are boring. 1.19 tries to change that.”
My minecraft expert is nine years old and she is an expert in minecraft in the way that only a nine year old can be an expert in a game. Minecraft is a clever metaphor for everything in her life, but she’s also deeply involved in the minutiae of it. She is not afraid of its depths and complexities. I went through a period where I thought it was a bit sad that she didn’t draw as much at night or play with her dollhouse anymore, but now I realize: she still does these things. She sometimes she does in Minecraft, and everything evolved and began to flow together: drawing, playing, landscapes and imagination.
Let’s back up a bit. Like many kids, ours has three or four games that come and go as the weeks go by. Minecraft, however, is the game that everyone else orbits: it’s always in the number one spot. In many ways, it’s the game by which all other games are measured.
And that in itself is interesting. From an admittedly small sample group, the things your generation seems to want from games are very specific. They don’t seem to care about the graphics at all, and the campaigns are fine – the first game we finished as a family was A Short Hike and we were thrilled to get to the top of the mountain, but they come in third, fourth or fifth. in order of importance behind things like community and self-expression and just lounging, man. My daughter’s class entered Fortnite through party mode, where they wander around dancing to each other. Playgrounds are places where these kids come together to hang out and be themselves, together. They are an extension of the playground.
Minecraft excels in this role. Her world is infinite, so she can team up and build things in groups, but also, this is vital, she can lose interest and walk away and do something else without having to leave. You can play with your friends while doing your thing. And what you do in Minecraft is kind of defining who you are. “I’m a builder,” my daughter explains. And it’s true. She builds amazing, amazing things for me and my wife. She built her school there. The local park. The community supermarket. And that’s just what he brought from our world.
All of these builds are for troubleshooting. Not just the redstone kind of thing, like “how do I get the doors to open when I step on the pressure plate?” (The door and pressure plate alone aren’t enough, by the way: After an old house, built into the side of a mansion, was overrun by mobs, one of whom ended up trapped in her bed, my daughter installed a bell that rings every time the door is opened Security.) Troubleshooting goes deeper. When I ask him what he wants most from a future Minecraft update, he is very clear.
“Furniture. Yeah, maybe as an easy way to make a counter or something,” he tells me. “Or maybe you could put things on the slabs, because right now you can’t because it’s only half a block, so whatever you put on it, like a flower pot, it’s always floating.” Floating pots, no decent counters. These are the things that the committed Minecraft builder needs to find their own solutions for.
My builder addressed the recent 1.19 update in their own way. 1.19 is the wild update, by the way, bringing frogs (she loves frogs), as well as a bunch of new blocks and biomes: mangroves! Deep and dark caves! – and things like that. To figure it out, she built a train that moves through all the old blocks in the game and then to an island that is made exclusively from the new blocks. And a little bit of sand and stuff. He loves mud bricks. He loves the new type of wood.
I did a Minecraft review for a magazine a long time ago and haven’t played much since. Now we have our own family area where one of us (not me) builds very beautiful houses and towns, and then I make weird mazes of bookshelves and accidentally set them on fire. We played side by side and intermittently teamed up on something. Last week he showed me how huge stone towers can be created by creating lava flows and then spraying them with water. You get something that almost looks like the interior of a medieval cathedral: all these vertical pillars and chambers. Handsome!
All of which is to say that the question I’m faced with now is the question I wrestled with when, long before I had a child, I tried to review Minecraft for that magazine. What is the status of this game? How can you wrap your arms around him? It’s so big, it means so many things to so many people. What can you do in the face of how vast it is, how many possibilities it contains?
Here are some simple observations, at least.
Minecraft is a bit timeless I think. By which I mean, every generation comes to it and feels like they discovered it first. I could tell my daughter how old Minecraft really is, but I don’t think he would believe me. It is the island that she and her class discovered for themselves. It’s something she talks to me about, because she guesses she’s never heard of it before.
Minecraft is also the epitome of an open-ended game, and it has outlasted everything that has been added to it over the years. My daughter is a builder, but she has friends who are decorators, explorers, demolition experts, and people who are just trying to break the game and see something no one else has seen. All of this is legitimate.
Minecraft has an ending, my daughter gets very confused trying to explain it, but it doesn’t really matter. Goals are what you want to do in the next five minutes here. Ten minutes if she’s adding furniture.
Minecraft is not finished. And this is a big part of why Minecraft is so brilliant. Most of the time, when talking about Wild Update, my daughter goes back to the idea that she fixes things, or she tries to fix things, that were broken. Caves used to be boring. Swamps used to be boring. So they add new things. There are already frogs! That fellow warden. allies. But she is always clear that none of this is done. Nothing is fixed forever, and it shouldn’t be, and that’s why the game feels alive. Next, my daughter has heard that you may be able to breed Allays by giving them a cookie. And maybe the developers will fix some of the other biomes. And then there are the new types of wood and the eternal hope that they add more furniture and proper counters, dammit.
For years when I thought of Minecraft, I thought of something daunting, too vast to get involved with. It would be like trying to become a Brian Eno fan at this stage in my life. Where do you start? (Here come the Warm Jets, but that’s beside the point.) Now when I think of Minecraft, I think of a specific sound: a quick, sure click. It’s the sound of my daughter’s hands on the controller as she moves through the world she’s building, shaping it, adjusting it, building things she has in mind or sketched on a piece of paper, or taking advantage of happy accidents. In other words, for me, Minecraft has always been a game where other people did amazing things and built amazing things. Now I share a house and a TV with one of those people.
What is the state of Minecraft right now? It’s still new. It’s still exciting. And it’s still revealing. I want to say that. Forgive the change of gear, but if he’s a parent, he may know this fear: the fear that his children have to go out into the world and do they know enough to get ahead? I’m what’s called a helicopter parent: I prowl and worry and make sure no one hits their head or sticks a fork in a plug. Sometimes this means that I make sure no one is having fun. But Minecraft, of all things, has helped me change this behavior a bit. Because the daughter he shows me is just as kind and caring as the boy I already know, but also wildly, panoramically competent and capable. She can do things with speed, precision, imagination and care that I can only dream of. Of course she can. She is a builder.
This article is part of our State of the Game series, in which we review some of the biggest running service games to see how they’re faring. You can find many more pieces like this in our State of the Game hub.