I was recently invited to write a book chapter about the intersection of amateur creativity and digital games. I just posted a draft of that chapter here. It's half about Web 2.0 and half about Minecraft. Feedback is welcome.
I have been interested in amateur creativity for over a decade now and it has been one of the things I have found most interesting in studying virtual worlds. As I explain in the draft, I think digital gaming is itself interesting because it is intrinsically aligned with solicitude for a certain group of creative amateurs (players). So I've been fascinated following the phenomenon of Minecraft and how it works as both a tool for creativity, a game, and a locus for other forms of creativity. I'm going to keep watching to see how it evolves. So if anyone reading is doing academic research on Minecraft--or knows of anyone else who is--please let me know.
Minecraft is set up like an adventure game, but unlike in World of Warcraft, you're not on a roller coaster ride to level 85. Instead, Minecraft embodies what I once wanted Second Life to be. Second Life is supposedly all about user creativity, but it seem that many users don't take much advantage of the creative tools it offers. In Minecraft, though, user creativity is baked into the gameplay. That makes it a more satisfying experience for amateur creators. Not to knock Second Life, but based on the numbers, it seems that many people (I'm curious about how many are kids, btw) are finding Minecraft's sandbox more fun than the sandbox of Second Life.
As I explain in the draft, I'm not sure what Minecraft says about the future of user-generated content in games. I imagine the industry is paying attention to Minecraft and how it became what it is. But I'm not sure the mainstream games industry is anywhere near ready to create a Minecraft clone, for reasons I discuss in the paper and in this prior paper.
I don't imagine it is going to happen, but a massively-multiplayer version of Minecraft would be really interesting, wouldn't it? Especially if it allowed some sort of client-level code-modding as you moved through regions, so groups of users could add new layers of functionality to their spaces. I wonder what sorts of things would emerge from that?
Comments on Minecraft as Web 2.0:
Loved the chapter. Really nice work. I'm a librarian interested in copyright law and Web 2.0 applications, an Art Appreciation instructor interested in creativity, and a long-time gamer, including, currently, Minecraft. Sweet fit ;)
Posted Oct 5, 2011 7:17:00 PM | link
Great chapter. I'm going to forward this.
Posted Oct 6, 2011 4:50:28 AM | link
Amber & Leonel -- thanks so much for the comments! I'm really happy you liked it.
Posted Oct 6, 2011 9:57:38 AM | link
I can give three major reasons why Minecraft has been so popular where second life feels like a failed idea:
1) Nobody wants real life money intruding on their game play. Second life became distinctly unfun when it started to become about money and not making stuff. It might have interested academics and business people, but gamers have been very vocal on this: Games are about escaping. When games become a job, they stop being a game. Thus the militancy gamers have about going after gold-farmers in games. Seriously guys, I know academics are fascinated by it, but RMT and microtransactions will never make for fun gameplay. Second life tried to remove the gameplay out of gamesand put in money instead, and as a result its become a distinctly un-entertaining place to go to.
2) Minecrafts building is easy and a game. The block interface trades complexity for fun. Sure you cant make as good looking stuff in minecraft as you can in second life, but what you can make is pretty easy to make, and with a bit of creativity you can make what you want without the artistic talent making it in second life requires. Thats a great leveller. If you CANT make a *realistic* castle, you also dont need the talent to make a realistic castle. But minecrafts creativity isn't free. It *does* require labor, but its fun labor. To make a railway, you need railways tracks. To get railway tracks for your train you either grind iron and trees, or you enter a disused mine , fight spiders and hack out the railway pieces. Thats *fun*, but its not free. Converting your wages into Lindens to hire some guy to make you a railway and train just isn't fun at all.
3) Its a game and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Sure you COULD have a conference on a minecraft server, but you might also get your CEO sploded by a creeper too. Its not for that! Its for having a bucket load of fun hacking up creepers, exploring caves and building increasingly ludicrous castles and contraptions.
Minecraft would DEFINATELY make a great MMO by the way. I would definately spend time in that. But I don't even know if its necessary. Minecraft servers are not MMO social , but they are social enough, in some respect, and with a big one that can have 64 people at a time, theres plenty of oportunities to socialize with others.
Posted Oct 8, 2011 5:42:57 AM | link
Hi Shayne --
Yes, I agree -- good points!
Posted Oct 8, 2011 10:44:11 AM | link
Virtual working environment using state-of-the-art technology, many companies today are indeed expanding their business operations with collaborated technology tools to virtually improve numbers in terms of workforce efficiency, minimizing traveling expenditures and most importantly lower infrastructure investments.
Posted Oct 10, 2011 4:44:31 PM | link
Shayne makes some very great points about the popularity of Minecraft and I would tend to agree with all of them. In his second point he states that creativity in Minecraft in simple and to the point. It does not allow for complex creations but allows for some pretty impressive creations nonetheless.
Simplicity to me, is the driving point to Minecraft's success, not necessarily the lack of gameplay elements. Thus it would seem to me that allowing for things such as code modding and complex interactions would actually hurt Minecraft in the long run.
Posted Oct 18, 2011 3:18:09 PM | link