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?