Chances are you've heard of Minecraft. A game created by Swedish developer Markus “Notch” Persson, Minecraft drops players into randomly generated worlds of near infinite possibility with a peculiar balance of creativity and survival. Daytime in Minecraft is characterized by happy architects methodically collecting resources and constructing, while nighttime forces players indoors as monsters roam the land threatening to ruin your hard work.

Astonishingly, Minecraft has become quite the phenomenon. Still technically in pre-release beta, this quirky little game has already sold nearly 3.5 million copies, generating enough revenue for Notch to establish his own game design company and hire a staff of developers. In fact Minecraft has become so popular and successful that it's even inspired its own convention – MineCon – to be held in Las Vegas this November.

So what exactly is it about Minecraft that's lit the gaming world on fire? Comparisons can easily be drawn to Lego and creative hobbies like model railroads, both of which tend to spark the imagination with grand projects while fostering the patience to see them to completion. You could even argue that there's a bizarre artistic allure to a landscape comprised of vibrant 16 x 16 pixel cubes, coupled with the peaceful serenity of a private world of limitless possibility and sparse soothing tunes. Plus an enthusiastic community of modders and amateur designers certainly helps, too.

But personally, I find the pride in stepping back after an arduous build to gaze upon the manifest wonders of my imagination Minecraft's greatest reward. It's one thing to snap your fingers and will your whims into existence, but actually gathering and quarrying your resources, fashioning the tools necessary for their refinement, and constructing your masterpiece block by block; that's true satisfaction.

Yesterday saw the release of the long anticipated “Adventure Update” (v1.8) which both further varies game worlds and improves the gameplay mechanics. Its final release on PC and Xbox 360, however, is currently due for November, with pocket versions for the Android and iOS platform coming soon.

As for now, you can buy into the beta (v1.8) for $21.95 and try a free stripped down version (v0.3) on www.minecraft.net. Thanks to v1.8, now is probably the best opportunity to give it a shot yet. Just be warned: Minecraft is very much able to ruin your life as you find yourself mining and crafting well into the wee hours of the morning.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Indie Game Spotlight #1: Minecraft
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