I love gamers. I love being one and I love studying others who are also one. There are some gamers who play games simply for their entertainment value, and there are others who play and them are inspired to take the game and shape it into something else. They are often pioneers and visionaries, who help influence the direction of the industry with their forward thinking. When you look at some of the games we have and you find out the story behind their origination, you often learn they were created by someone who was inspired after playing a different game, and had an idea for something new.

If you've read my other blogs you might've seen me mention my fascination a time or two with Minecraft - and not just Minecraft the game, but Minecraft and all of the possibilities that come with such a unique game full of opportunities.

Well, yesterday my son and fellow gamer brought to my attention a whole community of Minecraft players that have taken the game to the next level and created a pseudo-mode of player versus player action called The Hunger Games, a spin-off of the movie and books of the same name. Chances are you are familiar with the premise behind the Hunger Games, but if not...

"As punishment for a past rebellion against the Capitol, in which a 13th district was destroyed, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by an annual lottery to participate in the Hunger Games, an event in which the participants (or "tributes") must fight to the death in an outdoor arena controlled by the Capitol, until only one individual remains. The story is narrated by 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen, a girl from District 12 who volunteers for the 74th annual Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, Primrose. The male tribute chosen from District 12 is Peeta Mellark, a former schoolmate of Katniss who once gave her bread from his family's bakery when her family was starving."

That's kind of a wordy and flowery explanation...so I'll try and summarize it.

Imagine you and 12 others starting in a big circle in the middle of a huge open world. You have nothing on you but the clothes on your back. Before you and your fellow contestants lays all sorts of equipment and weapons. When the flag drops, your goal is to survive - to be the last man standing. Do you forgo the gear and run away or do you take your chances and go for the supplies? Do you team up with others to remove potentially stronger players, or do you go it alone as a lone wolf?

Of course the tactics and techniques vary and everything you do, including nothing, can get you killed.

Now couple that premise with Minecraft and the features it offers.

Big open worlds of various environments - check.

Weapons and armor of various types that offer players a competitive edge - check.

Equipment and tools that could increase your odds of survival - check.

If you've never played the game, this might not seem as cool, but really, the mechanics of Minecraft make this a perfect mode of game play. Your character essentially has a health bar and a food bar. If the food bar isn't full, then your health doesn't regenerate. So, this will require players participating in a Hunger Games server to be aware of both bars, and will require them to obtain a food source if they want to keep their health bar full.

There aren't a lot of different weapons. There is a bow and arrow, which gives you the benefit of striking from a distance. Constructing a bow isn't that difficult, but making a sufficient quantity of arrows can be a challenge. You can make a sword out of wood, stone, iron and some of the harder to find resources like diamond, but I doubt anyone will have the chance to make a diamond blade in the amount of time they have to play the round. Unless...

You may recall that I said the premise of the Hunger Games is all the players start off in a circle with gear laid out before them. Well in Minecraft Hunger Games, there are trunks that could have armor and weapons of various types - if you decide to run out there and make a play for the contents of one of the trunks. You can also find trunks with equipment and weapons located throughout the area of play. You don't have to just worry about the weapons though - as some players are able to craft traps to cause you to fall to your death. It seems like in most servers, the action focuses more on finding weapons and equipment to take out your opponents than actually trying to craft the items from scratch, though I suppose there could be some games that offer that.

There are dozens of different websites hosting servers running this type of gameplay. Each has their own rules and regulations, but you still get the idea (hopefully) and see the endless possibilities with this style of gameplay. If you watch this video, you can see these two players team up and can make short work of a number of their opponents.

And apparently this is a rather popular mode of gameplay right now. The SG5 website is boasting over 100,000 registered players. Of course I have no way of validating those numbers, but I will say that my son tried logging on to play and most of the servers were full and he couldn't get in. And their website lists all their active servers and many of them seen full...so I am inclined to think it is true.

I'm not sure if this is something Markus "Notch" Persson (and Mojang) expected to occur when he created Minecraft, but no doubt he would be pleased with what gamers managed to achieve with this sort of resourcefulness since it is the same sort of ingenuity he used to create the game in the first place.

I haven't played yet - I'm still honing my skills...but you can bet when I do play and the flag drops, there will be  (pixelated) blood...I just hope it's not mine.

Hope you all are having a wonderful weekend. Just thought I'd let you all know, the next episode of Staff Herding will be posted on Monday or Tuesday, with this episode featuring one of my favorite of the Game Informer staff members - Adam Biessener. What can I say...he's a fellow PC gamer, of course he's one of my favorites.