So, you're stranded on an island covered in sand, cacti, and a couple trees to offer shade. Rectangular clouds obscure the sun as it bears down upon you. Suddenly, the skies start turning violet as the sun begins its descent, and with it comes danger; myriad monsters will begin appearing to make you their dinner. An ordinary person would despair; the island is, after all, not the largest thing you've ever seen before.

However, you aren't that person.

You've already prepared for this by digging through the sand with a pickaxe you made and crafting a nifty abode from the rocks underneath. You planted some plots of land near the shallow waters and planted some seeds for your own private farm. You even discovered a vast dungeon with more surprises and vital resources. However, the ore that you harvested and smelted has proven the most useful, providing the essential ingredients for the iron sword you're now carrying. Suddenly, those fearsome monsters you've been running from aren't looking so tough now, and this is where the adventure and wonder of Minecraft begins to settle inside of you, since this is just one of countless scenarios you could be experiencing. It's a game that never falters from its vision.

I've often heard people compare Minecraft to a cultural phenomenon, with the same elated nostalgia Tetris has attained; in many respects it is. However, I feel that doing so has failed to sufficiently describe its significance, in spite of critics who oversimplify its genius. In the same spirit of Tetris, Minecraft's presentation is simple and minimal, yet it is also deceptive. Just like the layers of randomized blocks accumulating as the puzzle game's difficulty rises, Minecraft's randomly-generated worlds evolve into complex organic experiences that continue to offer the player new rewards and challenges that never become repetitive.

Simple textures hearken to earlier digital aesthetics and emphasize form and function to capture the essence of each object, rather than its superficial beauty. When you see a stone with concentric black markings, you'll know you've found coal; when you see small piles of glowing orange liquid, you'll know there's lava nearby. These objects, a priori, are tools that you can experiment with in your quest for survival, and their true beauty shows when you've successfully harnessed them. There will also be a wealth of objects and substances you might not recognize until you've acquired them, and this also adds to the fun and unpredictability of Minecraft, which revels in you gradually learning the ropes like a true everyman in this coming-of-age story.

While there are different modes, realms, and difficulties in Minecraft, there's no one true way to play it. You can spend countless hours sculpting and refining the world as you see fit in Creative mode; make a name for yourself by conquering the elements in Survival; risk it all in the brutal Hardcore; or join with a friend or more and create, destroy, and explore to your heart's content. Of course, as hinted earlier, there will be some challenges to this.


While chickens, dogs, and other animals can be spotted roaming these worlds, you'll run into plenty of unconventional forces, namely in dungeons and at night. Green creepers that resemble crudely rendered versions of Gumby will stalk you; pale arrow-shooting barbarians will snipe you from afar; zombies will chase you down, eager to devour your brains; then, there's those ghasts, endermen, and gigantic spiders... there's never a shortage of enemies to face.

The combat is relatively uncomplicated, in keeping with the game's main focus: simply whack the brutes with your fist or create some makeshift weapons and armor to defend yourself. Your health meter is dictated by a series of hearts you have, that gradually disappear as damage is inflicted; sprites will flash red when you've successfully hit them, and with enough effort, you'll have successfully netted your first kill and sigh in relief as the creatures vanish into plumes of gray smoke. Or, you'll have built a successful barrier to protect yourself from them until you've recovered your health. It's a simple, straightforward system enriched by the player's ingenuity, as well as the adorable sounds players will hear whenever a monster is in their vicinity. 

Death, however, carries true weight with it; players lose the materials they've earned and start over; or, in the case of Hardcore players, lose entire worlds as well. While it can range from inconsequential to daunting, the challenge of survival - dictated by you - in this game makes everything you create and every obstacle you overcome feel authentic.

Part of the game's authenticity naturally comes with the work and effort required from the player. Tools and other items wear down with use, necessitating replacements; farmland must be tilled and crops harvested properly; players must wisely manage resources so that they'll have more to collect. However, once you've acquired what you need, you can create like a true artist or artisan; whichever title you prefer. Either way, you'll feel like what you've made or earned truly belongs to you and is far more than a contrived reward from some scripted mini-game or event. Of course, in order to find, you must explore, and the only limits you have are your imagination, especially with the ever-expanding contributions of the online community.



With everything from texture updates to schematics for complicated new inventions, players can create anything: floating cities; underwater ones; portals to other worlds; towering monoliths; submarines; airships; airplanes; cars; boats; sprawling valleys; merciless deserts; even recreations of your favorite mythical places. These things can be shared with friends or displayed for all to marvel at. Of course, if this sounds too open-ended, you can try your hand at The End or the Nether realms, in addition to building your character through the new experience system which adds RPG qualities to the game, a tough boss fight, and two distinct environments to conquer. While not the high marks of the experience due to the typical grinding that accompanies it, the endless updates practically guarantee that it will nonetheless be improved in some fashion, making this criticism temporary. After all, Minecraft is more than simply a game; it's an idea that constantly evolves, never content to rest in mediocrity.

Outside of single player, minor issues like bugs or lag might occur, due in part to connection problems that players you join might experience, but this is also something I have to say is pretty trivial when there are a wealth of great servers and communities in the Minecraft universe awaiting you. Join with a group and build your own worlds focused on a particular theme; or, if you're feeling a little burnt out, simply explore the worlds of your friends and try your luck at the various challenges they present. If you want a focused, linear experience, you can create one, on your terms; again, this is what makes Minecraft so definitive, and it's the gift that never ceases to give back.

 So, you're stranded on an island; or, you were once before. Now, you've turned it into an oasis covered in exotic plants, with a gigantic idol or two devoted to your pristine image. Or, you could have fashioned an underwater tunnel to another land and escaped solitude. Then again, you might have simply turned that dungeon you found into a mystical dwarven hall filled with booby traps awaiting the next unsuspecting travelers. Ultimately, what you do is never forced upon you, but its results aren't lazily handed to you either, and the fruits of your labor can be shared with anyone.

Minecraft is a game that never stops engaging the player, with a concept that's simultaneously concise and prolific. This game is more than a toy box; it's a well of unlimited resources and possibilities for everyone from the naïve beginner to the established savant to use at their leisure. Instead of interpolating *art* from a gaming experience, you can build it right here. The choice is yours, and nothing but your own willpower can stop you.