Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

I had no Idea

Minecraft is an odd game.  Everyone speaks about it (or used to), it is not in one of the genres I generally dislike (i.e. FPS), it is cheap and yet I’ve never played it. If I was sensible I would just buckle down and take a look, if only to broaden my horizon. It seems there is a lot to be learned from that game if you are interested in game design. Yet, something in the whole “build your own castle” type of gameplay is deeply uninteresting to me. I’ve seen these huge constructions people made in Minecraft and I wasn’t much interested or impressed at all. That was before I learned about redstone circuits. You mean to tell me I can use Minecraft blocks to build logic gates?

For the uninitiated, redstone circuits use the game’s mechanics to create simple logic blocks that can be combined to larger calculating systems, just like the transistors on your CPU. In essence, players are using the simulated environment of Minecraft to build computers inside computers. You can find much more detailed information here.

Now, this is utterly pointless, of course. Any logic circuit you can build in Minecraft could much more easily be created using other means. You need to be quite the nerd (which, I might add, is absolutely not a bad thing) to be interested enough in this to spend the time and effort required to create even the simplest of machines. That all said, it is awesome that players are able to build 3D printers, music sequencers and Conway’s Game of Life inside a game with very simple tools.

I highly doubt that this is what Minecraft creator Notch intended when he added the necessary tools into the game, but it goes to show just how huge a sandbox that game is. If it wasn’t for computing power issues (redstone circuits are quite slow), you could pretty much build anything that your computer can do inside Minecraft. You could even build Minecraft in Minecraft. Now there’s a scary thought.

I’m not going to start building redstone circuits; I probably won’t even get Minecraft because of this. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t absolutely awesome though. At the very least, it puts the term sandbox in quite a new light.


  • I think it’s the “museum effect.” Most of life is a museum: we can’t touch it or change it. When we get a world where we can change it, something is triggered in the brain. Unfortunately with Minecraft, a perfect sandbox that it is, I find myself drifting into nihilism. What’s the point of anything in isolation?

  • A good sandbox requires good self-direction. It naturally won’t be for everyone, and that’s OK. Minecraft fills an important niche in the game industry ecosystem, though, and yes, other “sandbox” games should learn from it.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Without Words