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An Open Letter to 'Minecraft': Thank you for 10 years

By Blake Chapman The world of video games has gone through a plethora of innovation and evolution. The jump from pixels to polygons, the advent of online play, and all the warfare between console and pc loyalists are just a few examples. All of these stories and more have only added to the history of the most expressive and interactive entertainment medium the world has ever known. When looking back on the most impactful moments in gaming that have come during my lifetime, I can not help but think of Minecraft. The memories and hours spent building my own world have impacted me in more ways than I may ever realize. As we pass over the first 10 years of this monumental game, it seems best that I reflect on my own experiences that made this game so special to me and millions of others across the world.

The Early Days

Image from Kotaku
Though Minecraft was released in the ancient year of 2009, it was not until I entered grade seven in 2012 that I got my first chance to play the world-renowned survival game. However, I did not own a home computer at the time, so the PC edition was unavailable to me. Luckily, the pocket edition released just a year beforehand for iOS and Android, and even though I did not own a smartphone, my Kindle Fire worked just fine. Those golden moments of innocent ignorance and doubt were some of the highlights of my childhood. Everyone talks about the first night and day cycles they experienced when first booting up the game, but for me it was the randomly-generated landscape mixed with the simple mechanics and premise that fueled my imagination. The pocket edition of Minecraft might have not had the brilliance of the PC release on launch with the massive world, deep crafting system and permanent servers, but I loved it all the same. What I came to learn though, is that there was an entirely different side to the game that I was missing out on. Multiplayer was an experience that added creativity to every corner of the game. I spent hours at swim meets, birthday parties and free days at school huddled around a desk with friends deciding what to build or where to go. It was impressive to say the least and when I look back, it really was the first time I ever played with friends online, and I could not imagine that time being spent any other way.

An evolution in time and power

Image from PC Gamer
Not long after those memories were made, I received my first personal computer in the holiday season of 2013. Even though I used it most often for school work, I still made it a goal to join the fray of PC gaming. Many of my friends who already owned desktops at home had urged me to download Minecraft from the very beginning. The descriptions of expansive online capabilities and new single-player content left me giddy with anticipation. As I selected a new username and created my first survival world, my mind raced with the possibilities of what I might discover along this new quest. Upon that first press of the “create world” button, my expectations were blown completely out of the water. As far as my eyes could see, there was a vast expanse of wilderness teeming with wildlife and enemies that I had never encountered before. My mind raced as I sprinted through forests and open prairies, hurdled over snow-covered mountains and barreled across barren deserts. It was not just the biomes and the infinite world that impressed me, but also the hundreds of new crafting methods I had never encountered in my previous playthroughs. The hours of cross-checking the official wiki for new recipes never became tedious, it just seemed like discovering a hidden layer to an already fantastic game. Never before had I experienced two versions of a game that were such polar opposites that they felt like two completely different titles. After I had my fun in survival mode though, it was time to jump into the wild world of multiplayer. On PC, this mode opened the floodgates to my imagination and the endless possibilities that were sitting just on the other side of my screen. The hours of extended fun that each new server had to offer me was nearly infinite. With every hub came a plethora of fantastic architecture, creative minigames and plenty of cherished moments spent over communicating through Skype with my dearest friends. I was mesmerized by the creative capabilities of this seemingly simple game and was welcomed into the most generous online community in existence.

A long drought

From those precious adolescent winter breaks spent at my bedroom desk to the late evenings in the summer playing one more round of survival games, Minecraft highlighted the golden years of my youth. Like many other hobbies and pastimes however, I grew out of it. Once I finally got into high school, I started spending more time in the classroom preparing for my future college degree, strengthening my academic resume with crucial extracurriculars, discovering young love and deciding where I truly wanted to begin my career path. Though I still enjoyed many games throughout this time period, The Witcher 3, Breath of the Wild and Cuphead—just to name a few—the whimsical world of Minecraft was never on my radar. Just a couple years later, I had begun the first portion of my adult life at Ball State University. While the heightened sense of accountability and responsibility excited me, it felt like I was being relocated to a different country. This was the first time I had ever been permanently displaced from the same group of acquaintances I had for the last 18 years. The anxiety and pressure to impress each new individual I met terrified me and it seemed my only escape was the cold room surrounded by the handful of childhood memories I could fit into a compact floor plan. Just like I had left behind my favorite video game, I was on track to forget all that happened throughout my adolescence. Luckily, this is not where the story ends.  I heard a quote a while ago that to me fully represents Minecraft ’s future and legacy: “You never quit playing Minecraft, you just take long breaks.” In preparation for my spring break vacation to England this past March, I knew an 11-hour flight was going to get the best of me without some form of entertainment. Ultimately, I settled on downloading the classic survival title for my new laptop and revisiting what made this game so spectacular. After launching the game for the first time in four years, the wave of memories came rushing back. The emotional reaction I had to chopping down trees by hand, building my first mine and inputting unforgettable crafting recipes was akin to revisiting your hometown or childhood house. Though the list of mobs and items have doubled, everything felt familiar and it gave me a sense that I was still worthy, and the world I left eons ago never died but was just waiting for me to return.

Into the unknown

As it stands, Minecraft is celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2019 and I could not be more ecstatic. What started as a small indie title developed by a minuscule team of programmers from Sweden has become one of the most popular games of the 21st century and the highest-selling video game of all time. The future, for now, Microsoft-owned Mojang seems bright and prosperous with both a Pokemon GO style mobile game and a dungeon crawler in the vein of Diablo releasing over the next year. Not to mention the already solid foundation they have on modern technology including four different additions of their landmark game across eight different operating systems. In conclusion, there is nothing further to say than “Thank you.” The dedication to broadening millions of children's horizons through exploration and open-ended gameplay alone deserves a tip of the hat. No matter the system or edition, you pushed our imaginations further than we ever thought possible. You taught us compassion and sympathy while still allowing room for error in a dynamic sandbox. Finally, thank you for immortalizing the world’s most popular game into our hearts through genuine love and care, free of capitalistic greed, toxic online communities or uninteresting content updates that have all become so prevalent in today’s gaming market. Here's to another ten years of memories and success. Though your appearance may change, let your soul burn with the brilliance of a million torches.
Sources: Variety Polygon YouTube Images: Kotaku PC Gamer Featured Image: