The Failures of Minecraft

by on May 1st, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Adam once asked me what made Minecraft so special. He was right to ask me; I’m an enthusiastic fan of the game. I own a server. I’ve played with friends around the world. I skipped work to built fortresses. Hell, I even visited Las Vegas, a city I am very much bored by, just to attend a convention about Minecraft. But when he asked me to write about this, my mind was stumped. Completely and utterly stumped as to how to explain Minecraft to someone who didn’t already love it.

Sure, your first night out when you’re being attacked by monsters or nervously waiting in a hole is terrifying. And building a grand structure is satisfying. Going to the Nether and seeing the forts and fighting the demons is a pleasant distraction. And mining and mining and mining and mining and mining and mining and mining. Crafting. Building. Potion making. Exploring. All wonderful little distractions, all things that push you in the direction of wanting to build something amazing. Like the Enterprise. Or King’s Landing.



You realize the combat is kind of awful. It’s unreliable. It’s finicky, and nothing hurts worse than losing diamond armor to a combat system that makes no sense. The randomly generated worlds are sometimes beautiful, but more often than not incredibly frustrating. The enemies are as stupid as the combat is bad. There’s ultimately no point to building in solo mode, unless you’re showing it off to friends.

It’s like playing make believe.

There’s an article over on Reddit that explains a lot of the frustration I feel when I play Minecraft. The game is structured around having no structure, being as open as possible, allowing for all the amazing projects we see popping up time and time again. And it certainly isn’t doing poorly for Mojang, even if I doubt they will ever come close to replicating Minecraft’s success ever again, but the more I look at Minecraft the more I long for meaning.

I can create my own meaning. It isn’t hard. Humans are good at making meaning out of the meaningless. But that isn’t what I want from a game like Minecraft. I don’t want to ascribe my own meaning to the world, to the things I build, to the monsters that run around trying to kill me. The abandoned mine shaft I found holds no meaning for me because I know that this world was created for me and for no one else. Or maybe my friends. But it wasn’t a mine full of dwarves, toiling away until they found a portal to the nether that released a horde of beasts to devour them.


It’s just a world. Where I can move blocks around.

Meaningless blocks.