Friday, 4 September 2015

Why Games Like Minecraft Will Never Stop Being Popular

Originally written for Forces Of Geek earlier in August


Whenever I read articles or hear news reports about video games and their apparent link to violence, I can't help but feel offended. I have played games my entire life and they have never made me violent towards another person. I am more likely to get annoyed at myself and squeeze my controller in anger during a tricky boss fight or particularly hard puzzle. What irks me the most in the violence debate is those people who latch on to first person shooter games, as if they are the only games people play.

Just like any other medium, there are different genres and many of these genres are overlooked. Anyone who tells you games make people violent are ignorant and often aren't aware that games can be a force for good.

Ahh, endless hours and hours of mining and building...
This is why games like Minecraft are so hugely popular and there are hundreds of imitators. I genuinely believe that it, along with world building or simulation games like it, will never cease to be popular.

The main reason? Well at their core, they are peaceful, passive games. Sure, you can choose to play on Survival Mode in Minecraft and fight zombies and spiders but it's a choice. For the most part, Minecraft is a game where the player is invited to build anything they want to, it focuses on play, discovery and actualising ideas.

It is a great tool for expression, especially so for kids. Because you can build absolutely anything, it requires forethought, planning and creative play - skills that are often praised in great designers or architects...just saying. 

The height of grand design; a detached, environmentally friendly 4-bedroom town house with unique features like a balcony and private pool. You got it!
Sure, I'll be the first to admit that it is a huge jump to make because Minecraft is not going to inspire a future generation of great architects (...or will it? I guess time will tell) but what is important is that the qualities this game nurtures in its players are all positive. Games like Minecraft aren't violent and they don't glamourise hateful acts, yet they almost always get ignored in the grand debate about video game violence as a whole. 

That's like launching an attack on...vegetables? (Work with me here...). If the only vegetables you've encountered are carrots, then your argument is clearly flawed because you've chosen one genus of one sub-category, out of literally thousands of other vegetables. For crying out loud, at least eat your greens.

Hey, I made you this salad. What do you mean you don't like cucumber?! I don't think we can date anymore.

Slightly odd, produce metaphor aside, Minecraft is a game where you craft and build (you can even harvest vegetables!) Even Survival Mode requires lot of planning and time-management.

It's a game that actively encourages creating things from scratch, even down to the material gathering or mining. If you want to create a structure, you need to work out how to do it, appropriate the correct materials and then assemble them. In a world where things come ready-made and people would rather pay other people to do things for them, Minecraft reinforces the idea that working hard and doing something yourself is more satisfying because not only do you appreciate the effort that has gone into it, you made something.

It's an extremely rewarding game which is what makes it so additive. The addictive quality of games like these gives them immense re-play value maintaining their popularity.

Similarly, Zoo Tycoon is a simulation where you can build things however, as the name implies, the things you build are obviously zoo-related. You are rewarded for caring for your animals, conserving them and then later, releasing them into the wild. It's not just about animals though, as you are running a business and control every aspect from admission price, what colour uniform your employees wear to whether or not you decide to charge people to use the toilets.

Look at the elephants....aww, look at them! Now make sure they don't die, that's on you.
It's an economic simulation and teaches players how to manage several things at once, including their finances. Players must consider the happiness of their animals, their staff and their visitors.  Screw business school, play this for hours on end and then finish up with some Theme Park or, if that's not enough for you or you're more politically or municipally minded, try the SimCity franchise. Certified Business degree...BAM! 

Another factor in their unrelenting popularity is that open-ended games are so very vast. SimCity in particular stole many hours of my life because I kept on wanting to make my city bigger and bigger. For example, when I first played a SimCity game, I became incredible obsessive over my tiny inhabitants, I made sure that they definitely were not paying an unreasonable level of tax.

Screw you Batman, I look after my city.
That's right my precious little citizens, I just built you guys a freaking railroad so you can travel from your cute suburban homes to the commercial and industrial zones and make way more money, you're welcome! Now you have everything...maybe I should build more....*hours later*, at last...EmCity has become MEGA EmCity.

That's another reason world building games will always remain popular, ultimately you get to play God. You have in your hands a controller, the buttons you chose to press and your intention determines the fictional, pixellated lives of others. Of course, you also learn that there's a fine balance between ultimate control and responsibility, lest you go crazy with power.

Lessons like this can only be found in world building games. Unless you play the SimCity spin off games because I don't know a single other person who plays The Sims franchise or the various expansions, who hasn't placed their sims in a pool and taken away the steps or set a room on fire and deleted all the doors. For some bizarre reason, we have all done those things not because we're horrible psychopaths but really, out of genuine curiosity to see what happens and to test the boundaries of the game.

What? We've all done it
Speaking of boundaries, another important distinction to make regarding simulation or world building games is that they are universally age appropriate. As with the majority of gamers growing up, I played plenty of games that were above my age rating at the time because I knew my parents wouldn't check because they naturally assumed all games are for kids. The reason a lot of whistle blowers get so heated up over video game violence is that kids are exposed it and that's understandable. 

However... I hate to be the responsible adult now, but kids are impressionable; even aged 8, I knew that if you see wrestlers fighting on TV that you are definitely going to try those moves out after school with your friends...I mean, duh?! My point is, if you're letting your 10 year child play a game rated PEGI 18 and you notice they are imitating violent acts or picking up bad language, that's on you and not the games.

Not all games are violent, all games have age ratings and if an 18 years old wants to play Grand Theft Auto V and kill a bunch of AI, 'take' drugs and bang prostitutes then that's up to that adult. He or she knows what is real and what isn't. For example, incase you haven't noticed, I'm no longer a stupid 8 year old that bruises herself and accidentally hurts her friends because she thinks wrestling is the best and she can totally perform the People's Elbow. I know now that wrestling is an act, it's for sport and is performed by trained professionals. That, and The Rock is still a badass. Just like I know, when I play a video game... I am playing a video game.

I don't know what this comic is but I do know that I want to read it really badly now...if you know, please comment!
I feel the need to apologise for this week's overly rant-y nature but it really does vex me, there's more to games than violence and even that violence is age appropriate. We live in the Internet-age. If you want to blame something for violence maybe do your research first, better still, shut yourself off from all forms of media because heaven forbid, you and your children might accidentally watch uncensored atrocities taking place in remote parts of the world on the news...before the watershed!

On a serious note though, I am very much addicted to Zoo Tycoon at the moment...I think I might have to open a zoo when I retire. 

2 comments:

  1. Games like minecraft
    Find games like minecraft. Great minecraft games on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android, PC and mac.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Games Like Minecraft
    Find games like minecraft. Great minecraft games on multiple platforms such as iOS, Android, PC and mac.

    ReplyDelete