Minecraft is a game
Our character starts in a world that consists exclusively of different blocks. These are always the same size (one cubic meter in relation to reality) and at first glance only differ in their color. The game randomly generates an environment from countless blocks that, surprisingly, always looks harmonious and encourages exploration: barren deserts, huge mountains, green meadows with cows and other animals - or even an extensive ice region.
So here we are and have no idea what to do, there is no help or explanation. We quickly find out, however, that we can remove brown blocks of earth with our bare hands and also break down trees into their angular components. Everything we get hold of is collected in our inventory, like the figure's rucksack. If we now select the earth blocks we have found, we can arrange them anywhere in the world and thus create new structures. We then make our first tools out of the wood - a shovel for sand blocks, an ax for trees and a pickaxe for rocks. To do this, the components must be arranged in a specific form in the menu. The game does not reveal which forms lead to which result. It only helps to try it out or look it up on the Internet (e.g. at Minecraftwiki.de)
The consistently implemented, angular sun tells us the time of day, it is evening - our attempts to walk devoured the first day in no time. Now comes the tricky part of the otherwise peaceful Minecraft world: As soon as the sun goes down, monsters made of blocks come out of their hiding places and hunt down the player. In order to protect ourselves from them, we have to find shelter. Either we cut a cave into a mountain or we build a simple hut out of blocks of earth in an open area. It's dark in the hiding place and we have to wait and see. Tomorrow we have to drive a tunnel into the mountain and look for blocks of coal, if we combine these with our wood, torches are created that also illuminate our accommodation at night. If we can find enough wood, we can build a door for ourselves. If we have enough stone for a stove, we melt sand into glass in it, which becomes our windows. And if we dig far enough, we may find iron to forge armor out of to protect ourselves from the creatures. But if we drive our tunnel into the mountain, we will likely come across subterranean rivers and lakes that we have to bypass or divert, encounter dangerous lava or even new monsters floating around underground. Adventure awaits around every corner, the hope for valuable materials, but also danger. The possible combinations of materials are immense, the construction possibilities are almost endless.
Old school in the here and now
From a technical point of view, Minecraft is anything but contemporary, the graphics are not just outdated but old. The sound is simple, the menus are confusing. But that can be overlooked when you have converted your first hut into a house, the house into a castle, the castle into a castle with a moat, and so on and so forth. Minecraft doesn't explain anything and doesn't pretend, almost everything the player experiences here comes from his own imagination and creativity. The sandpit game can be played alone on the PC, but can also be played with several other players over the Internet. Control with keyboard and mouse makes the most sense, and an Xbox version will also appear at the end of the year, for this purpose the developer will also optimize the menus for gamepads and possibly even rely on motion control with the Kinect camera, which is an optional accessory can be connected to the Xbox.
All of life is orderly
Since Minecraft does not have a predetermined goal, the time investment is up to you, but we quickly realized that a new "project" - such as the new moat for our home - can quickly become an hour eater. The same applies to the occupation that gives the game its name (Minecraft), digging tunnels and building gigantic mine networks in order to find new and more valuable materials. These are needed in order to be able to produce better tools. For example, we can't dig tunnels as quickly with a wooden pickaxe as we can with one made of metal. The path through the mountains is exciting and awakens the drive to research because you never know what is hidden in the randomly generated world around the next corner. The contrast to the dark tunnels, which are only lit by torches, represents the colorful upper world, on which animals frolic during the day, by which the wolves can even be tamed. The cows serve as suppliers of leather and meat, the sheep can be shorn to process their wool. The motivation to play arises from goals that the player sets for himself, such as: "I want to build a tower that reaches into the clouds". That is possible. How the goal is achieved is up to the player and requires planning. What building materials do I use? Where do I get this from? Should the tower only be functional or should it also be nice to look at? Do I only build in safety during the day or do I need weapons and armor to defend myself against the monsters? Where do I get this from? But the more materials accumulate in the figure's inventory, the harder it is to find the right one at the crucial moment. So it makes sense to create a storage room with chests in which the building materials, food, clothing and the rest of the junk found can be sorted and managed. If a project is to run properly, order is important.
Explorer and builder
Even if tidying up is not part of it, Minecraft combines many aspects that fascinate children despite its simple appearance: the player can be master of his own four walls, which can be designed as desired. A floor made of glass? A tree in the living room? A pig in the closet? No problem. The monsters, on the other hand, offer the incentive to defend yourself, to build ever better and more visually appealing weapons and armor in order to assert and prove yourself in the world. To do this, the player has to go out on a tour of discovery - exploring the game world is a great attraction. However, if the figure dies in the process (eg if it is hit too often by a monster, falls into an abyss or remains under water for too long), it appears at a certain point (the so-called resurrection point) and the game can continue. However, all utensils and materials that were in the inventory are in the place where the figure died and must be brought back.
How big the desired projects are up to the player, so you can play Minecraft for half an hour in between, but there are also videos on the Internet of players who have recreated the spaceship Enterprise or landscapes from the Lord of the Rings books. In original size and several hundred or even thousands of working hours each, which of course are extreme exceptions. Since the building game is stingy with explanations and can be used quite cumbersome, some training is necessary, which makes the entry a bit bumpy for casual gamers. But as soon as the basic mechanics of assembling and dismantling the blocks are understood, the fun and learning potential also unfolds for younger children, because now there is a giant box of Lego available that can be rebuilt to their hearts' content. Depending on the drive, creative thinking, the development of solution strategies, organization and planning, as well as frustration tolerance can be promoted.
Minecraft is currently still in the so-called beta test phase (status 2011), but has also been played online for a long time. The full version will be released on September 11th for 20 euros, whoever buys the game in the current beta stage pays 15 euros, but can already play and receives the finished version. The important and helpful statement of the USK about an age rating can be missing in online games like Minecraft, here parents have to decide for themselves whether they consider the game to be suitable for their children. We provide an educational assessment to help and recommend Minecraft for ages 6+.
Minecraft is a phenomenon: it doesn't tell a story, completely dispenses with explanations and, thanks to its simple 3D graphics, looks terribly old-fashioned. But it's fun, fascinating and only restricts the player through his or her own creativity - which offers many learning opportunities and makes it extremely popular in our test groups. Due to the cumbersome controls, the confusing menus and the lack of help, the game must be explained by an adult, especially to younger children, but then it is a modern Lego box for children and adolescents from the age of six. The monsters in the game world are sometimes a little creepy and especially when the game world is dark, you can scare younger people, but on closer inspection, the bastards are more funny than scary because of their bodies made of blocks.
Our project Gaming without limits Has Minecraft Tested for accessibility. The result is here.
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