Minecraft appears to be very much one of those “Marmite” games, in that you either get what it is trying to do and love the game for it, or the lack of a discernible path through turns you off and you don’t.
I am very much in the former camp, and the game that I will be looking back to in this article – the first release of Minecraft on the Xbox 360 – is largely responsible for that. So, come with me back to 2012, when the world was young, I was younger, and the blocky good times were just beginning.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is looking back to when Minecraft first appeared on the good old Microsoft Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) and not the very first appearance of Minecraft in the wild. So, with that caveat in place, lets go!
In a way, it is all my daughter’s fault that I started playing Minecraft in the first place. In 2012, she was 12, and loved playing on her Kindle Fire Kids edition, and the thing she loved playing most of all was Minecraft. Now, having tried to show an interest and be an involved father, I got her to show me what she was doing and she dutifully obliged, having of course first treated me to a teenage girl eye roll, which I believe is actually a law or statute or some such.
She was flitting about the place, flying, building stuff, and it turned out that she was playing in creative mode, as she could pretty much do what she wanted to do. Honestly, the combination of the tiny screen and her seeming taste for aerobatics made me feel a little bit motion sick for the first time ever, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. How she managed to play that while being driven around in the back seat of a car, while her brother tried his best to distract her, I’ll never know!
Anyway, fast forward a couple of months and Minecraft appeared on the XBLA, sporting not only the chance to play on a big screen, with an actual controller, but also with a massive 200G of sweet sweet Gamerscore to go for. I signed up straight away. And immediately, playing in survival mode, I met a green fella just wandering around. I approached, he said “SSSSSS” and promptly blew himself, me, and a large chunk of the landscape, to pieces. The lesson was learned, and now I run away from pretty much anything that moved, including, but not limited to, zombies, skeletons, wolves and sheep. And those cows that were looking at me a bit strangely…
Still, I was soon into the swing of things; punching trees to get wood, building simple tools, then building a house and going mining, building better tools, and so on and so on.
If you know about Minecraft, you know that it is a game of simple pleasures and figuring out what to do is all part of the charm. I wanted to put windows in my house, so I had to figure out how to make it. Glass is just sand heated up, right? So what about if I put blocks of sand in a furnace? Well, blow me down, it worked. But now I need more coal, so off we go underground, digging in likely looking places, until I find some. But what’s this? Iron ore? What can I make out of that?
The loop of the gameplay is brilliantly judged, and you can be as busy or as idle as you like in Minecraft – it is this which is the beauty of the game. Want to live in a hovel, surviving on raw pork chops? No problem. Want to build a castle, with huge towers that have flaming Netherrack on the top? Of course – I may have done this as an aid to navigation, as I was constantly getting lost, having mislaid my map in some unexpected lava). The thing about Netherrack, however, is that it is only found in the Nether, so you need to build a portal…
Looking on YouTube at some of the absolutely mad creations people have come up with in Minecraft is always humbling. I thought I was being clever by diverting water from a lake down a series of chutes to make a waterfall near my house, but I am put to shame by the creativeness of the larger Minecraft community. But again, this is the beauty of the game: there is no right or wrong way to play it – there is only what you want to do, and getting a team of friends in to help you realise your vision is a great experience.
We had some rare old times messing about in various worlds, ranging from planting TNT in someone’s house and not telling them (waking up the next day to an exceedingly angry message after a creeper managed to detonate near it and almost completely destroyed the hard built creation), to seeing one of my friends as pleased as punch that he had tamed his first horse. Of course, what else was there to do but set fire to it with a flint and steel? To be fair, I had no idea horses were actually flammable, and the scream down the headset about blew my eardrums out, but as I was laughing so hard I barely noticed.
This, to me, is what Minecraft is all about – not random explosions or wanton cruelty to animals, but laughing with your mates and occasionally building something beautiful.
So, these are my memories of the launch of Minecraft on XBLA with the Xbox 360 Edition. But what about you guys out there? Did you know horses were flammable? Did you play the game at launch, or have you got involved in the latter editions on the later generations of Xbox? You can find those at the Xbox Store with the power of Game Pass meaning you won’t have to pay for it.
Or do you hate Minecraft and wouldn’t play it with a gun to your head? Let us know in the comments.