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Even within our small team here at USgamer, not everyone has played Minecraft. Not everyone has time to play every game; there's simply too much good stuff out there. Many older gamers have completely skipped over Minecraft, whereas most of our children, younger siblings, nieces, and nephews can't get enough of the game.
The latter audience has fed into Minecraft's overall impact in the industry. Minecraft is the best-selling PC game of all-time with 20 million copies sold on the PC and Mac versions alone. The game has low system requirements, meaning it can run on anything. If you want to play Minecraft, you can do so on almost any platform available to modern consumers: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, PS4, PS3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone. (Yeah, Nintendo and Mojang never got it together.) The game has created a cottage industry of modders and streamers. Microsoft ended up buying Mojang for $2.5 billion, mostly on the strength of Minecraft.
Minecraft is popular, which is enough for some people to write it off. It's a simple title, lacking any narrative or win condition. It can run on anything, but that's because its graphics are comprised of textured boxes and not much else. Despite all that, Minecraft is a great game.
"Minecraft has no point!" you may say. As I said before, Minecraft has no real win condition. There's never going to be a moment where an ending screen will pop up and you can put the controller down. But it does have a point. It's a game about survival, in the same way Day Z or Rust explore the concept. Minecraft drops you into a randomly-generated world and says "Here are your basic tools, try to survive the first night." Without help, you'll probably end up dying when night falls.
Then you try again. Now you know you need to build a shelter and torches by dusk. You learn how to build picks, axes, and other tools. You start to see the hierarchy of materials. Sand or wooden walls are a decent start, but they're not as sturdy as stone. You can smelt items to make them harder. You begin to explore farther from the small home base you've built.
After a few games, you'll look out from the tiny fortress you call home and you'll feel the faint stirrings of pride. There's still more out there though. More materials to find, more monsters to fight, more caves to explore, more things to build. Minecraft doesn't force you forward though. It doesn't summon a larger boss to destroy your home after you've played for a certain amount of time. It doesn't endlessly prod you to move on. Minecraft succeeds because it gives you real options and then respects your agency.
A game of Minecraft extends for as long or short as you want. It doesn't make you do anything. It does teach consequences and decision-making though. If you've never seen a child cry after they've set their first wooden hut on fire, then I'll assume you don't know any kids who play Minecraft. But after each setback, they get better. Their tools gets stronger. They survive longer. They build cooler stuff. (Sometimes they build stupid stuff, because kids are dumb sometimes.) There's very few games that allow the kind of freedom Minecraft does, but can also be played by someone of nearly any age.
And that's just the base game, vanilla Minecraft. That's before all the mods and skins you can add to your game. That's all before you dive into the community and see what they can do. If you have the time and effort to put into Minecraft, it pays off. People have built marvels from within Minecraft. Settings from novels and television shows, including Game of Thrones, World of Warcraft, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Battlestar Galactica, recreated in pain-staking detail. One player built Sonic-style platforming levels in the game. Hell, someone even built a working CPU that can do simple math inside of Minecraft.
Minecraft is a great survival game where the only real limits to what you can do are time, effort, and imagination. There were similar games before Minecraft, and there will be similar games after Minecraft, but none have the unique combination of features that have captivated over 20 million people. It's a game that started off small and spread person-to-person via word-of-mouth because it was compelling. And over the years, it's only gotten better and more robust.
Minecraft gives you what you put into it. It doesn't hand-hold you. You will fail. When you look over the horizon and ask yourself "I wonder what's over there?" you can go find out. When you survive another night or build something amazing, the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment is worth it. That's why Minecraft is amazing.