Some games are born great, while other games have greatness thrust upon them. That’s not quite the Shakespeare quote, but it applies to video games just as readily as it does to people. There are some games whose premise is readily accepted by many and doesn’t need to do any work to persuade them, while others need to struggle to be accepted due to the sheer oddness or individuality of their pitch. Of course, the games themselves might be excellent, but they’re not necessarily immediately destined to be loved.
It’s not immediately clear into which of these two camps Minecraft deserves to fall. On the one hand, it’s definitely an influential classic that’s enjoyed by millions of players around the world. On the other, its elevator pitch isn’t exactly enthralling in words: it’s a creative sandbox with no conventional gameplay that puts the emphasis on players’ creativity. There are many who would be put off just by that description alone, so Minecraft is a more risky venture than it might initially seem.
For those who do love Minecraft’s elevator pitch, there is now Minecraft Classic online. In their benevolence, Microsoft and Minecraft’s developer Mojang have elected to put the entirety of Minecraft Classic online for free. This is Minecraft as it was back in the primitive Stone Age year of 2009, when it was still just a glint in Notch’s eye and before it secured the love and trust of people around the world. Minecraft Classic is a true historical artefact and it should be respected.
You’d be forgiven for not immediately loving Minecraft Classic, though. On the surface, it looks like a more basic and less feature-rich version of the Minecraft we all know and love. There’s no mining and, appropriately enough, no crafting, which sort of strips the identity away from the game. Instead, there is building, and only building. You won’t do much more than build in Minecraft Classic, unless you’re tearing away parts of the land on which to build more stuff.
When ill-fated Everest climber George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb the massive imposing mountain, his answer was simply “because it is there”. The same logic could be applied to Minecraft Classic. This is very much a “because it is there” version of the game. Why climb to the top of that tree and survey your procedurally-generated kingdom? Because it is there. Why build a house that looks out over the forest and watch the imaginary creatures within? Because the world is there.
If you’re not into making your own fun, you might miss the appeal of Minecraft Classic. It’s certainly true that there isn’t much to do here besides “what you want”. This isn’t the game for people who like to point guns at things and kill them. This is the kind of game for kids who used to spend hours on the beach building intricate sandcastles and didn’t care when the tide washed them away. There’s an impermanence to Minecraft Classic, represented in the immediately fading flowers and mushrooms, that makes it simultaneously ephemeral and beautiful.
On the surface of it, there isn’t a huge amount of stuff to do in this game. Minecraft Classic is not a watchful teacher, but it is a teacher nonetheless. You’ll still be able to dig out blocks with your hands, but you won’t actually gain said blocks in your inventory. You can build things, but you won’t have many of the creature comforts that modern Minecraft allows you to install in your newly-crafted home. You can swim, but there isn’t too much to find beyond endless cavern complexes and the occasional taunting gold deposit.
What you can do is build, and to that end you’re given 32 different kinds of blocks. Some of these are building materials like stone and wood, while others are accouterments like flowers, small twigs and trees, and other objects. Unlike modern Minecraft, nothing bad will happen to structures you construct, so you’re free to step back and admire your house against the glaring sunlight of your procedurally generated paradise. Doing so is still an unparalleled joy.
Lest we forget, you can also call a few friends into your world for some co-operative fun (or competitive, since you’re making your own game to a certain extent). Just send over the server link and they can jump right into your game. What you do is, of course, up to you, which might as well be Minecraft Classic’s mantra. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have once the brakes are taken off and you can build and destroy whatever you like. We managed to get hours of fun out of emergent games we made up ourselves, putting us in mind of the glory days of hanging out with each other after school.
Minecraft Classic is truly a wonderful gift to be given. For an entire game – even one as simple as Minecraft Classic – to be given away for free and to be playable within a browser shows both technological advancement and generosity. Minecraft Classic may not be able to hold a pixelated candle to its more modern successor, but considering the non-existent price point and the surprising amount of features, it’s still an amazingly good time. Grab some buddies and go play for a while to rediscover a fun side of yourself you didn’t know still existed.
Disclosure: This is a featured post. Images used with permission.