As an 11 and 12 year old, the coolest thing in the world to me was Minecraft.
Having grown up in a family of Lego fans and also being obsessed with virtual worlds, Minecraft was the perfect storm to suck in my attention for an embarrassing number of hours per day. The game was not only an escape for me but an outlet for my creativity. The worlds I created allowed me to create a universe of my own. I always liked being alone, and Minecraft allowed me to have a whole world to myself. I was free to explore, build, and create all without judgment.
Beyond my own creativity, Minecraft provided a medium to connect with my friends and build something in a world where there was no need for competition, only collaboration.
My brother and I used to fight all the time when we were little, and when our mom tried to entertain us, it always devolved into an argument. Playing Minecraft together was one of the closest and conflict-free activities we had. Some of my fondest memories are building massive worlds, communities, and creations with my brother. Logging on with him every day and tending to our growing community, gathering resources, and going on missions together allowed us to work together for a couple of hours in peace. The worlds we built were special to me, and I wish I still had them. When we would invite our neighbors over, we would all share the server and show them around our creations. We would proudly show off our work, and we would all have harmless fun on this virtual sandbox.
Somewhere along the way, though, Minecraft stopped being cool. An explosion of lets plays on Youtube, combined with a slew of middle schoolers also finding the same unadulterated joy in the game as I had, turned it from the cool and chic game it had once been, to a meme. If you played Minecraft you were a dork, "that's a game for middle schoolers". Suddenly, the whole internet turned against a game that had once been its golden boy. Minecraft fell out of fashion, and as new updates were added and new generations of players joined the game, veterans began to feel that the game they once knew and loved was no longer the same. The generation that grew up on Minecraft began to age out of its target demographic, but instead of looking back on it fondly, many scorned it.
I too soon grew out of Minecraft, no longer having the time to devote hours upon hours to virtual houses, gardens, and mines. I deleted my account, and though I'm embarrassed to admit, watched Minecraft lets plays to get the experience without having to tell my friends I still played it. My brother had lost interest long before, and no longer were our long summer afternoons filled with joyful shouts of "I finished my build wanna come to see?" and "I found diamonds, come down this way!." Soon I all but forgot about the great monuments I had built out of virtual blocks for no one to see.
Downloading it upon a whim, I found the joy it had once inspired in me was no longer present, and wandering around a brand new empty world, I found it not open to being filled with future creations, but desolate. The same glee I had once approached building in creative mode was replaced by an overwhelming number of options and blocks I had never seen before.
I now understood, it just wasn't the same. At this point my little cousin had begun to take an interest in the game, and being a high schooler at the time, this sealed the game's fate in my mind. An 8-year-old liking the game I liked? That's embarrassing. Soon, I like others, turned against the game that had been so formative to me.
Recently though, I've begun to change my point of view.
Sick in bed, having nothing to do but browse youtube videos for hours, I found myself clicking once again on the old Minecraft videos I had enjoyed so many years prior. Seeing the videos awakened a deep nostalgia in me for the world that allowed me to be whoever I wanted to be. I downloaded Minecraft and found myself spending hours exploring the world I had once called home. Instead of being overwhelmed by the updates and options, I was fascinated, and felt like a kid again, exploring all the things I didn't know, looking up crafting recipes, and unsuccessfully fighting new monsters.
I wasn't embarrassed about Minecraft, I was proud of it. I told my friends to download it too, and there ensued hours of fun once again. I soon realized I wasn't alone in this. Those drawn in by the nostalgia once again found Minecraft as an outlet to create a world of their very own. Upon writing this article, my friends informed me that they too have taken to building intricate utopias within Minecraft, themselves being college students as well. Playing Minecraft brings them together and allows them to collaborate on a project without the urgency or anxiety of many other games targeted towards our older demographic. The hate I had once harbored for the game has fallen away, replaced by a keen sense of nostalgia every time I log on and am immersed in the world once again.
Minecraft appeals to the inner child in us all. A virtual sandbox, and a metaphorical one, the game allows its players to create whatever they want from only a few dozen blocks. From this game, incredible creations, worlds, games, and ideas have been born. Even more importantly, a sense of creativity and community is harbored among its users. The game might be fun to poke fun at, but let's stop making fun of middle schoolers for playing a game we all once enjoyed. Just because something is enjoyed by kids, does not mean it can't be by adults.
So, thank you Minecraft. Thank you for bringing me closer to my brother. Thank you for letting me be creative. Thank you for giving me an escape from life for a few hours. And thank you for continuously changing, but always staying the same.