Something I’ve been doing a lot lately is playing Minecraft. I just started last week, and I’m completely hooked (I knew I would be, which is why I waited this long to get on that particular boat). It’s a game that intrigues me for a lot of reasons, some of which I want to talk about here. See, it’s teaching me things. And you know how much I love games that will teach me things (Stay tuned for later this summer when I try and learn some things from Eve Online). 

My first night hidey holeIn the beginning, Minecraft had one simple goal: survive. It’s a big scary world and monsters want to eat you, so don’t let them. That’s it. You do this by building shelters, making weapons and armor, and keeping your head down. In fact, you can complete this goal in the first few nights by building a monster proof bunker and getting a steady food supply. Except every moment you’re inside, you know there’s a whole world out there, a world that you can build things in. Surviving isn’t enough, you start to want to survive in style. Or I did, at any rate. And her are some things I learned while doing it.

Make Your Own Fun

My cottageIn Minecraft, the game doesn’t tell you what to do. There’s a boss now, in another dimension, that you can kill to get the credits to roll, but nothing pushes you to go and do that. And surviving isn’t that hard, once you get the hang of it. Apart from that, you have to make your own fun by creating projects and completing them, whether that’s building a better pig pen, exploring the world, or making a computer. You have to think “Hey, that’s something I’d like to try” and play around with it, sometimes for hours. At the end, you have this thing that you did. Life is a lot like Minecraft in this respect. You have to manage your resources and decide which projects you can pursue and which you can’t, what you’re ready for and what you’re not. Minecraft empowers you by putting you more in control of those things than life. It’s a game, an abstraction, so it can get away with that. But the principle is the same.

Be Part of a Community

My compound, from the roofDespite the fact that I’ve only played single player Minecraft, I am by no means a self-made man. Youtube tutorials like paulsoaresjr‘s Survive & Thrive have been my bread and butter, not to mention the incredibly helpful Minecraft wiki. There are Minecraft pioneers out there building all manner of crazy devices and showing me what I can do, in the same way that I look to the larger community to inspire me and move me to action. I’m no good at following step by step, but it helps to learn from someone and understand the basic principles, as well as what the finished product looks like. Whether that’s running an online telethon or building an automated farming system, I like to look at what others are doing that works, and try to understand why.


I’m going to keep playing and keep learning, but this week I’m off to the International Congress on Medieval Studies to give a talk about a completely different game, which I might also talk about here in a few weeks. I won’t be back until Sunday, but Saturday’s logic post will go up as scheduled. Tell me, what games do you learn things from?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *