Minecraft is a fantastic video game that puts players in the middle of an enormous, highly detailed world of chunky blocks populated by sheep, cows, chickens, zombies, dragons and Creepers — green monsters that silently sneak up on players before violently exploding (with an accompanying soft hiss). Each of blocks making up the world can be chopped, dug or mined by the player, meaning the entire world is a fully editable sandbox. Digging up a block allows players to use the materials to craft items like pickaxes, shovels, swords and beds and can be placed back down again in the world to build anything from massive palaces to towering treeforts. Minecraft players have recreated, at full scale, everything from the USS Enterprise to the Roman Colosseum and the U.S. Capitol building.


Here's a great video describing the world of Minecraft:



They have used special blocks called Redstone to construct enormous structures capable of acting like very basic computers. There's a great Reddit subreddit dedicated to Minecraft inventions that has tons of amazing examples of the creative things people are building with the game (there's also a general Minecraft subreddit).


One of my favorite things about Minecraft is how it uses very simple and blocky graphics to feel so much bigger and bolder. Mojang, the company responsible for the game's development, has done a great job building a world that feels alive. The sun sets and rises on a regular cycle, switching space in the sky with a bright moon, and the clouds passing overhead stand a decent chance of opening up and dumping the player with rain or snow. Players can grow crops and raise animals to use for food and building materials.


In short it's a totally awesome game, even more so when you see the $25 price. Minecraft is the kind of game that you find yourself still playing at 4 a.m. It can burn entire days of productivity away as it drives you to "just spend a little more time on my stone tower" or "finish up the last floor of my subterranean villains lair". I'm speaking from personal experience here.


Minecraft can be especially addictive to kids, who quickly pick up the game mechanics and then get lost in a timeless blissful flurry of creativity. I think kids especially like the total power they have over their worlds. They're in charge of where things go and how things are done. Boys like shooting zombies. My 7- and 9-year-old daughters can't get enough of the game and have each created their own wonderful homes, gardens, towers and underground tunnels.


And then there are things like this (via Reddit):


Just beautiful.


Click over to Minecraft to give it a try yourself and/or to buy it for your children.


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Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

Virtual splendor: The beautiful player-created worlds of Minecraft
Minecraft is a sandbox video game built around a low-resolution blocky world that somehow manages to feel much bigger and more alive than you'd think possible.