Minecon is ON!!!!

Okay — so perhaps you need to be a crafter or related to a crafter to understand the THRILL of that word, the insanity that accompanies the drive to attend… MINECON. Minecon, the great gathering of crafters, as the players/followers of the game of Minecraft call themselves, was first held in 2010 in Washington state. Since then, it has been an annual mania. The last Minecon, held in Paris is 2012 and the 4500 tickets sold out within hours.[ Minecon 2012 Live Stream ] This year’s Minecon, which is scheduled to be held at the Orange Country Convention Center in Orlando, Florida on November 2 and 3 will be larger, the 7500 tickets having sold out within minutes of going up for sale.  Tha t said, the sad truth is that many of those tickets quickly made their way onto E-bay and Craigslist where they sold for thousands of dollars — a mark up of 10s of times more than their original sale price of $150.00.

We — my sons and husband, to be specific — were among the ‘lucky’ones who secured legitimate tickets at their original price. The boys had worked and saved to pay for the price of the tickets and my eldest, at least, has committed to working to pay for the price of his plane ticket. Given that we live on the exact opposite side of the country, that is no small commitment for a twelve year old to make — such is the power of Minecraft.

So what exactly IS Minecraft and why is there such a passion for it amongst children and young adults?

The Phenom known as Minecraft is the brainchild of Markus Persson, a Swedish game designer. The story says that, while unemployed, he began playing an indie game called Ínfinimier’.  When the company that created it went bottoms up, Markus Persson, better known in the Minecraft world as ‘Notch’, began creating his ‘Cave Game.’ It was released in it’s first ‘Minecraft’ form in 2009 and reviewed, as a multiplayer game in 2010. Then the game server crashed! And something momentous happened — Notch made the game FREE but he did more than that. He made the code accessible so that talented programmers could create and ADD their own creations to the game… Twitter and Youtube made Minecraft a topic of discussion — even if you didn’t play, you started hearing about the game. Minecraft began to receive Indie game awards and, to my mind a better sign of the power and range of the game, Musical parodies began to appear on Youtube [Top 25 Minecraft Songs ]

In 2011, Notch handed over control of  Minecraft to another crafter, Jens Bergensten, better known as ‘Jeb’ by his followers, so that he could work on other projects ( Scrolls and 0x10c ). Under Jeb, Minecraft was expanded to the Xbox 360 format. At this point, there are at least 43, 500,000 have registered to play Minecraft but that does not reflect those who play without registering. There is also the educational forum for the game, Minecraftedu .  A growing number of teachers are using the game to encourage higher order thinking in their students, challenging them to think and explore the world of Minecraft in new and different ways.

So that explains the ‘what’. Now for the ‘why’ — Why is Minecraft so addictive?

Minecraft is a deceptively simple game — some people have described it as ‘virtual legos’ but it is more than that. There are monsters and tools and weather and… you. Minecraft is about the crafter. What Notch did was he created a game that keeps on being created. It is an organic, living, growing entity.  It is almost as if ANYTHING that the crafters can imagine can become reality within the Minecraft universe. Young crafters, passionately attached to the game, are learning computer program almost accidentally, as a side effect of their engagement in the game. Terms like ‘mods’ and ‘jar files’ trip off their tongue easily. They tap on keyboards, search websites, create web servers, lan servers, and without even realizing it, become proficient in computer skills that their elders struggled to understand. Minecraft is about imagination, about passion. It gives the player just enough — just enough in the way of limits, just enough in the way of tools, just enough of a push, a challenge, a start, and then… off you go. It is not easy, you have to learn, but once you begin…  And when you begin, you discover that there is a whole community, a WORLD of other people out there who share your passion… Not all of them are nice. Some of them are ‘griefers’, people who will smash what you built, steal your stuff and kill you when your back is turned, but there are many, many others with whom you can build a real community and it is those folks that make the Minecraft multiplayer verse such a draw.

So the answer to the question of ‘why’ Minecraft? is ‘Imagination’.  And, like another Scandinavian creation, I anticipate that it will live and outlive it’s progenitor.

For now, though, MINECON! And yes, though I am not attending, except as a tagalong, I am getting excited too… because, you see, I am a bit of a crafter myself (wink!)

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One Comment on “Minecon!”

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