Minecraft – Game As Dialogue

So I returned to playing Minecraft again.  I do this now and then because it’s fun, well-planned, and evolving.  Every few version’s there’s something new as Notch tweaks and adds and changes.  Then I spent way too much time building stuff.

I actually enjoy starting games over.  Each time it’s a new adventure, each time it’s different:

  • I remember my first game where I built a network of quick travel tunnels.
  • I remember my second game where I spent days exploring a huge underground ravine filled with treasures and twists and turns.
  • In my current game I’ve got a lovely small home built into a mountain by a beach, and I’m alternately exploring caves, farming, and trying to penetrate the dense nearby jungle (largely by fire).

I’m sure I’ll stop playing at some point, and I’m sure there will be enough changes and additions I’ll fire it up again.  There’s conventions and events and suggestions and mods that I might even get involved in, should I wish.  Always something new.

And thus, I am realizing, Minecraft is not so much a game, but a game is part of something larger – Minecraft is a dialogue.

Ideas come in, and go out.  The game changes.  People react.  People play with the game and make new things and they spread.  Minecraft is about communication, and the core axis of communication is between audience and developers (though I can see that changing).

Really we’ve seen this before:

It’s been in the era of pen-and-paper RPGsI am old enough to remember when Dungeons and Dragons (second edition) and other games were updating, releasing expansions, and growing.  Homebrew work was being exchanged.  New ideas came out in gaming magazines.  It was a dialogue, a legacy that survives in the fact D&D is now re-evolving yet again.

We’ve also seen this before in a lot of the Open Source gaming scene.  Just look at the insane amount of Roguelikes out there in the “Old days,” playing off of each other.

Minecraft is all of this turned up to eleven.  Game as Dialogue.

Of course the Internet age made this massively easier.  It allowed it to spread virally.  It allowed internet purchases.  It allowed fan organizing.  It made Minecraft “a thing.”  People will be talking and playing it a decade from now.

So now that we recognize the model . . .

Now let’s ask how we can apply this model to other things.  What dialogues can we build.

  • I can see this applying to any number of games and game models.  First person shooter that ads new weapons and levels?  RPGs that expand with new classes and generation?  The biggest issue is probably getting a good start with a valid enough game – meaning converting an existing project may work.
  • For that matter, we’ve seen stories work interactively, why not try it this way?  Include multiple story-streams and worldbuilding.  You could probably spawn a whole collection of fiction and worldbuilding.
  • RPG systems – but that’s kind of going on anyway.
  • Visual media.  With CGI tools it’s easier and easier to make your own videos (just look at the “Dead Fantasy” video fanfic).  What can you do when people can create and submit models?

These are very unformed ideas.  I could probably spend pages and words on them, but the idea is there – media as dialogue.  What can we do with the Minecraft model?

Steven Savage