Minecraft. It’s possible that this word alone means nothing to you; an obvious portmanteau of the words “mine” and “craft,” one would think that the word describes creating objects via materials gained by mining. This assumption is not too far from the truth; however, it would be an extreme understatement to describe the video game phenomenon known as Minecraft in such simplistic terms.

Minecraft began in May 2009 as a one-man, independently financed project from the brain of Markus Persson – also known as “Notch.” Persson created the company Mojang Specifications (now Mojang) in his native Sweden and has worked on nothing but Minecraft since.

It is interesting to note the game has yet to be released, and is only in the Beta stage of development; Mojang has been selling the game since May 19, 2009, after only a week of development. Buyers get free updates whenever they are released, and those who adopted early will get the full game free when it is eventually released as a retail copy. Being an independent game, it has only private funding, no publisher and has been promoted only through word-of-mouth. This fact is even more remarkable when one realizes that, on January 12, 2011, Minecraft sold its one millionth copy. At this point, it is safe to say Minecraft has become a full-on phenomenon, but what is it?

Surprisingly, it is somewhat difficult to pin down exactly what Minecraft is. The world of Minecraft is made of cubical blocks that are arranged randomly on a giant grid to create a landscape. The landscape is made up of different types of blocks such as dirt, sand, gravel, stone, clay, water, lava, iron, coal, gold and wood. Further, the landscape is generated as a player moves in the world, and, as a result, no world is ever the same.

When it was first created, the player was given an inventory of infinite amounts of every block in the game and allowed free reign to use the blocks to create whatever they wanted. At this stage, the only goal for the player was to be creative. Minecraft has come a long way since these early stages – however, this original style of gameplay is still offered for free on Minecraft’s Web page.

Shortly after the creation of this mode, the game evolved to have more of a purpose for the player by adding a day/night cycle, non-player characters known as “mobs” in a variety of good, neutral and bad, and taking away the infinite resources. This upgraded version of the game also added the crafting aspect the name alludes to.

Crafting is best explained through example: a player can harvest wood from trees with their hands, place it in a 2×2 crafting grid in the player’s inventory, and create a new substance known as “wooden planks.” Four of these planks can be placed in this 2×2 grid and used to create a “crafting bench,” which gives the player access to a larger, 3×3 crafting grid. From here, the player can create tools. Tool materials are found below ground in randomly generated caves or in player-created mines.

A question that is frequently asked by those new to Minecraft is, “What is the point”? The simple answer is, there is no point. The player can do whatever they want, whether that is building a fortress or even a town, or questing for randomly generated dungeons complete with loot.

To add even more to the game, the Beta stage added multiplayer, which is supported by private servers created by individual players. Many servers have established whole cities complete with banks, trading posts, restaurants, hotels, arenas for battling other players and more. The possibilities in Minecraft are nearly, literally limitless.

The real beauty in Minecraft is the creativity it allows the player. In Minecraft, anyone can create masterpiece architecture, recreate real world wonders to scale (each block is one cubic meter) and anything else the player desires. In the world of Minecraft, the player is limited only by their own creativity, and because of this, the game itself has the potential to be the greatest game ever made.

Regen McCracken ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism.