Minecraft is actually an extremely intelligent game when it comes to how to grip humans' little reptilian brain in its tendrils.
Here are some interesting things about it:
- Every single block in the game is interactable (besides the clouds, that is. Possibly coming in a future update!
). You can dig any-fucking-where you want. Everything you do in the world has clear feedback and leaves a lasting mark in it. Leaving a mark in the world is something humans inherently seek.
- You can build anything, from anything. Make ridiculous structures, grandiose palaces, impossible floating spheres, 8-bit homages. That's another way to leave your mark in the world, and your imagination is the limit.
- At the same time the game gives you so many options, it's not all given to you in a silver-platter. You have to build stuff block for block. You can't fly, so you have to be somewhat smart in how you build. In Survival mode, you have to mine your resources yourself. You have to build a shelter, to be wary of monsters lurking in the darkness and populating the top-side world at night. You have to work for your rewards, and that creates satisfaction. When your creation is complete, you can look at it, regardless of its virtual, ephemeral nature, and say "I built
- The game is very similar to Dwarf Fortress, with the same incredible level of effect you can have in the world around you (though obvious DF is far more complex and offers more possibilities even). There are three key differences though. First, the game's graphics, although technically out-dated, intenselly blocky and with pixelated textures, are easily readable and welcoming, a far cry from DF's full-text display that requires some time to get used to and understand what each character is. Second, The interface is ridiculously simple. You point at a block and hold the mouse button to dig it, right button to use/place objects and blocks. When you do
find the crafting screens for the first time, they're a matter of placing itens on a grid, which is simple and gives room to experimentation without relying on a menu of all the possibilities crafting wood/stone/whatever. Thirdly, it's not a private army of moody dwarves that are doing the dirty work, you are, which greatly increases the satisfaction, and the sense that your hands shape your world.
- The world is not just a huge empty sandbox for you. The world is simulated, so there are things to discover, like underground caves and rivers (of the cool and hot variety). It's a pretty intense feeling when you're busy digging on your mineshaft for rare ores when you suddenly stumble in a dark underground cave, grabbing your torches (and weapons) and exploring its depths. You can get lost down there.
- It's a game built to play with other people, and if there's one thing that can raise an experience sky-high is sharing it with friends, or even unknown people. Go into their worlds and explore them, see the crazy things they've built, the little secrets. Exploration and discovery of constantly shifting environments, built by other people just like you, with the same tools you can use.
This all sounds like me gushing about the game, but there is some very intelligent game design going on here. This is a game that's inherently fun because of how the human brain works. It's crazy accessible and lends itself to anyone's style of play. So yeah, you shouldn't be too surprised this game is so ridiculously popular, and Notch isn't just a really lucky guy. He's someone that hasn't given you crack, but the ability to make your own crack, and share it with others.