Exploring the Question: “What is Minecraft?”

(Translated from the original article in Portuguese.)

The world we live in is divided by a question: "What is Minecraft?". On one side, we have those asking this question, on the other side, we have those who try to answer. In more casual settings, I take the side of those who respond, so that my answers are "a definitive redstone and TNT circuit" to overthrow this separatist wall. When I'm in a professional context answering this question for teachers, parents or any type of adult who does not know video games, I say: “Minecraft is the apex of Cubism”. Usually I succeed with the audience understanding because the answer is tailored to the audience. The simple response of cubism has a depth that does not need to be explained and is easy to be assimilated since modernism was able to show aesthetically that humanity can even dream in a surreal way, but at the time of accomplishment it adapts as cubist. This familiarity is enabled by the copy and paste functions of many pieces of commonly available software, and translates well to the practice of placing blocks in Minecraft.

Here, the answer I give to the question "what is Minecraft?” will be starter-focused. The proposed way to understand Minecraft focuses on the perception associated with the game and applied to transcendence. This allows us to break open the experience in a way that results in an understanding based on the chiasms: "to play and to be played" or "build and be built".

In this task, we should first focus on the phenomenological thinking of authors Merleau-Ponty and Whitehead. Next, it is critical to consider Brian Massumi and Steven Shaviro’s work proposing a relation of the contextualized theory with the technology, for example: the post-cinematographic language. The authors cited here promote an approach to the essence of how the object in question touches the core of being and how in turn, the being expresses it. This path promotes thinking to the extreme and creating possibilities to understand how the player perceives and apprehends the world (real, game, fantasy and any others that exist) around them.

Finally, we attempt to close this brief cycle of analysis through the mythological bias: the relationship of the human being who seeks the understanding of the universe associated with the creation of landscapes for other characters (be controlled by other players, or the presence of non-playable characters) to interact. In this way, it is possible to draw parallels as: nothing before creation and flat world; in the beginning was the verb and the block; the responsibility of the meta-game and the god-game; the magic circle and the possibility of having the reward of the game such as gameplay, production and dissemination; the sacrifice that the player submits the avatar, in favor of his plans, entertainment and other motivations.

Ideally, this discussion should invite the ability to generate more questions (and possibly even doubts) that can even be brought to your own reflections and further encourage self-observation in the game as you ask yourself, “What is Minecraft?”. — Francisco Tupy (@franciscotupy) is a teacher and edtech evangelist specializing in game based learning, innovation, and Minecraft. This #mieexpert is also a martial artist and skater based in São Paulo, Brazil.