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What is Minecraft and why are millions addicted to it?

By Mirror | Aug 4th 2014 | 3 min read
By Mirror | August 4th 2014

Millions of children across the world spend their days digging holes in a virtual landscape called Minecraft. It's an independent game with the most basic of graphics, there's no storyline and you won't see it advertised on TV or posters put up in your local train station.

So how has it managed to shift 54 million copies, with hundreds of new converts each day since its release in 2009, becoming the third most popular video game of all time behind Tetris but ahead of Super Mario Bros?

What is Minecraft?

It is an independent computer game designed in 2009 by self-taught Swedish programmer Markus Persson, who claims it now has over 100 million registered users. Minecraft was released on Microsoft Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, some mobile phones and PlayStation 3.

It is described by many as a first-person 'sandbox game' - meaning people create their own experience, although in layman's terms, it is literally just a virtual landscape where people dig holes to collect blocks.

But it's the next part that becomes interesting - it's what you do with your blocks that counts. This is where your imagination comes in, creating anything from a small mud hut to a giant concrete city landscape.

When you throw in the fact that monsters, zombies and ghouls appear during the night and you have to either create shelter or fashion some kind of weapon to survive, it becomes a little more interesting. There is a variable gameplay element to it as well, with four modes; Survival mode, Creative mode, Hardcore mode and Spectator mode.

These range from granting extra powers - such as flight - to taking some away, like infinite lives and making it harder to survive. But don't expect a fun time - at least at first - as one Minecraft forum user wrote: "This is not a game that is determined to shower you with pure fun the moment you start playing.

"This is a game where you have to do a lot of repetitive things to survive, and a LOT of repetitive things if you want to create anything interesting."     

So what can you build?

From tiny huts to the Eiffel Tower, fantasy landscapes and giant working computers, players can build anything you can think of as long as they collect enough blocks. And you can almost guarantee someone, somewhere has posted a YouTube video tutorial on how to make it.

Why are people becoming addicted to it?

Mums' advice forums are packed with parents complaining their children are addicted to Minecraft. One user wrote: "It's all he thinks about and talks about with his friends," another added: "My kids eat, sleep and breathe Minecraft.

"They want to play it all day and night... and if they’re not playing it then they’re talking about playing it, or watching YouTube videos of other people playing it."

But adults are addicted too, several complain about their relationships being destroyed by the game with one Minecraft user adding: "I can't fall asleep at night because my brain is so full of plans for my game."

The game's designer believes creativity is the secret behind its popularity - and the ability to build 'anything you want'.

Self-confessed Minecraft addict Matthew Blinkie wrote: "I urge you all to go to Google, search for “Minecraft,” and click on images. Some of the things you see will make you proud to be a part of the human race."

One Minecraft forum user gave a different explanation: "It's simply because I have nothing better to do," he wrote.

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