I must admit, the sudden and feverish popularity of Minecraft, the sandbox building game from Mojang, took me completely by surprise. I first heard about it from a few friends on Twitter, and then I started seeing the numerous videos, fan sites and memes popping up all over the internet. There is even a convention dedicated to it – MineCon! All I knew about the game was that it takes place in a world made out of blocks and you build things using resources gleaned from the land, and then defend your creations against pixelated nasties. The premise sounds rather simple, however the countless hours my friends have been spending on this game has piqued my interest further.  How could a game that looks this simple have captured the hearts of so many gamers? I need to look into this, and the upcoming release of the game on the Xbox Live Arcade will be my first chance at doing so.

As I write this, I am one of the few people in my gaming circle who has never played Minecraft. However, this is not to say that I’m against the idea in any way. As a child of the 1980′s, simple and addictive games are what I grew up playing, and I remember spending countless hours building my creations on Sim City (and spending about 10 minutes destroying them with fires and earthquakes). I was also a big LEGO enthusiast, and anyone who has laid eyes on a Minecraft screenshot can see the connections between the two. The main reason for holding off on getting into Minecraft was the lack of a proper computer that is capable of playing even the most basic of PC games. It probably could run the game, but I am doubtful that it would do it very well. A secondary reason for resisting Minecraft is the fact that I’m mainly a console gamer, one with a huge backlog of games, so making time for Minecraft has not been a priority.

Having said all this, Minecraft greatly intrigues me. The prospect of being able to build the mansion of my dreams out of pixels and mine for treasure is strangely alluring, and the risk vs. reward that comes from exploring and battling the “mobs” (the enemies in the game) actually sounds rather exciting. Given that I have yet to step up and become a PC gamer, the news that Minecraft is being ported to the Xbox 360 has cemented my resolve to finally play it. I’ve heard rumblings from some fans who feel that the game belongs on the PC and a console port will not do it justice, but I couldn’t care less. It’s Minecraft, in a format I can finally play it in. Let the haters hate.

So what can I expect as a first-time player in Minecraft? If I am to guess, I can look forward to a lot of exploration, digging and building. Many of my friends have become Minecraft addicts who will happily spend several hours at a time working on their creations and farming for resources. Whether I fall into the same habit remains to be seen, however I am someone who put in over 100 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim after saying that I wasn’t interested in the game, so anything is possible. The Xbox 360 version will be released on May 9, 2012 and I will be reviewing it around that time, hopefully providing an objective viewpoint given my lack of prior experience with the game.

If you are also a newbie to the Minecraft universe, the good news is that the internet has an abundance of resources that will help make your formative hours a lot easier. A really good Minecraft Wiki offers a comprehensive beginner’s guide that outlines the basics of what you need to know. Based on what friends have told me, the learning curve is moderate, and you will likely get used to the game rather quickly. The Xbox 360 version is reported to offer cross-compatability with the PC version, so playing on your friend’s servers should be possible, and the multiplayer options should open the world up once you’ve learned the basics. There is one thing to be mindful of, though. Given what we know about human nature and people’s tendencies when given the freedom to create things, don’t be surprised if you come across some, shall we say, oddities in the world. Giant monolithic penises for the win?

 

As for the approach I will be taking, I have read up on the different game modes and the “Creative” mode is probably the best point of entry for newcomers. In this game mode, you have unlimited resources and no depleting health bar or enemy damage, so you are free to create and get accustomed to the gameplay mechanics at your own pace. After I’ve gotten my feet wet in building, I can step into bolder territory with “Survival”, which incorporates more challenging elements such as hunger, resource scarcity and damage from both enemies and environmental hazards. Given that my objective is both to play and review the game, easing in with the Creative mode seems like the sensible approach. As for what I’ll create, I have no idea, but a Google search of what others have done is giving me some wild ideas.

There you have it, the long-winded and hopefully somewhat entertaining ramblings of a Minecraft newbie who is about to take the plunge. The Xbox 360 port will hopefully do justice to the PC experience and open up the game for us non-PC gamers, though we’ll see if I become as hooked on it as others have. Are you also a first-timer in the land of Minecraft, or an experienced player with any tips or advice to share? Sound off in the “Comments” section below, we’d love to hear from you.

The Xbox 360 version of Minecraft will be released on May 9, 2012 as part of Xbox Live’s Arcade NEXT promotion, and the price will be 1600 Microsoft Points (approximately $20 USD).