There was a game for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System called Wizards and Warriors. It was a decent side-scrolling platforming game, where you played a knight (the titular warrior, I suppose) who jumped around slaying monsters and ultimately, perhaps–it’s been a long time since I played the game–a wizard. Along the way, you could gather power-ups to enhance your character, like a temporary high jump to get over obstacles, or the ability to fire bolts from your steely lance. There was one power-up, the Cloak of Invisibility, which was the most useless extra, to the detriment of gameplay. The problem was that the cloak didn’t merely make you invisible to enemies, but to your own eyes, so you’d invariably steer your sprite into a bottomless chasm or jutting spikes or some other hazard. Anyone who’s played the game will tell you they got this power-up a few times, then passed over it like poison for every subsequent playing. “Why did they put this shit in the game?” I remember thinking, “Someone should tweak the code to make it work.”
I had neither the experience or the gumption to do this myself, but eventually there would be a big community of people who modify video games, or “modders.” They make “mods,” which can be anything from extra levels in a classic Super Mario Bros. game to new items and types of gameplay for newer titles. Many video game developers release a tweakable version of their proprietary code, allowing independent fans to create new quests and textures, extending the shelf life of some games far beyond the fifty or so hours provided upon purchase. It’s happening with a lot of titles these days, but I don’t think it’s as ubiquitous and pervasive as with the game Minecraft. There are mods to adjust the basic performance of the game, and mods that completely change the entire gameplay. No longer can you necessarily mine and craft, instead you will survive and fight hordes of speedy zombies and other players while looting abandoned towns and military encampments. There are so many mods, from the ludicrous mods that add blocks made of shit, to amazingly complicated mods that allow you to set up entire rock quarries and create solar batteries for your jet pack.
It’s a curious business model, to create a framework and allow users to change their experience as they see fit. Imagine you went to see a movie in the theater, but were able to change the level of violence within to suit your tastes. Or picture yourself reading a mystery novel and you’re able to change the ending per your findings throughout the text. That’s sort of like what’s happening with Minecraft, though I suppose since it doesn’t offer a linear story with limited options, adding various “to do lists” to the mix makes good sense. Without any mods, what you’ll do for the most part in Minecraft is mine, smelt, and build, with a little hacking of archer skeletons and occasional forays into the Hell dimension for potion ingredients. The addition of a mod or two can increase the number and type of creatures that spawn around the land, or add new weapons, or change your avatar so that it looks like a character from the My Little Pony cartoon. Yes, I’m serious.
The Minecraft modding community is part of what makes the game’s fanbase so rabid and growing exponentially. By rights, popularity for a game which mostly entails wandering around empty spaces should have petered out a long time ago. But as long as people are still interested to mod this game as they see fit, interest will be generated among veterans and new players alike. With mods, the game that is all things to all people can truly have something for everyone, possibly even those who didn’t think they liked to play video games at all.
Get Minecraft and see for yourself at minecraft.net!