Image credit: Microsoft/Mojang
As my childhood crumbles and fades away, I have had to say goodbye to many of the things I formerly held dear. Angry Birds? Irrelevant. Gravity Falls? Ended 3 years ago (yeesh, time flies). Google+? Shut down. Hotel? Trivago. But one of the biggest phenomenons that defined my childhood was the game Minecraft. The first version of the game was released exactly a decade ago on May 17 (two days ago, this post is slightly late), and know I guess I know why adults constantly say that they "feel old" whenever an aspect of their childhood is brought up. To think that Minecraft, of all things, was released 10% of a century ago... it's hard to wrap my head around just how much of my life it has been around for.
This post serves as a sort of trip down memory lane of all the things that Minecraft has done for the lives of me and other kids worldwide, as well as a reflection on what made it so special and what exactly is next for the game.
I, just like most other children, found out about the game by word-of-mouth. Just like any other videogame fad, it became one of the only things that children ever talked about on a daily basis for some time. I can't quite remember what age I first played Minecraft. All I know was that this was before I watched YouTube regularly, so it wasn't the YouTubers that attracted me to the game right away. Rather, it was that it was so popular that I had to see what all the fuss was about.
It was sometime in my early elementary school years, 7-8 years ago, and the only game I had really been obsessed with up to that point was, get ready to cringe... Angry Birds. Surprising, I know. This was back in the days when the iPhone was only 3-4 years old, and the first iPads were giant, ugly beasts. So the first ever videogames I played were, unsurprisingly, simple mobile games. And in that category, Angry Birds dominated. You couldn't open up the App Store homepage on an iPhone 4 without seeing it, and when I was sitting around bored in restaurants or during dull clothes shopping, I could count on the bird-slinging for some simple, easy yet fun entertainment for my 6-year-old self.
But as soon as I heard that there was something better, much better to fill up my boring hours and have fun with, I was right on board. Minecraft, as in the first ever beta version of what we now know as the game, was released on May 17, 2009 (a few months after my little brother Onur was born). Of course, I didn't play that first ever version of Minecraft. It took a couple of years for it to gain a boom in popularity and also come to mobile for free, and that's when I hopped aboard the block-building bandwagon---or, I guess I should say, minecart.
Above: That, my friends, is what I was greeted to each time I opened up Minecraft 7 years ago. Ancient, I know.
My first experience with Minecraft was in the free-to-play Pocket Edition "Lite" iOS version that no longer exists. And let me tell you kiddos, back in my day, mobile Minecraft was *waaaaaaaay* different. The only modes were creative and a very watered-down survival mode with only zombies as mobs and mostly unlimited resources to use. You only had access to 17 blocks, some of which could be used infinitely in survival mode, and that was basically all there was to the game. It's a far cry from today's day and age, where every single version of Minecraft has the same features and each is just as good as the other (save for the controls of each platform). If you showed that Minecraft to today's 8-year-olds, they would get bored in an instant. But for my generation? It was absolutely thrilling.
Above: A screenshot I found online of the simple MCPE Lite.
To think that I was given a three-dimensional world that fit into the palm of my hand, and every single inch of it could be manipulated to my desires? It was the most liberating feeling in the world. I would spend hours building statues, houses, weird geometric figures, and basically whatever was possible with the super-limited amount of blocks the game had. I wasn't complaining at all about the limited tools that I had with it, and my creativity still ran wild. The only bad thing about the game in my eyes was whenever I made a beautiful creation block by block, sometimes spending hours on it, it could never be preserved. This was since the game lacked save files for the worlds you created, so once you exited the app, your creations were gone forever. I had no idea how to take a screenshot back then, so whenever I made something I thought was impressive, I tried to remember it as good as possible in my mind. However, upon finally receiving permission to download the paid "big boy" version of Minecraft, the game went to a whole other level.
Above: This is what 9-year-old me was greeted to when I first opened up the glorious full version of the game.
When I first downloaded Minecraft Pocket Edition's full, paid version, I was either in the second or third grade. This was back when Minecraft's different platforms were essentially entirely different games, with separate update numbers, features, and development teams. Up to that point, the latest update for Pocket Edition (what the mobile and tablet versions were named) was around 0.7.0. This was right around when minecarts were first added into the game. I was even more happy with the game now. I had around a dozen times more blocks to choose from, convenient multiplayer with my friends, and most importantly, save files! This means that the things I spent hours building would be saved to the game's memory, and would be available for me as long as my iPad was still working.
But Minecraft wasn't just about mining, crafting, and building. It was equally just as much about seeing what other people were mining, crafting, and building. Through local multiplayer, I could play with up to 8 of my friends, as long as we were connected to the same WiFi. This was absolutely mind-blowing for 9-year-old me, as I had never played an online multiplayer game prior to this. Of course, cross-play luxuries didn't exist back then, so I could only play with those who were also on Pocket Edition for iOS. It's not like today when I can use my Nintendo Switch to play survival games with my Turkish cousin on an iPad across the globe. (If I told 9-year-old Arca all of this, he would probably hyperventilate with excitement, anyways).
Above: Anyone remember these guys? Now most would cringe at the thought, my generation once looked up to these people as celebrities. And some were quite talented. Others? Not so much...
And let's not forget, the one thing that make people consider Minecraft to be cringy, YouTube! To my amazement, I was able to use YouTube to see what other, more experienced Minecrafters were building and doing. This means that if I wasn't sure how to craft a particular item, or utilize a particular glitch, someone out there in the world had made a video that got me covered. Plus, seeing what amazing, creative things that other people built gave me inspiration for my own builds. There was something inexplicably magical about Minecraft, that no other game could really capture. That was its undeniable sense of community, that I was part of something greater. That just because I was a 9-year-old on an iPad, didn't mean that I could create awesome digital things piece-by-piece, and impress people double my age with it.
Above: Yeah, this is an actual blog thumbnail I made three years ago. Go ahead, laugh.
Then, if you have scrolled through my blog archive extensively (http://www.arcabaran.com/search?q=minecraft), you probably know the story. I found out, via YouTube, that the version of the game I was playing was actually the inferior one, and that quite a few other versions existed with much more features. I also figured out that an entire team of developers was slowly adding more features to it every couple of months, and entire channels on YouTube were dedicated to speculation and testing out future features. So, I went wild with speculation along with the rest of these people. At first, I just used word-of-mouth from my fellow elementary schoolers. Little Billy told me that in two days, an update would be available that would add endermen, slime, customizable character skins, the Nether, the End, Angry Birds, and Thomas the Tank Engine to the game (that's bonkers!). The result? Fake news from almost five years ago: http://www.arcabaran.com/2014/09/new-minecraft-pe-update-in-1-week-new.html
Above: Yet another Minecraft thumbnail I made for my blog. However, since this one was made by my fifth-grade self, I was a lot more skilled at editing images together, so there is clearly much more effort put into than the you previously saw.
When I finally was on the Internet long enough to differentiate solid facts from rumors, I made entire posts speculating what features would be added next, and when updates were confirmed or available, I made entire review posts going over what features were added. I did this for over 5 updates (!), spending time compiling images and describing updates in detail. Looking through my archive, I see that I did this for 0.12.0 (the Nether update), 0.13.0 (the Redstone update), 0.14.0 (the dispenser update), 0.15.0 (the horsey update), 0.16.0 (the "boss" update). Yeesh, that's a lot of updates! Not to mention, that weird fake news I made for 0.9.0 (Shrek in Mincraft, anybody?). And back when I had a co-author to my blog (little known fact from 2014), they made a post about 0.11.0.
As you can see, I clearly was very, very fascinated with all of these updates, and the results may be cringy and outdated, but it sure does show the amount of hard work I put into them years ago. After all, for one of the posts (the 0.12.0 one, I think) a Blogger glitch got it deleted twice and I had to go through the ideal of writing it from scratch each time.
Some of these posts are some of the top most viewed on my blog of all time, believe it or not, due to my clever decision to share them on the official Minecraft community page on Google Plus (RIP G+, by the way).
Above: A Minecraft build of a First Order Stormtrooper helmet I made three years ago. The iPad I made this on stopped working, so the screenshot on one of my older blog posts is all that I have left to remember builds such as these.
But I still obsessed over things other than updates in the game. I also utilized the ever-growing amounts of features to put my vast creativity to good use. The more blocks were added, the more I built, and built, and built. I made countless blog posts showing the entire world what I built. I was proud of my creations, and had a blast making them. I made everything from complex pixel art to buildings to statues of things from Star Wars and Angry Birds characters, to cats and giant, highly decorated parkour maps to play with my friends. These are all posts that you can still view today, if you mind using the search bar at the top of my blog. Unlike the "wow guys new update hype here's the features" posts, these are some that I find less cringy. Even the cringy ones are still viewable. That's since I, unlike quite a few other blog creators I know, have hardly ever deleted content from my blog just because I thought it was cringy and old. To me, my entire blog is a museum. Who cares if it's silly or cringy? It's history! (Or at least the history of my childhood, anyway.)
But then, it happened. I stopped playing Minecraft as frequently. It stopped being relevant, even on YouTube. Many kids just moved on. Including me. I still played it from time to time, but I didn't follow every update, or call it my "favorite game". As soon as I got my second console (the Nintendo 2DS, which I got back in the summer of 2016), I started to move onto other games. I slowly converted into a full-time Nintendo fan. As I entered middle school for the first time, my school schedule the next year became even busier, and whenever I did get free time, it was spent playing Super Smash Bros. or Mario Kart, not good 'ol Minecraft on my iPad.
Minecraft was starting to feel like a neglected Digipet. Like it would haunt me in my sleep, crying, "Why would you forget about me? I was your best friend! Can't you still play with me?" But then, it happened. I got a Nintendo Switch. And soon after, at E3 2017, an update was released that would change Minecraft permanently.
Above: No, I did not build all that. That is an image from Mojang/Microsoft's trailer for 2017's Better Together Update, which unified all versions of the game into basically the same game, with added cross-play support. Sorry, PS4 owners.
With the Better Together Update, all of the versions of the game were unified with cross-play support. Instead of splitting up development across over 7 different versions, they made all modern versions the same (with the exception of the original Java edition, and the PlayStation 4 edition, both still lacking cross-play multiplayer with different platforms). This meant that the Minecraft on my iPad was the same as the one on my Switch, and on the one that almost any one of my friends would have had, regardless of their device. Thus, Minecraft: Pocket Edition was just called plain ol' Minecraft, and this new unified game was called "Bedrock Edition". So in other words, Minecraft was better than ever! I could only imagine how much a younger version of myself would have reacted to this, but at this point I was in 7th grade. I cared less about Minecraft, but certainly didn't dislike it. I still played it on my Switch, but mostly local multiplayer with my friends (spleef or sky wars, anybody?). But I still used this feature to be able to play multiplayer using the Switch's superior controls with my cousins who used the less-superior mobile controls. Unfair from a competetive standpoint? Maybe. Still completely mindblowing? Definitely.
Now, two years later, the game's decade-old anniversary has arrived. Of course this marked plenty of new announcements from the game developers. To celebrate, a new Minecraft mobile game was announced. It's an augmented reality game (similar to Pokemon Go) called Minecraft Earth, and it has you chasing diamonds and creepers, as well as building giant structures in the real world. 9-year-old me would be dying of joy at this moment. 14-year old me, however, thinks it is a cool concept but is scared to see elementary schoolers running around the streets during the summer shouting, "Look! I found diamonds! Look! I built a castle next to Bob's house!"
Another thing that was announced the celebrate Minecraft's 10th Anniversary was something that I, along with the rest of my generation, will enjoy a lot more. It is a version of Minecraft that you can play in your browser, and best of all, it's one of the early versions of the game! In other words, this version of the game is very similar to that old "Lite" version I told y'all about earlier. It's completely free, saves your progress on the same browser with the same username, and best of all, you can host games with friends simply by sharing a link with them! Here it is: https://classic.minecraft.net It's sure to give you entertainment, nostalgia, and a rush of memories from 2011. Enjoy!
Another cool thing for its 10th anniversary is unfortunately one that didn't seem to work, at least when I check. On Friday, May 17th, the game was supossed to be Thanos-priced on all platforms (50% off). But when I checked the App Store, Windows Store, and Nitnendo eShop, I didn't see a discount at the time I checked. Maybe it failed to update it, who knows. But that doesn't really matter to me, since I already own the game. For newcomers who waited a decade to jump into the game (don't worry, I won't judge you), this seems to be the best possible deal that you are most likely to ever get on the game.
How did I celebrate Minecraft's 10th Anniversary? Well, on Friday, May 17th, I did the morning live-stream announcements for my school. This was on a day that half the 7th and 8th graders were out for a special music trip to Hershey. However, even though I don't do any special music ensembles at school, I wasn't jealous of their chocolate bars and long bus rides filled with tabletop Smash Bros rounds. Instead, they were probably jealous of me and all the other kids, who were there to see the morning livestream. Since the person who usually does the announcements (the school president) was also absent for the trip, as the 8th grade vice-president (there's a funny story about how I got that role, by the way) I took the temporary mantle. The announcements were almost compeltely normal. I yelled out, "Top of the morning to 'ya laddies," as well as talking about the school sports announcements and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. What was different was the end.
You see, just like how DDN was back in elementary school, the end of these announcements talk about what National Day it is. This time, of course, I announced, "Happy 10th Anniversary, Minecraft!", and the camera zoomed into a little creeper drawing on the whiteboard. Nailed it.
So, to conclude this long-ish post, Minecraft was a big part of my childhood, it was special due to how open it was (you could do whatever you wanted with it, there wasn't just one plain objective in sight), it kind of got less popular fast, but then the 10th anniversary came and I think I will be spending a lot more time in the game soon. As soon as school ends. But at the same time, I will be leaving middle school, so my childhood will also end. Ironic. I started playing Minecraft in my early childhood, then left it later on. I started playing again at the end of my childhood. Huh, is that a cycle? Or a circle? Wait a minute. Did someone say circle? Circles can't exist in Minecraft. Wait a minute...
Jokes aside, do I think the game will rise back into popularity? Well, I have recently been seeing a lot more nostalgic Minecraft memes to coincide with its 10th anniversary, but so far it is way past it's "golden age" anyway. New generations may still be introduced to it, but as far as I am concerned, the game is so different nowadays that it is basically a different game altogether. Minecraft as we knew it is over. Thank you anyways, Minecraft, for letting a whole generation of children use their imagination and creativity to explore and do things they never could have dreamed of otherwise. Sorry, Fornite and Roblox. You aren't even close to one of the greatest games of all time.
Psst, this is Arca! Still reading this? Then check out this clip of me announcing Minecraft's 10th Anniversary on my school's morning announcements livestream!