Five years in, Minecraft (the system) has bloomed into something bigger and more beautiful than any game studio — whether a tiny one like Markus Persson’s or a huge one like EA — could ever produce on its own. The scale of it is staggering; overwhelming. As you explore the extended Minecraft-verse online, you start to get the same oceanic feeling that huge internet systems like YouTube and Twitter often inspire: the mingling of despair (“I’ll never see it all”) with delight (“People made this”) with dizzying anthropic awe (“So… many… people.”)
What impressed me about Minecraft, from the moment I first saw my children playing it, was how its open-ended structure could result in such wildly different forms of play.
The first thing my son showed me was the complex, working roller coaster he'd constructed inside the game, which we could ride in a mining cart. Then my daughter invited me to see the house she'd built. She maneuvered the POV inside the door, and suddenly, dozens of eyes turned and looked at us from every direction. “These are my cats!” she announced. She'd stuffed her house to the brim with these pixilated creatures.
In other words, the same game served as both my son's virtual erector set and as a virtual extension of my daughter's growing stuffed animal collection. And that was within the first week of them playing it.