By: Olivia Brown
May 26th, 2023
This article is part of our Winter magazine. Click here to read the full edition.
Minecraft is a 3-D online game developed by Mojang Studios that invites players from all over the world to work alone or with a group to create, build, and discover within a virtual world with no end goal and almost limitless potential. In this game, there isn’t a specific set of rules or guidelines to follow.
Upon beginning, players “‘spawn,”’ or enter the world in a seemingly random location, and off they go. Players are given the ability to mine blocks of materials such as dirt, sand, wood, or stone among others, which can be used to build houses, villages, or different structures unique to each player. “Minecraft is a sandbox game with endless possibilities[, with] such an active community of players and viewers who share many common goals,” said Allie Spectine, a Minecraft streamer and an active player who has made time to play almost every day for the past two years.
But Minecraft takes the comfort of relaxing gaming time one step further by maintaining its own massive gaming community, as its players aren’t necessarily burdened by battles or leveling up. Players can build houses, mine pixelated blocks and form communities with other like-minded players. These communities can then go on to do good on both a personal and broader scale. It has become known as a world-building game full of creativity, collaboration and community engagement.
In a time when sitting in front of a computer screen has become more of a norm than ever before, Minecraft’s popularity has skyrocketed. In Charlie Intel’s article “How many people play Minecraft? 2022 player count,” writer Aakrit Sharma claims that Minecraft’s player count as of August 2022 had reached upwards of 173 million average active players each month, which is a 40 million player increase since the beginning of 2021. With such a high amount of average players, it’s not unlikely that many would be venturing out into a virtual world with a group of their friends.
Instead of playing on the computer alone, Minecraft players are able to socialize with friends without leaving the house, extending past the barriers of distance, illness or time constraints. Gavin Brown, an occasional Minecraft player for over ten years, says that he plays with a group of friends on the Discord app, using voice chat to communicate with one another. For the past few years, it was difficult for him to see friends face-to-face, so using this interactive multiplayer world to “hang out” with friends was great, he claims.
This raises the question of how impactful the game is on the social abilities of those who play. An internetmatters.org article titled “Online video gaming benefits” claims that online multiplayer games “can help nurture relationships through shared moments.” The article adds that “for children who may have disabilities, it can also be a way for them to make friendships they may struggle to create offline and contribute to overall child development.”
Playing video games, Minecraft specifically, gives children (or anyone for that matter) the chance to expand their world through online friendships and bonds that they would otherwise not be able to create in the physical world. Josh Smith, a fan of the game, considers Minecraft to be a community-building game in this way because “of the multiple servers with players who join in with shared interests to build a world. You’re bound to make connections.”
Looking past the boundaries of pixelated blocks, pickaxes and netherworlds, Minecraft has found its way into other social media. Like with many interests, groups of enthusiasts make their way out of the game and onto platforms such as Twitch where they can watch and follow along with their favorite players. Twitch is a free live streaming platform and is a popular venue for Minecraft players to broadcast their games in real time to their fans. “Minecraft has helped to grow platforms like Twitch and YouTube and, in turn, helped to grow Esports as a whole,” said Spectine.
These media platforms have allowed for interaction both between viewers and between the viewers and streamer, which disrupts the dissonance between a “celebrity” figure and the average person. By having a deeper connection to one’s favorite streamer, it’s easier to feel the strong bonds made within the communities that a person might be involved in. And vice versa, these streamers have used their close connections with their fanbase to do good in the world.
As players such as Ranboo, Grian or Dream among others grew in popularity due to their content on Twitch and YouTube, we’ve seen their fame being used for good. “TommyInnit, for example, just finished a two-week long campaign where he raised thousands of dollars to help the homeless population in New York,” Spectine said, as an example of the good-natured philanthropy of the financially well-off creators. “Grian from HermitCraft has raised money from every single livestream he’s done to build a school in Ghana which has helped to educate so many children in the past two years. And it’s all because of Minecraft.”
The idea that a game such as Minecraft can be influential on both a small and large scale isn’t one that many would believe, but with a growing fanbase from around the world using social media to connect with others and to check in on their preferred streamers, there are a lot of positives that can come out of playing a game.
A well-known streamer called Technoblade, who recently passed away due to cancer, went above and beyond to raise over half a million dollars for sarcoma research. Considered one of the best by many, Technoblade used gaming for good, and won a Courage Award for his efforts, according to the Sarcoma Foundation of America’s Technoblade Tribute. After his death, his memory continues to drive fans to donate to research and charities. This one example of community is heartwarming and just goes to show how truly connected people can become just for the love of a person who plays a video game.
To some, Minecraft is just a game. To others, it’s a community—a way of finding and creating friendships, a way of finding a place among others who share the same passions and a way to add good to the world one person at a time. Smith feels that it’s a game open to pretty much everyone, that there are so many different topics and groups of people who play, that people are exposed to others’ ideas and creativity and viewpoints.
Smith isn’t the only one that believes this. Spectine added that she “feel[s] like this game in particular has helped so many people, whether personally or indirectly, and [knows] there will be a lot more that this game and the community surrounding it will accomplish in the upcoming years.” The legacy that the people and community associated with Minecraft has left will continue growing as years go on. For now, however, one can be satisfied with simply knowing that they’ve found a place that they belong.
Oliviah Brown is a 5th year senior double majoring in English and professional writing, and minoring in digital humanities. Her aspirations are to use her studies to pursue a career in editing. When she’s not studying, she is usually reading or figuring out new recipes to bake.