When I was young (insert MØ song here), I played countless hours of Minecraft. Whether it was on PC, PS3, PS Vita, or, eventually, some time on PS4 and Xbox, I would spend my time exploring caves, discovering new locations, and building anything from cave bases to underground abodes. But I found that as I got older I became less interested with Minecraft. The desire to create and explore began to die off as I became more interested in games that leaned more toward a linear experience. I thought that I was practically finished with the game, but I recently returned to Minecraft and discovered that my passion for the game is still there.

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Minecraft is a unique game as it is one of the few games that offers total freedom. There is no story, and there is no objective. You can literally do whatever you want. If you want to build, you can build, and if you want to explore or fight, you can do those as well. There are countless things to keep you occupied as long as you are willing to seek them out. This is why I ended up taking a break from Minecraft as I simply got tired of making my own adventure. I wanted to be spoon fed an experience more than make one for myself. And, although I still prefer playing story driven games, I think that playing a game such as Minecraft is very important. It not only offers an amazing level of freedom, but it also allows you to be creative in ways that most games do not allow.

My return started with a couple friends and I building and exploring a new world together, and, although I enjoy doing this, I also find a sort of therapeutic enjoyment by jumping on our Realm by myself and spending some time alone building different structures. I will begin building a walkway, or a building, or a lighthouse, or whatever it is that comes to my head. There are no blueprints, there is no right or wrong way to do something, there is no way to succeed or to fail-you just do what you want. I am sure that this will get boring eventually, but, for now, I find this sense of freedom and ease to be enjoyable. I can just turn on a YouTube or Netflix show and build while enjoying my favorite programs. I find that I tend to play this game for much longer then I do with most other games. The sense of freedom and accomplishment drives me to continue playing for hours on end.

I also find that my imagination begins to run wild as I traverse the in-game locations. One of my friends is more into exploring and crafting then I am and was able to find a village resting on the coast with a large chasm in between some of the buildings. He made a pier for us to dock our boats to before we left our snow mountain that we considered using as a base. But, once I saw the village and pier, the thought of what I could build in this new location made me certain that this location would be much better. I began by creating a larger pier, then I connected it to the village, then I made walkways that went through the entire village, then I added on to the preexisting houses, then I created a larger cobblestone building, then I added on to my friend’s underwater glass house that he had created, and my latest project is a large lighthouse. None of this was planned but, rather, came about by a lot of moments of, ”Ah, I could put this here and do this here.” It is liberating to create something in a video game and know that it was from your own imagination and not something that the game forced you to do or guided you toward.

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It is also nice to just slow down and allow your imagination to run wild. I am currently playing Metal Gear Solid V, and I love it. It is a game that allows freedom when it comes to how you approach a mission, but it obviously doesn’t allow you total freedom over the entire environment. This, of course, is not a bad thing, but this is what separates most games from Minecraft. When you think that a game allows you to do whatever you want, you can always look to Minecraft and realize just how little freedom you truly have in comparison. I do not want to manipulate the environment in every game that I play. However, having a game that allows me to do so is liberating.

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Another great thing about Minecraft is you can choose to do everything solo or with friends. Being able to explore with others can be a fun experience, but the control freak in me finds solace in building by myself. Thankfully, this game allows you to play either way with no consequences to how you choose to play.

My point by writing this is to say that Minecraft (and other similar sandbox games) is a game that I find to be important. It isn’t just a kid’s game, and it isn’t just a game to goof around in. It is a game that offers what little games can: a sense of freedom and awe-inspiring moments either created by the game or by yourself. I want to return to Minecraft occasionally as I grow as a gamer in order to remind myself what it feels like to make an experience for myself. I don’t want to take for granted the liberty of this game going forward; just like I don’t want to take for granted the amazing experiences created by those in the gaming industry. Minecraft can play an important role for every gamer in our journey from game to game. We just have to be willing to use a bit more of our brains in order to enjoy the performance.