As you may already know, my wife, more famously
known as the lady I live with, recently made the mistake of showing interest in one of
my hobbies, so of course, instead of just sitting down and enjoying some time together,
I recorded her experience of playing various titles for the time and broadcasted it to
the internet. After watching her play, I began to see video
games through a new lens: one unfamiliar with typical game mechanics and conventions. There’s a lot about the language of video
games that people who play them often take for granted, and witnessing try to learn that
language has taught me a lot about games and gotten me to think about them in new ways. So, to continue her video game education,
and in turn mine, I decide to keep this informal experiment going by having her play what is
arguably the most important game of the decade: Minecraft. A large part of Minecraft’s success stems
from it appealing to a wide audience. It provides players with a massive set of
tools and then gives them the space to decide what they want to do with those tools. There is no single right way to play Minecraft—some
people enjoy building a house in a cool location and others like to make functioning computers—it
is the peak of player freedom. Given my wife’s positive experience playing
Breath of the Wild, I was curious to see how she would approach a game with even more player
freedom. As she is a human who lives on earth, she
had heard of Minecraft before this, but aside from recognizing it’s blocky art style,
she didn’t actually know anything about it.. For this experiment, I considered having her play one of the beta versions as that’s what I am most familiar with
Java Edition of the Minecraft as it offers but I ended up going with the current Java edition of the game as it offers a few aids that help players better understand
the game’s systems, most notably the recipe book which shows players how to make certain items. She started with survival mode, then moved
on to creative, and lastly we played some co-op together. This helped give her a broader sense of Minecraft’s
major elements while still giving her some space to discover things on her own. So, this is how it went. At the start, I decided not to tell her anything
about the game aside from the basic controls; I wanted to see what she would make of it
by just being dropped in. And as soon as she set foot in her first world,
it became immediately clear to me that despite Minecraft being a game that appeals to people
of all ages, it doesn’t do much at all to try to help players who are new to it. On a core level, the randomness of each world
makes it so a player’s first experience can vary greatly. A player who starts in the middle of a desert
is going to have a far tougher time getting started than one who gets placed in a lush
forest. And that’s because major elements of the game are easier to pick
up in certain kinds of environments. Unfortunately for my wife, she spawned on
a small island with no trees or other landforms in sight, and understandably, she had no idea
what to do. “WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE GAME!” Every other game she’s played so far has
had a relatively clear objective; even if it wasn’t stated directly, there was often
at least an intended path to follow. As she isn’t familiar with the idea of a
sandbox game, she assumed that there must be some sort of intended objective. Given that the only thing of note on the island
were a group of pigs, she figured that they must be the key to progression. “Well…” “I need to kill a piggy” She didn’t. Not having any clear objective proved pretty
frustrating for her because she had no idea how to gauge how well she was doing. Obviously, Minecraft is a game about players
setting their own objectives, but her being stuck on an island, made it hard to even set
any of those because she had no idea what she could even do. There are a lot of things in Minecraft that
aren’t explained in the game itself, and most players won’t figure everything out
through just trial and error. However, a few of Minecraft’s core ideas
become more clear when the player finds wood. Getting wood unlocks recipes that show how
to build some of the important things in the game like the crafting table, tools, and weapons. Being stranded on an island absent of wood
made it pretty much impossible for her to figure anything out on her own. Nighttime came and as she had no structure
to hide in or weapons to fight with, she spent the entire him getting shot by skeletons and
blown up by creepers. So, I had her create a new world. This time she had a better starting location,
and due to her experience in the last one, an immediate objective: find some sort of
shelter before dark. Through getting wood and a little additional
help from me, she started to figure out some some of the game’s basic concepts. Now stocked with useful supplies, she found
a spot by a nice looking cliffside and built a small hut while the sun began to set. While the experience of her first night on
the island was a frustrating one, it did teach an important lesson about how the game works,
which led to her falling into the core gameplay loop of survival mode: build up resources to create
a structure during the day and hide in it at night. Despite her valiant effort, the house she
made had some glaring structural flaws, and she found herself overwhelmed again by monsters. When the sun came back up, she built a more
viable hideout, and from that point on, she was able to survive at night time with little
to no trouble. While I personally enjoy Minecraft’s core
gameplay loop, her experience highlighted one of the problems with it: night kind of
sucks. *exasperated breath* Raz: “How’s it going?”
Lady: “Not good.” The tension of it coming does give more importance
to being productive during the day time, but failing to build something by dark leads to
nearly ten minutes of guaranteed frustration, and even if the player does get a structure
built in time, if they don’t have torches they’ll most likely just sit there waiting
for daybreak, which is boring. What’s worse is that torches are one of
the few items that don’t get added to the recipe book by just collecting the materials. For it to be added, the player needs
to create a stone pickaxe first. A lot of players will most likely create a
stone pickaxe pretty early on, but given how important torches are for exploration and
survival, it’d be more beneficial for new players if the recipe book made it clear how
to make them after gathering wood Obviously, there is always the option to create
things through trial and error, and while I get that crafting a torch seems intuitive
to those familiar with how Minecraft works, for a new player, it really isn’t. So, during the day, she’d collect and build,
and at night, she would just wait there. Most experienced players would probably use
the night time to dig a hole and explore underground, but as it took her awhile to get torches,
she didn’t want to go down too far, especially because she didn’t know if anything of value
would even be down there. Around this point, she started having that
feeling again of not knowing what the game wanted her to do next. Except this time, she didn’t actually care
about figuring out what she was supposed to do next and instead decided to just do the
thing she enjoyed most. “See…You want me to play this game…” “But the reality is…” “I’m just gonna build a house the whole time.” Without realizing it, she pretty much perfectly
described Minecraft. While not having an objective definitely made
things a little more difficult early on, she ended up appreciating that Minecraft didn’t
have one because it gave her the space to do what she wanted. In the previous experiments, she stuck as
closely as possible to the main path, only occasionally straying off of it either by
accident or to complete a related task. Here, instead of just following instructions,
she actually made a choice of how she wanted to play the game, disregarding any notion
of what she thought she was “supposed” to do. Minecraft gave her the freedom to engage with
what she liked most; it is a game with a lot of content of varying levels of complexity,
meaning there are things for both experienced and inexperienced players to latch on to. And of course the biggest pull of the game
is… While the actual act of building structures
came pretty naturally to her, there were a few mechanics of that took some time for her
to get used to, like needing to place blocks on other blocks and not just in the space
she wanted it to be. Furthermore, while she is far better at using
the mouse now than she was in previous endeavors, she did repeatedly mix up left and right click,
leading her to place a lot of blocks that she didn’t mean to place. “God…You’re gonna have a whole clip that’s like: ‘this is how many times my wife tried to take something away but instead she built it.” Also, given that my wife hasn’t played any
game before where she could directly interact and manipulate the environment, it took a
little while for her to figure out that she could even break and move blocks, but once
she did, she immediately recognized the game’s potential. After awhile, I had her switch over to creative
mode so that she could have a little more freedom with what she built, and this is when
she went from thinking the game was all right to actively wanting to play more. Her time with creative mode got me to view
it in a completely different way. In the past, I’ve always thought of it as
the mode you use when you get tired of collecting blocks and just want to build something quickly,
but now I look at it as a mode meant to make the game more accessible to certain players. Creative mode doesn’t explain all of its mechanics,
most notably, how to fly, but Minecraft’s core aspect of choosing and placing blocks
doesn’t need much explanation. And without having to worry about mobs or
deal with gathering specific supplies, she could just focus on building. She mentioned that in all the other games she’s played for these experiments,
she had to constantly juggle different activities and ideas, and that often left her feeling
overwhelmed. But with Creative mode, she was able to do
something that she hasn’t done much of while playing video games: relax. She took in the beautiful, blocky environments
and made choices based solely on what she thought would be most fun. It’s also worth mentiong that Creative Mode doesn’t have any sort of failstate, and this ended up going a long way for her. Throughout these experiments, her least favorite part of these experiments
has been needing to replay sections of a level over and over again after dying. Losing progress can be disheartening for anyone,
but it is especially difficult for players who aren’t confident that they will be able
to do the section again. She’d often get frustrated as things ramped
up in difficulty and ask something along the lines of: Lady: “How many times are you gonna make me do this”
Raz: “Until you beat it.”
Lady: “Beat it?!” but with
Minecraft, hours would pass, and she would barely notice. Her progression was never entirely reset,
and that helped her enjoy the game a lot more. Even Survival mode handles its failstates
in a way that she found less frustrating than other games. Dying interrupted her progression, but it
didn’t entirely erase it at as she could always recover her items and the things she
built stayed intact; she found dying annoying, but far more
manageable. Obviously, traditional failstates aren’t
going anywhere, and they shouldn’t as they can offer a good source of tension in certain
games, but it can definitely inexperienced players. I also think having various modes that only
focus on a specific mechanic can go along way for helping new players get adjusted. A mode like creative that takes away some
of the more gamey elements that exist in survival can give new players the space they need to
figure things out. And it definitely led to her enjoying the game way more. After she built stuff in creative mode for
2 hours longer than I expected her to, I wanted to try one last thing and have the two of
us play together. And while doing that, I realized that at its
core, its a game After starting a world, we jumped right
into the typical survival gameplay loop: find shelter, don’t die. Things were a lot less daunting
with my assistance, leading to a night cycle that wasn’t entirely frustrating. Together, we were able to gather a bunch of
supplies to make a suitable base and also actually explore during the night. This gave her the chance to focus primarily
on her favorite aspect while still dealing with some of the tense and exciting elements
of Survival. It was kind of the best of both worlds. I gave her bits of information as things became
relevant, I helped fight against the various threats, and I introduced her to other aspects
of the game that might be interesting to her. I shared the knowledge I had gained from my
experiences, and I think this is kind of the way Minecraft is meant to be played; it is
meant to be learned from someone else. Back when I first got into Minecraft in the
days of the beta, I didn’t figure out most things on my own. Before ever even actually buying it, I watched
a handful of videos from a series called X’s Adventures in Minecraft, where I learned a
lot of the basics. I knew what to expect going into it because
someone who I don’t even actually know taught me. Once I got more into playing it myself, I
dove deep into the Minecraft Wiki, and tried to learn as much as I could. Back then there were even less in-game systems
to help players figure stuff out, so it was the natural path to learning the game. And I want to be clear that I don’t hold
anything against Mojang for their game being designed in this way. Minecraft started as a tiny indie title that
gained traction because of its unique ideas. The developers weren’t trying to design a massive
hit; they were just trying to make an interesting game. And they succeeded. At the time, there weren’t really games
like Minecraft; it put every player into the position of being inexperienced, and for people who
are used to fully understanding games, that feeling is kind of exciting. In a weird way, having the main mode not be
all that accessible at first, made it so that Minecraft had to be a game that was shared. I know certain versions of it have a tutorial
world meant to teach players the basics of crafting, but that isn’t how most people
learned about the inner workings of Minecraft. Most people learned through friends, or through
videos or through discussion boards. The game became about sharing experiences
and knowledge, and it grew into something that people enjoyed talking about almost as
much as they enjoyed playing. A player’s fort inside of a hollowed out tree isn’t
truly complete until it is shown it to at least one other person. Minecraft came out at a time where people
had more places to share their experiences than ever, and that has led it to become one
of the most popular games ever made. Of all of the titles my wife has player for
these informal experiments, Minecraft is the first that she has actively wanted to continue
playing. We’ve even had conversations outside of
the game about what to build the next time we jump into it, which is new territory for
her as typically once she is done playing a game, she never brings it up again. It definitely took awhile for her to get over
some of the game’s barriers, like not having an objective, but once she did, she found
joy in having the freedom to set her own goals. Through these experiments, I’ve found that
high pressure situations often lead to a fair bit of frustration for her, so to be dropped
into a game with relatively low stakes and a wealth of time and space to figure things
out, she was able to relax while playing. Also, she has always loved the idea of designing
her own house, so it gave her the chance to incorporate her personal interests into the
game itself, and that made things more engaging for her. In these videos, I’ve talked a lot about
how important it is for those who are familiar with games to be willing to teach those who
aren’t how to approach them, and Minecraft seems to be a title expressly designed around
that philosophy. I don’t think that survival mode is the
most complicated thing in the world, but a lot of aspects go unexplained, so having someone
around to be a guide goes a long way. Of course, designers shouldn’t intentionally
make their games confusing so that players will have to rely on outside sources, but
it is a part of why Minecraft became the behemoth it is today. It is a game that is made better by sharing
experiences and information with others. As cheesy as it is to say, it has brought people together. When I think of Minecraft, my memories of
it aren’t tied to playing it alone. They’re tied to the countless videos I watched
of other people’s adventures and creations, they’re tied to the hours upon hours my
college roommate and I spent building everything from a castle to a flying ship, and now they’re
tied to showing the game to my wife for the first time and watching her go from being
entirely confused with what she was supposed to do to being engaged with a game in a way
she never has been before. Lady: “I kinda wanna build down here, man.”
Raz: “Okay. Let’s go!” Lady: “Like…I mean…wait are we in the kind where like…”
Raz: “Yeah, we’re in the kind where stuff is gonna kill us.” Lady: “Oh. But I don’t wanna ruin these trees…”
Raz: “Wel-”
Lady: “Can I fly?” Raz: “No, you can’t fly in this one.” Hey! Thanks for watching. This video is sponsored by NordVPN. There are a lot of reasons to get a VPN ranging
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this video. Anyway, I appreciate you all so much for watching. I’m excited to get more content out this year. I have a lot of big ideas and ambitions for the channel–none of which I am gonna say out loud just in case I changed my mind or they don’t happen or it happens differently. If you like what I do and you like the content I put out, hopefully it will be an exciting time for all of you because I know it is a very exciting time for me. So yeah. Have a great day and/or night and I will see you in the next one. Raz: “I got you something.” Lady: “What?”
Raz: “I got you something! Lady: “Where are you?”
Raz: “Hey look, turn around. Look.” Lady: “Awwwwwwww”
Raz: “Here you go. Here’s a flower.” Lady: “Did you just throw it on the ground?”
Raz: “No! I gave it to you.” Raz: “All right. What do you want to do, we got to build something.”
Lady: “That was so sweet.” Raz: “Yeah. I know. I’m a great husband.”