What is Minecraft and how do I get started?

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Everyone’s been talking about Minecraft. You can’t go anywhere on the internet without seeing the all too familiar face of Minecraft’s mascot Steve giving that funny grin at you. Even the stores aren’t safe with shelves packed full of figurines, lego build sets, school supplies and books. Kids are talking about it at school while more and more parents find themselves scratching their heads. What could be so exciting about a world of 32-bit blocks?

What exactly is Minecraft?

Minecraft is an immersive sandbox video game. What that means in gaming terms is that players get to enjoy the contents of the game without many restrictions. Players can build, combat, and explore to your heart’s content. This might be why gamers of all ages have fallen in love with the concept in the first place. After all, it’s basically legos in a virtual world. Only with significantly more zombies.

The game is often known for its large amount of updates as it continues to grow and evolve into a deeper experience. More and more content is regularly being released for Minecraft across all platforms drawing players back into the world to discover and mine just one more block.

How did Minecraft get started?

Swedish indie company Mojang was founded in May 2009 by Markus Persson, otherwise known as Notch. Their first project together, Minecraft, went through a long process of Alpha and Beta testing leading up to the November 18, 2011 release on PC.  Without any commercialized backing, Notch announced on January 12, 2011, that Minecraft passed one million sales after two short months.Minecraft was highly success for two years and grew exponentially. Eventually, Microsoft swooped in to purchase Mojang and its hit title for $2.5 billion.

Why are there so many editions?

Because the game was originally run with Java, it wasn’t made to be ported to other platforms. This is why a lot of the editions vary in content. Compared to the much more fleshed out PC version, console and pocket editions run sorely behind. According to an interview, Microsoft is continuing to strive for feature parity across all of the editions. For anyone that owns the original PC version, they can get the Windows 10 Beta Edition for free from the Windows 10 store.

Currently, you can play Minecraft across Windows, Mac, Linux, Windows 10, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, and Gear VR.

Can I connect to others online and is it safe?

Minecraft is often played together as a multiplayer game. The PC version can be connected to unmoderated realms that are hosted by third-party sites. These dedicated servers are not officially supported and maintained but offer a larger amount of customization for your Minecraft gameplay. On the opposite spectrum, Minecraft Realms are officially supported and distributed by Mojang. These multiplayer servers have a limit of ten players (plus the owner) and are encouraged to be given out to friends and family. Minecraft Realms also hide any identifying information such as IP Address that might otherwise expose you to unwanted attention.  For parents looking to moderate their child’s Minecraft experience would best opt for the Minecraft Realms. The option to connect to any multiplayer server is completely optional, however.

How do I play?

When you start up Minecraft for the first time, you will be able to choose the type of game that you want. No matter what edition you’ve chosen to play, every game will ask you to create a new world and choose between creative with infinite blocks or the self-explanatory Survival mode. Selecting your preferences for large or regular biomes, the areas such as rainforest or plains, helps you customize your world. Even further, you can even put in a custom Seed which is a string of numbers or characters that generate the world in a specific structure. Go ahead, try out a few words and find one you like!

Once your world is rendered, you’ll probably be looking at a world of blocks. It could be flat, hilly, mountainous, or you could have even spawned underwater somewhere. As the player, you’ll be able to destroy all of these blocks within the limitations of the game. Creative Mode can break them with a single click while Survival Mode encourages you to build up a stronger tool to mine some blocks.

Note that using Survival Mode with a Peaceful Difficulty will not spawn any enemies.

Where do I go from here?

Even though the game’s name is Minecraft, you could do little to no mining at all if you so choose. By using the default keybindings, you will be able to use the left button on your mouse to start breaking blocks. From grass all the way down to bedrock, and a few special places in between, you’ll be able to dig deep into the map with this one button while using the WASD keys to move your character around.

Once you have the basics down and a few chunks of wood, hit your Inventory button to bring up the interface. Here you can see what armor pieces you have equipped as well as any objects you are carrying. Furthermore, a small 4×4 chunk will let you craft some small items. Place your wood in one of those slots to create wood planks. Then use a wood plank in each of those slots to create a crafting table. This table is able to be placed in the world by using your right click mouse button. Notably one of the most used items in the game, the Crafting Table makes it possible to build and upgrade your tools, create armor, and much much more.

Try experimenting! Minecraft is a game about making your own world and creations the way you want. So get to breaking blocks and see what all the fuss is about. Who knows, maybe you’ll like it too.

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