Posts Tagged ‘Notch’

Minecraft and Creative Space

In Games/Tech on April 28, 2011 at 1:40 PM

People like Jaron Lanier ( worry about the limitations which technology places on our creative pursuits. The staple example is MIDI, the music system which demands precisely-defined musical notes with a digital context that computing software can understand.

The problem with this, according to Lanier, is that life as experienced through human consciousness is not precise and transcribable; cramping it up in a piecemeal system does violence to human creative potential. Practicing what he preaches, Lanier provides many flighty, humanistic metaphors like, “Being a person is not a pat formula, but a quest, a mystery, a leap of faith” (5). That sort of statement doesn’t fly in an operating system (or a dictionary for that matter).

There’s certainly some truth to Lanier’s fear. The tools we use will always have a limiting effect on our production. Violins work woderfully for certain types of music, synthesizers for others. Nevertheless, I think Lanier might focus on the wrong end of this process when he laments the loss of creative capacity which comes from selecting a particular tool. When I choose to use a blog rather than writing on paper, my product will obsviously reflect that decision, and maybe some things are sacrificed. But at the same time, choosing this particular tool affords me a wealth of new creative opportunities.

Take for instance the sensational game called Minecraft ( This game independently developed by Mojang enjoys an enormous cult following despite its simplistic graphics and basic gameplay.

Minecraft allows players to harvest simple blocks of resources which they may then use to construct buildings and other structures. This premise is ridiculously limited – players literally only have access to a bunch of colorful cubes (similar to MIDI’s precise notes?). Nevertheless, players are able to take these little blocks and use them in awe-imspiring ways. How uniquely human and creative are entire cities made of blocks? Or a giant, blocky version of the earth? Even a 1:1 scale model of the starship enterprise?

The point I’m driving at is simple: while our technologies do confine us within certain parameters, no matter what medium we are discussing, they also open up new creative avenues which we would be unable to pursue on our own. I think it’s pretty cool that I can log on to Minecraft and build a city. What makes our technology so human is its contribution to our basic biology.