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What’s the Big Deal With Minecraft?

As you ascend the Museum of Pop Culture's central exhibit staircase and make your way to its recently opened third-floor exhibition, it's hard not to notice the long-limbed, ethereal being towering to your right. Do yourself a favor, and don't gaze directly into the violet eyes of the shadowy Enderman.

Venture farther up the steps and you'll come across another boxy being, this one with a bit more style. Sporting a checkered top in varying shades of blue above a pair of denim bottoms, the pickaxe-wielding Steve offers a friendly greeting to museum patrons as they inch toward the digital world that's come to life on the top level of MoPOP.

Each of these otherworldly encounters serve as introductory elements to the museum's Minecraft exhibition, which held its highly anticipated world premiere on October 19. The Enderman, a block-stealing, teleportation-versed fiend that attacks Minecraft players who make eye contact, and Steve, the game's first available player skin who's equal parts miner, crafter, builder, and survivor, represent a tiny yet recognizable portion of the Minecraft world which the game's users have come to know and love.

Chances are you've heard of Minecraft. Earlier this year, the 10-year-old franchise beat out Tetris as the top-selling video game of all time, so even if you don't play, you probably know someone who does. If you've landed upon this blog post, however, it's likely because you don't know too much about the game but are eager to learn more about what your partner, child, friend, or family member has become so completely enthralled with. To help you embark on that endeavor, here are five things for a Minecraft-curious individual to know:

1. A World Made of Blocks

Created in 2009 by Mojang, a Swedish video game development studio, and later acquired by Microsoft, Minecraft at its most basic level is a world made of blocks. In the three-dimensional Minecraft world, players have the freedom to build whatever they want by breaking and placing those blocks. There's no set path to take or rigid objectives to guide you. Instead, players are allowed and encouraged to use their creativity to make the game whatever they want. Sounds simple enough, right? Read on.

2. Pick Your Playstyle: Survival or Creative

In Minecraft, there are two main game modes: Survival and Creative.

In Survival mode, the goal…is to survive. Players appear in a new world and are challenged to use its resources to build shelter, find food, and craft tools to help them construct the universe they want to live in. In Survival mode, monsters, also called mobs (Minecraft lingo for mobile non-player characters), may show hostility toward you, look to steal your resources, or even attempt to kill you. It's up to you to stay alive.

In Creative mode, players have every building block available to them from the get-go. In this mode, you won't have to worry about mobs lurking to disrupt your creativity. Think of it as a giant sandbox, or even an unlimited set of building blocks. Placing one block at a time, you're able to build anything your mind desires. From designing fantasy castles to recreating structures from real life, Minecraft is a world with limitless possibilities.

3. More Than a Game, Minecraft is a Community

In a game with so much creative freedom, Minecraft's community of players has become one of its greatest resources when it comes to educating and entertaining users, new and experienced alike. There was no instruction manual included when Minecraft first launched, and players used trial and error to figure the game out on their own. As a result, the internet served as common ground for Minecrafters to share their success stories. 

"We only created the game," says Mojang Chief Content Officer Vu Bui. "The community created the phenomenon."

Today, platforms like YouTube and Twitch have become hubs for Minecraft celebrities to share content with millions of followers. GoodTimesWithScar, a popular Minecraft creator, was on site at MoPOP for the exhibition's mid-October opening.

4. The Best Part? It’s an Educational Experience!

First and foremost, Minecraft is a game, but it also doubles as an educational tool. Lessons in math, physics, geometry, and storytelling are rooted in the game's principles, so much so that educators have adopted Minecraft as an alternative way to conduct classroom activities. Released in 2016, Minecraft: Education Edition offers project-based lesson plans that give students the opportunity to learn by problem-solving together. For students, it can generate a deeper feeling of curiosity toward learning. In turn, educators become more in tune with the way their students like to learn.

5. It Spans Beyond the Screen

Since its initial launch, Minecraft has inspired novels and comics, merchandise sales, and even new iterations of the video game as players have the ability to modify Minecraft's inner workings to give it a unique look and feel aligned to particular historic periods, cultures, or lifestyles. As Minecraft's following escalated, it started to permeate into different elements of popular culture. You may have seen or heard references to it in some of your favorite television shows, music videos, movies, and more.

Having digested the blog post to this point, hopefully it will make a bit more sense the next time you come across Minecraft in the wild. Just remember, if you ever find yourself face to face with an Enderman, you’re best advised to avert your gaze.

Learn more about MoPOP's Minecraft: The Exhibition + for contests, the latest news, and behind-the-scenes content, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Video Games, Education, Pop Culture

About the author

Tony Drovetto is MoPOP's Content Marketing Manager.