The popularity of Minecraft has been a roller coaster since it was released in 2009. There were times when it was the coolest thing to have a Minecraft account, and times when playing it made you seem “uncool.” I have played the game on and off through the years—sometimes I play every day after homework, and other times I go months without touching the game.
This summer, I noticed that many of my friends were playing Minecraft again. This is not an isolated trend—it is also becoming popular in the world at large. Fortnite gained a lot of popularity very quickly after its release in July 2017, but Google Trends (a site that shows how frequently terms are searched on Google) suggests that Minecraft is making a comeback.
Why the sudden uptick in Minecraft after years in a slow decline? Ninth grader Joaquin KirkDacker attributes it to “many different things:” Ph1LzA, a Minecraft streamer who is famous for gaming in Hardcore Mode and recently lost the world that he spent five years building and exploring; PewDiePie, a YouTuber who has over 100 million subscribers and recently started playing in Hardcore Mode; Minecraft’s ten year anniversary; nostalgia for the game; and the 1.14 update, which added various new items, blocks, and features. One aspect of Minecraft that is now much more popular than it used to be is its Hardcore Mode that only gives players one life; when they die, they cannot access the world anymore.
Why Minecraft? There are many open-world games out there, but none have gained as much traction as the blocky game that we all know and love. According to KirkDacker: “you can go around, do whatever, it’s just a really free game. Minecraft is constantly changing as a game, there’s always new things being added.” While there is one similarity that all open-world games share—the exploring aspect—it is the building ability that sets Minecraft apart. “You can go wherever you want, build whatever you want, leave, come back, and have fun,” says KirkDacker.
So if Minecraft is such a great game, why did it “die?” The answer is its fanbase. The people who played the game got bored; after all, there is only so much you can do. Sometimes people want stories and objectives, and the only way you can get that in Minecraft is through minigame servers and adventure maps. Servers that have minigames on them are the same as any other minigame-based video game, like Roblox, Wii Sports, or Mario Party. Adventure maps are story games, like the Legend of Zelda games, Undertale, or Portal. Eventually, people realized that they could get high-quality games and stories elsewhere, and there were few people left who just built and explored like the game intended.
The game is not free—it is almost $27, but it offers so many different opportunities for play. If you want to go on a story-based adventure, they’ve got it; if you want to hang out with friends, you can do that; and if you want to build, explore, or simply survive, you can do that, too.