The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times

Heck of a piece about the Minecraft generation -- which, considering its popularity, is a fair title.

I've got three young kids and three nephews and part of me is so super jealous of the many awesome branded Lego kits -- Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and more. All I ever had was my tiny Alpha Centauri base, which I cherished the shit out of.

But only after years of building whatever I dreamed up from my big buckets of bricks. 

So I'm not hating on the branded sets -- there's some serious wish-fulfillment that I do love and would have loved even more as a kid -- but there's something special about open-ended imaginative play. The Minecraft designers clearly feel similarly.

Block-play was, in the European tradition, regarded as a particularly “wholesome” activ­ity; it’s not hard to draw a line from that to many parents’ belief that Minecraft is the “good” computer game in a world full of anxiety about too much “screen time.” In this way, Minecraft has succeeded Lego as the respectable creative toy. When it was first sold in the postwar period, Lego presented itself as the heir to the heritage of playing with blocks. (One ad read: “It’s a pleasure to see children playing with Lego — Lego play is quiet and stimulating. Children learn to grapple with major tasks and solve them together.”) Today many cultural observers argue that Lego has moved away from that open-­ended engagement, because it’s so often sold in branded kits: the Hogwarts castle from “Harry Potter,” the TIE fighter from “Star Wars.”

“It’s ‘Buy the box, open the box, turn to the instruction sheet, make the model, stick it on the shelf, buy the next box,’ ” the veteran ­game designer Peter Molyneux says in a 2012 documentary about Minecraft. “Lego used to be just a big box of bricks, and you used to take the bricks, pour them on the carpet and then make stuff. And that’s exactly what Minecraft is.”

I get it.