Why is Minecraft's music so nostalgic

Phenomenon "Minecraft": Why millions of people watch others play

Strange new game world: When the Swedish developer Markus "Notch" Persson started selling beta access to his indie game "Minecraft" in 2009, nobody could have guessed that his path would lead him to Forbes' list of billionaires in just five years would. It is an unparalleled success story that can only take place in gaming, and in this case only in the indie sector.

"Minecraft" is more than a cult game, it is a phenomenon. The sandbox Legoland you can design yourself is behind "Tetris" and "Wii Sports", with over 60 million copies sold, in third place of the best-selling games of all time and, of course, the most successful indie game. The free demo version cracked the 100 million player mark a year ago.

It is by a respectable margin the most played Xbox Live game on the Xbox 360 with almost two billion hours played, and the deal with Microsoft that went through last year made Persson 2.5 billion dollars richer. Still a good deal for Microsoft: So far, no company has been able to buy its way more directly into a living legend of pop culture that will forever remain a nostalgic part of their childhood and youth for millions of gamers.

Minecraft and Youtube - a success story

One of the cornerstones of the success of "Minecraft" was its presence on video portals such as YouTube very early on. As early as 2009, fans began to share their experiences in the game with other viewers via video. With a stunning response: The sandbox in the block look has not only attracted a third of its player base through videos, but also contributed a lot to firmly anchoring the "Let's Plays" phenomenon and game content on YouTube and streaming services such as Twitch. In 2014, "Minecraft" was second only to "Music" on YouTube.

Game content - let's plays, walkthroughs, reviews or trailers - now makes up a whopping 15 percent of all clips uploaded to YouTube - 300 hours of material from and about games are added every minute. "Minecraft" plays a pioneering role in this regard: In total, videos for the game generated more than an incredible 60 billion views, which is three times as much as the blockbuster series "Call of Duty", which follows in second place.

Big names

But why is "Minecraft" of all things so successful as a video content? The retro-pixel look of the game is not exactly eye-candy, and even in a playful way, not exactly world-shattering things happen for outside observers in the almost 70 million YouTube hits that a search for the game results. So what makes "Minecraft" special?

First of all, of course, it is the "personalities" that make up the Let's Play phenomenon as a whole. For many viewers, these YouTube stars are almost like friends who you like to watch while playing and be entertained by them. Entire careers of today mega successful Youtube personalities such as the world's most famous Youtubers PewDiePie, Stampylonghead or in the German-speaking area of ​​Gronkh or Sarazar are based to a significant extent on the sometimes hundreds of hours that fans spend digging, building and surviving in "Minecraft" showing the shoulder.

The focus is often less on the game itself than on the respective player. "Minecraft" accommodates this type of entertainment perfectly: Since it does without any plot and usually also without particularly hectic action, it offers the respective Let's Players a lot of space to present themselves. In other words: In contrast to other games, which often enough require the entire attention of the viewer for themselves, the gameplay of "Minecraft" leaves a lot of space as background noise and plenty of opportunity to tell stories, make jokes or simply for the video makers to present themselves - depending on which tasks they set themselves in their game sessions.


How "self-portrayal" fits together perfectly with the creativity of the sandpit: Instead of chasing after a set goal as in other games, the almost infinite possibilities of "Minecraft" offer the video makers all the freedom to build their own stage and set their own goals - from megalomaniac construction projects to dangerous cave expeditions to exploring prefabricated maps that range from the "Game of Thrones" continent Westeros to the entire land mass of Great Britain to the federal capital Vienna and much further.

And the game sessions are no longer limited to simple building, exploring or even admiring prefabricated worlds: The huge community has ensured in countless mods and "adventure maps" that, in addition to the purpose-free building of blocks in the sandbox, a lot of other game experiences are available - and of course not only for gamers, but also for the millions of viewers on their monitors.

Creative world champion from Vienna

This immense variety makes up a second success factor in addition to its suitability as a platform for self-presentation, but something else is also decisive for Martin Fornleitner: "Many players see in the YouTube videos what unusual projects are possible in 'Minecraft' and get them that way Incentives to let similar things flow into their own worlds. It is a mutual encouragement and exhaustion of this game. " The 31-year-old Viennese is registered as the proud world record holder in the "Minecraft" marathon in the "Guinness Book of Records: Gamer's Edition": As early as 2011, the IT professional and blogger attended a 24-hour "Minecraft" session Sony Xperia (!) Immortalized with this unbeaten record since then.

For Fornleitner, "Minecraft" goes far beyond other games because of its playful and creative freedom: "Minecraft is about giving free rein to your creativity. In other games, your own experience defines the medium, but let's play from 'Minecraft' can be something like a virtual art gallery. " This creative game elevates "Minecraft" above the rest of electronic entertainment and has rightly introduced the game to many school classes for a long time - even if more conservative outliers like Turkey still want to discover a danger for innocent children's souls. For the "Minecraft" world champion from Vienna, as for many fans, the creative is in the foreground: "I am a creative person, I like to draw, I deal with video editing, sound design and much more. 'Minecraft' was the first software title to give me Chance to satisfy two of my passions at the same time: creating something new and gaming. "

It's the community, stupid

The question of why a game like "Minecraft" has such a special status not only for gamers but also for spectators can be answered easily. It is not only its particular suitability as a platform for YouTube personalities; it is more than its unparalleled diversity. It is also more than "just" the gameplay that spurs the creativity of its players. Thanks to intensive exchange in social networks, via video, but also in countless forums and wikis, "Minecraft" has united its players to form a huge global community and repeatedly encourages them to exchange ideas, to proudly share their own projects, to appreciate them and to advance it in ever larger dimensions.

"Minecraft" is a phenomenon because it puts its community and its own creativity at the center in an unprecedented way - not only in its multiplayer component, but also in the exchange between its own construction and inspiration from what others create with it. So it remains for gamers, but also for those who watch others playing on YouTube or Twitch, timeless, exciting and always new. The chances are good that as an ageless classic it will keep this exceptional status for many years to come. (Rainer Sigl, derStandard.at, March 25, 2015)