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The Metaverse Is Here. It’s Called Minecraft.

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2021

In the wake of Facebook’s lifeless demo of their metaverse vision, Clive Thompson asserts what many parents of young children already know: The Metaverse Is Already Here. It’s Minecraft.

The truth is, a thriving metaverse already exists. It’s incredibly high-functioning, with millions of people immersed in it for hours a day. In this metaverse, people have built uncountable custom worlds, and generated god knows how many profitable businesses and six-figure careers. Yet this terrain looks absolutely nothing the like one Zuckerberg showed off.

It’s Minecraft, of course.

The ability to tinker with the game so easily attracts players to it…something that companies like Facebook, who desire revenue-extracting control above all else, will be reticent to enable:

Minecraft is really easy to hack. On several levels! If you’re good with graphic design, for example, you could make skins that change the appearance of your character. You can use the game’s built-in scripting language to create custom devices. Or if you know a bit of coding, you can build mods that create entirely new objects in the game, or change the gameplay.

This hackability is part of why the game has remained so vibrant: Players are constantly revitalizing Minecraft, and inventing new things you can do inside it. Third-party folks build tools like skin editors, to make it easier for players to be creative.

As a piece of software, Minecraft isn’t open-source, but it’s very friable and gas-permeable around the edges. Mojang was willing to give their players a lot of control, and it’s part of why people are devoted to the game.

I could be wrong, but I honestly can’t imagine many of the big tech metaverses allowing this sort of Xtreme tinkerability.

I’ve seen all of this up close — both of my kids are Minecraft devotees, especially my son, who apparently is one of the better mobile-only players on The Hive (so! proud?). He’s had to navigate politics in guilds, both as a member and as a creator, and has formed friendships with kids from all over the world that are as real to him as any local relationships. He’s immersed in the media and economies created around the game, almost none of which were created by Mojang or Microsoft. But sometimes it’s still just the two of them, in a world created on one of their devices, building a cool world just because it’s fun.