The Unfulfilled Potential of Minecraft – Assuming a Different Perspective


This video is brought to you by CuriosityStream,
if you sign up using the link in the description, you’ll also get access to Nebula,
a new streaming platform that I am a part of, but more on that at the end. I’ve always played Minecraft in a very particular way. I like to build bases that blend in with the
natural environment. This house I carved out of the side of a mountain. There’s a living room with dogs and fireplaces. A bedroom. Some balconies. An observatory with a map of the world. And a little tower at the top. I have some crops, and a bunch of animals, all with adequate space, shelter
and water to play around in. Aside from sheering the sheep, I don’t use them for resources, I just like having them around. Everything I build is fairly simple as I don’t
really understand how to use the redstones to make those complicated structures you see
in other videos. I also don’t really engage with Minecraft’s
more conquest oriented gameplay. I only went into the Nether dimension once. Never defeated that dragon at the end. I pretty much spend my time improving my base
and exploring the immediate world around me. Although I enjoy playing this way very much, I do find the game doesn’t offer me as many interesting game mechanics as I would have if I were to pursue building more complicated structures or achieving conquest goals. And it got me thinking about what exactly it is
that the creators of Minecraft expect me to do, what do they think this game is about? Every video game is created based
on certain assumptions, assumptions about the world and its people that are reflected in the game’s mechanics which enable and constrain virtual behavior. Examining these assumptions is a great way
to understand why a game is designed the way it is, but it could also reveal what would
be different if the creators were to change them. And so, my first question for today is; what are the assumptions at the heart
of Minecraft’s virtual world? Back when I was getting my master’s degree
in environmental sociology, we’d do this exercise called frame analysis. Framing is basically a tool to understand how individuals, movements, and societies as a whole organize experience into social constructs. Take an issue like deforestation, is this
an urgent problem of ecological preservation? Is it the price we pay for human progress? Or is it simply a luxury problem of developed
countries? All of these are frames, they are ways of
looking at the world we live in. Frames are created continuously and change
over time. They define what we see as good and what we
see as problematic, and subsequently guide our behavior
into specific directions. Frames can align with each other, or challenge
each other in opposition. They can be a basis for stability,
or a trigger for change. A frame can be broken down into three layers
that feed upwards into each other. The first and deepest layer is ontological. This layer deals with the fundamental assumptions
about reality. How do we conceive the world? How do we look at ‘the way things are’? The second layer is normative. Here we tackle questions of morality. What is good and what is bad? What is problematic, and why? The third and final layer is strategic. Knowing how we see and judge the world, we
can then determine practical measures. What can and must be done? What can I do? What must others do? While this method is not exactly designed
to analyze game design, I think we can apply it nonetheless,
albeit with a few minor tweaks. So, to rephrase my first question: let’s
examine what Minecraft’s frame looks like. I’m going to begin at the surface and from
there we can dig our way through the layers. When you start a new survival game, you’re thrown into the virtual wilderness with a slowly depleting stamina bar, and the threat of monsters that come out of hiding
after nightfall. Given the available gameplay options, the
advocated course of action is to gather materials, craft tools and build a shelter. When this is done, you can then begin to domesticate
animals, create weapons for combat, cultivate the land to grow crops,
and mine for further resources. Later you can use certain materials to create
more complicated structures and mechanics, trade with other villages,
and explore different dimensions. All these elements are strategic ones; they
are all concerned with the actual gameplay; the things that can and must be done. Moving into the normative layer, things get
a little less obvious. Unlike some other games, Minecraft does not
have an explicit morality system. There are no points to be earned for either
good or bad actions. There is no meter measuring the player’s
amount of honor. On the surface, the game seems morally neutral. But this also isn’t exactly the case as the gameplay does allow the player freedom of action, it allows agency, and agency always
has moral implications. This becomes more evident not by looking at
what the game encourages you to do, but by looking at what the game
doesn’t discourage you to do. Let’s look at animal farming for example. In terms of rewards and punishments, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether you keep your animals on a pasture with plentiful space, or in a nightmarish factory farm designed to slaughter as many as possible, as fast as possible. The latter might actually be encouraged as
it gives the player more resources, more rewards, without imposing any penalties that might
give cause for moral concern. The same goes for villagers. The player can trade with them, but also kill,
kidnap, and even breed them with impunity. In fact, Minecraft’s world as a whole never
gives you any real feedback to your actions. And this brings us to the ontological layer, the fundamental assumption on which
Minecraft’s world exists, which is that the world is ultimately indifferent
to the player. You can terraform the entire landscape, and
the world will remain silent. It exists solely for the player’s manipulation. This, I think, pretty much sums up the foundations
on which Minecraft is created; it’s essentially a sandbox, a playground,
a virtual box of Lego’s, where the only moral restrictions are the ones players impose on themselves. And while I’m perfectly fine enjoying it
as such, a part of me does wonder: should it be? Because the thing is, in Minecraft, you’re
not really playing with Lego’s. The world isn’t just a collection of raw
materials waiting to be assembled, it already has some life to it on its own. You’re not building inside a vacuum, you’re playing in a world where there are different biomes, different animals, trees and water. There’s gravity, sort of. The point is, the world very much resembles
our own natural world, and thus it is interesting to examine the extent to which Minecraft’s frame is informed by similar frames in the real world; both to understand where it may have originated, as well as to explore the potential
of assuming a different one. So what frames does Minecraft resemble? By and large, Minecraft lets you do what humans
have always done. Ever since we moved from being hunters and
gatherers to an agricultural society, we began to manipulate the natural world to let it
better service our needs, and started treating nature, at least in part,
based on its functionality for us. And we did so pretty successfully, as those roots eventually led to the modern society
we live in today. Looking at our more recent history, I think Minecraft most closely resembles a specific frame that became dominant after the 2nd World War; a period marked by neoliberal politics and global economic expansion. To generalize it somewhat, this neoliberal frame assumed that nature is unaffected by human activity, that we can treat nature as instrumental,
and therefore; that we can freely extract resources, expand, and build without having to seriously concern ourselves with the wellbeing of the environment. The similarities to Minecraft’s frame are
probably pretty obvious, and it could explain why the game’s expansions have been mostly
oriented towards conquest instead of survival. Because by assuming this frame, the world
is only as interesting as the amount of things that there are to exploit, and there is an
everlasting hunger for more; more items, more rewards, more treasures,
and I want something different. And I think it is exactly by linking Minecraft’s
frame to frames in the real world, that we can explore this unfulfilled potential. For the time of neoliberal expansion was also
marked by something else, by a new frame that would challenge the status quo. In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, and was among the first to bring attention to the environmental impact of our actions by documenting the damage caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Later, in 1972, the Limits to Growth report
sparked a worldwide debate about the sustainability of our current hunger for resources and material
expansion. Together with many other books and reports, these environmental concerns laid the foundation for a new frame that challenged the neoliberal zeitgeist. This frame, let’s call it the environmentalist frame,
can be broken down as follows: nature is strongly connected and reactive
to human activity. We have to be mindful in our interactions
with nature. And therefore, we have to find sustainable
ways of development, and take action to ensure things like better animal welfare, habitat protection and ecological preservation. Now, I’m not arguing for Minecraft to be
turned into political propaganda. As I discussed in my video on The Witcher 3;
I think a great game does not dictate morality, but uses clever game design to make you think
about it for yourself, to make you reflect on certain issues that you otherwise wouldn’t have considered. And so what I want to focus on is not the normative,
but the ontological assumption of Minecraft, on what would happen if we were
to change the assumption that nature is indifferent, to the assumption that nature is strongly
connected and reactive to human activity. Just to reiterate; I’m perfectly fine with
Minecraft the way it is. As a matter of fact, to this day, I’ve only
played the vanilla version and I’m still having a ton of fun with it. So when I’m discussing things I would like
to see differently, I don’t mean it in the literal sense that Minecraft needs these changes in order to be good, I merely like to imagine what could be, either within Minecraft, a potential sequel, or in a hypothetical sandbox game completely unrelated to Minecraft. I’m just using Minecraft as an example because, 1;
it is arguably the most popular one, 2; aside from a few examples like Factorio or
the still-in-development Eco, Minecraft’s frame is comparable to the majority
of other sandbox games, and 3; I simply enjoy this one the most. So let’s change Minecraft’s frame. As of now, Minecraft presents a seemingly
natural world, but no real nature. The only real natural process that is linked
to your behavior is that if you remove a piece of grass and place it back again, the grass will have turned to dirt, and you have to wait a while for the grass
to grow back again. By assuming the environmentalist frame, this
will be expanded significantly, and there will be much more feedback from the world
based on how you interact with it. Imagine biomes now thriving or deteriorating based on the available amount of water per X amount of blocks. I could probably drain this entire swamp by
cutting off this major water source. Or I could redirect existing waterways to
return green back to this desert. And what would happen if I were to plant trees
from one biome into another one? Will they grow? Maybe they will even do so well that they
ultimately overtake the native vegetation? Same goes for animals. What would an overabundance of predators in
one area mean to the herbivore population? And what about a lack of them? What would happen to grasslands if herbivore
populations grow too big? What effects do different types of farming
have on the world? Do certain crops exhaust the soil more than
others? Do happier animals produce better quality
products? Does keeping too many animals in one place
cause environmental problems? Like an overabundance of manure poisoning
the ground or contaminating water? Does keeping too many animals together increase
the likelihood of diseases? What if excessive industrialization caused
issues like sour rain or smog? Would you be forced to keep your base small
and simple? Or would you be able to find sustainable ways
of modernization? These are but a few of the questions that
would be relevant in this imaginary version of Minecraft. To emphasize; environmentalism as a frame
and potential foundation for a videogame is much broader than the hotly debated topic
of climate change. The point isn’t necessarily to raise awareness
about the global environmental consequences to our collective behavior. I don’t want a game where I start a campfire
and melt the entire arctic, that wouldn’t make a lot of sense as in Minecraft it’s just you, or you with a small number of other players. Either way, that’s hardly enough impact
to make an explicit point about global developments like climate change. The point is that introducing more mechanics such as these will breathe more life into Minecraft’s environment, and this can help us to better understand ecological systems and our interactions with them, not by dictating morals but by letting you find out
for yourself how the different elements of the environment
interact with each other; by letting you explore the dynamics of a complex ecological system, and showing how even individual behavior,
for better or worse, leaves a footprint. But above all, the thing I really want is to experience Minecraft like I did when I first started playing it; exploring and discovering,
not really knowing what I’m doing. There was an unmistakable charm to those early
days in this virtual world of blocks, and I would love to see new mechanics that could
revitalize that feeling. I want to mess around in natural environments
and find out what the consequences are. I want to learn about ecological cause and
effect and utilize them to improve my base and the world around it. I want to feel the danger of new and unexpected
environmental hazards, the joy of surprising opportunities, and that blissful sensation of,
after hours and hours of work, standing within your own creation,
existing in peaceful harmony. And if those mechanics were to invoke you
to reflect on our natural world and your own ecological impact, to make you question your worldview in a meaningful way. That, to me, sounds like a pretty great deal. This video was brought to you by CuriosityStream,
a streaming service with thousands of documentaries on science, history, nature and technology,
and much, much more. I could argue that it’s a great place to
learn more about the natural world, the different frames that exist in relation to it, and how
they interact with each other in our society, but if you’re anything like me, you’re
going to use to watch documentaries on dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. They have tons of those. Unlimited access starts at the low price of
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100 thoughts on “The Unfulfilled Potential of Minecraft – Assuming a Different Perspective

  • I hope you enjoyed this new video. I know I generally don't offer analyses that focus on what isn't there instead of what is, but as stated in the video, I really do love this game and I thought it would be a fun way to talk about frame analysis, which is a pretty useful tool regardless of what you apply it to.

  • I absolutely love my Solipsistic World right now! However, you are dead wrong about this world as a merely a virtue-signaling philosopher. HYPERGAMY doesn't care! Thus, the destruction of the commons is only INEVITABLE in the name of HYPERGAMY. There are only 2 ways to solve this environmental problem. One is through the mechanisms of Capitalism. The other is through controlling the PUSSY TRUTH in evolutionary psychology and biology. Incentivize through tax breaks and capitalize through selling carbon permits and punish those who don't follow the rules in paying to pollute this Earth. That's the only way to solve the Game Theory Deterministic Results of the "Destruction of the Commons." Always remember, HYPERGAMY doesn't give a shit! But then, in a more collective society, you can actually build (dominance) hierarchies based on values. And women fuck across and upward any given dominance hierarchy based on more collective values – such as environmentalism. These are the only 2 ways to solve this problem of the "Destruction of the Commons" using the FREE MARKET – without resorting to Tyrannical Rules. All whores love to virtue-signal their eco-feminist pussy in seeking attention in this world. But whores don't put their pussy where their mouth is in this world!

    Yeah… It's like Alain the Beta's video on Enviromentalism: "Make this issue SEXY – like Taylor Swift's legs that are insured for $20 million dollars."

  • Man i love your soothing, meditating videos. As a with anxiety and depression plagued person this really brings me back down to earth, i want to cry. It feels like home i guess. <3 Dude

  • Like Stories of Old, I have really enjoyed watching all your videos. They are well done, and explain concepts in realtivily simple terms with great examples. Keep up the amazing work. I look forward to seeing future videos.

  • What I enjoy most about Minecraft is exploring and conquering the wilderness and molding the landscape into my vision. I love making villages, filled with villagers and structures, and imagining their personalities.

  • The game was going to be an RPG, but they changed focus to continue as a sandbox game due to popular demand. Since then, it's never really grown in the way one might expect, considering years and years of engine rewrites. We're left with a product that feels clunky, unintuitive, and in no way represents all the marketing material used by Mojang, which is often created in animation software, or has shaders installed. The game is lifeless in comparison.

    Mod makers have spent years outshining Mojang with content that provides a more robust gameplay experience, and every time that Mojang has attempted to create their own variations of these things, they're always underwhelming and sub-par. In many ways, the game has gone backwards in terms of quality, such as in the controls and animations, which have never been as tight after 1.2.5. After years of significant internal development, they actually managed to make those aspects worse still. Modders continually show the potential of the existing code to add countless content additions and gameplay mechanics, and yet Mojang feels that every single version requires significant code changes and additions just to add a few new blocks here and there.

    Minecraft has always been a game I want to love, and at one point, perhaps I did. But I suppose its charm is diminished when you spend a few years under its hood, and see how an entirely new product could have been created with all the man hours spent to accomplish seemingly insignificant improvements. This is a far cry from the early development under Notch, who was delivering new content on a weekly basis. It was exciting to follow the development when it wasn't all corporate, where every decision now is scrutinized and calculated bureaucratically. Minecraft lost its soul long ago, and we're left with an idea more than an actual game.

  • Ahh, wonderful. I typically tune into his videos when I’m playing Minecraft, having a serene time and just exploring the game. When playing Minecraft I often feel devoid of stress or tension, which is precisely why I watch his videos

  • With this video you've articulated something I have felt unconsciously in extreme similarity since I first started playing this game back in 2012. Thank you! I would love to see Minecraft explore the themes you've brought up. The exploration of Minecraft's natural world and finding place in it are the elements I enjoy most in the game. Would love to see more of that too. 🙂

  • Love this, as well as many others you've done, like the one on the fountain and the other on ultimate purpose! I just recently picked Minecraft up again after a long break and discovered some really fantastic modders out there. My intention isn't to upvote mods on this discussion, I just want to mention some examples of mods I thought have played with the idea of a more reactive environment. I'll admit that they do also introduce even more 'conquests', but hey, I'm just dreaming here with you. Thaumcraft, for one, has the concept of 'taint,' thaumic tinkerer + botania has the aer fire cake reactor(Which makes me think of your Chernobyl Risk society video :0). If vanilla had those ecological concepts built in I'd be back in a heartbeat though!

  • Oh damn you do video games too?? Do Undertale! I just recently beat that game for the first time. It was a good experience. :))

  • Someone really needs to send this to Mojang. Insightful and beautiful, filled with great ideas like all LSOO videos. Thanks!

  • You do an incredible service to life on this planet. Thank you for this beautiful expression of mindful experience and creativity 🌱

  • Most of the things you mentioned are in Eco.
    I've never personally played the game, but I did watch gameplays.

    You have a fully interactive environment, where every move you make matters. However I think the game has an end point.

    To say that putting those kind of changes in Minecraft is unfeasible, would be an understatement.

    In order for your actions to matter, the world would need to be finite. (which is not the case in Minecraft)
    Every new change of that scale would increase the lag immensely.

    At most what they could do is something on the lines of, changing the Biomes based on Temperature and Irrigation.
    But putting toxins in the ground and having them transported over an unspecified distance, or having trees take out other competing trees, just doesn't seem doable.

  • Youtuber makes a video about something; Everyone wants the youtuber to talk about similar things that they themselves enjoy

  • Your videos always bring such a brilliant perspective on works of art. For a film like Interstellar, which I adore, you brought such nuance to the world and characters in a way I didn't think of. A video I would love to see covered is a game, probably up your street, called Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. It's a very emotional and psychological thrill to play.

  • Exterior environment effects nothing without the user's reaction. Base layer reality is subjective to each individual.

  • This is the problem I had with Skyrim. The choices you make with NPC'S have a degree of impact on the world of course. However, the obvious disconnect between the world and the player were all too apparent in other areas. If I attack the Jarl of Whiterun for example my only option to move forward in the world without going back to a previous save is too just spend time in prison and everyone treats you the exact same like nothing happened. NPC's not interacting with each other that feel like they should. Like being a Kajit and having Kajit fallowers in city's Kajit aren't supposed to be able to even enter! I know their are limits to video games but it's still annoying.

  • Destruction be nature or man-made is a key to progress. Destroying millions of creatures, viruses, environments, over the life span of the earth led to to us.

  • "You're playing in a world where there are different biomes, different animals, trees and water, there is gravity… Sort of" I just laughed out loud! So true.
    As usual, a great video, delivered in such a great, soothing way, talking in depth about a topic, with calm, intelligence & care. We need more people like you out in the world. I'll try to be like you a little more everyday.
    You take care, you great human being. <3

  • I'd also argue, that building practically is preferred over building beautifully when one does not want to enter godmode… that is sad because one can recreate everything in form but not function.

  • I get genuinely happy when you upload a video. This is one is great!
    I personally couldn't get enough of the Magician, Warrior, King, Lover series.

    Thank you for making these!

  • The last thing I would expect is Like Stories of Old making a video… on MINECRAFT???

    Of course, I should have known how creative you would become with a game such as Minecraft.

  • You should make a Kickstarter for a mod that implements this. Nothing too crazy but just "environmental vannila". I would back that in a heartbeat

  • I'm with ya on all your other videos. I cheer them. I tell others about them. Can't say the same here, however. Ontology – a philosophy-driven black hole misdirecting those seeking answers from unanswerable questions. I.e., a rough foundation for an argument that needs one heck of a leap toward ends which ultimately serve the 'gamer'. If only we could ask real farmers…

  • Something i have been thinking about is that humans enjoy pioneering. To what extent can we take this, video games give us new ways in which to pioneer. But our earth is a finite resource in which we can do this. What will happen when the resources of earth are exhausted to be pioneered. Clearly a virtual reality could be the answer but what does that mean for us exactly. Where does this all lead.

  • Ok you've sold me, where's the mod? I wanna play this version of minecraft so much. I never realized how much was potentially missing. I even kinda scoffed at the title of this video just because I already love the game so much and how could it be unfulfilled? I see it now, the little gaps, how I would slowly loose interest after a few months each time I came back again. After I'm set up what do I do? Having something to actually manage, like rotating crops or idk anything sounds fun.

  • Wow I always felt bad for putting animals in tight spaces with fences all around, and burning forests down, but this video took it to a whole other level, thanks Like Stories of Old for your analysis of Minecraft and it’s implications for how we view nature

  • 5:24 Actually there is,you get EXP for minining,smelting and pretty much killing any living creature,EXCEPT Villagers and Golems,since they are your allies,so I suppose that counts as some kind of moral system.

  • My life dream is to buy a land in a remote village, build farm live there untill i died, hopefully there is someone who wanted to company me lived there

  • That's a fascinating aspect I never would've considered. There's mods that kind of do things like that btw, like Thaumcraft whose magic activities cause flux to be released which can damage the local environment in ways. I'm not too knowledgeable about it but in the old versions, doing too much magic could cause a spreading plague that makes biomes dangerous to be in.

    Then there's Forestry in which you can breed bees which all react to environmental conditions such as the flowers around them and the climate.

    I could see there being a mod that does those things you mentioned, it'd be cool if it existed.

  • I love your thought provoking work LSOO. I always come away from your videos feeling like I’ve learned something of value, and will still be collecting my thoughts on a topic you’ve covered days from now.

    I would love to see your version of a possible Minecraft. Perhaps something that could be optional in the menu.

    I am somewhat sentimental, and I worry about the state of the world we’re leaving behind for our children to inherit. Cause and effect is something I observe on multiple levels and I feel that responsibility for one’s actions is key for us to become better people, both individually and collectively. This version of Minecraft could help us subconsciously develop a better sense of this, and possibly apply it to other aspects of life, like the way we treat others and how we may change the course of their lives like redirecting the course of a river, for better or worse or leaving little to no impact at all.

    To look back at a world as the sun sets and ponder if the decisions and actions we made that day will have expected or unexpected consequences that we are willing to take responsibility for and try to amend as best as we can if we were wrong.

  • haven't played since beta especially since I heard it got sold to microsoft… right there with ya, some dependencies in the environment and wildlife might make it spicier to play. linking biomes somehow maybe too. oh well, back then there were loads of mods, dunno about now. think I'll check how far the game has come since beta 😉 cheers mate

  • For me, the great thing about minecraft – in quite a contrary to your video – is the way it is changed by mods. I just love the open source idea of the mods, the "from players for players".

    Depending on the kind of mod you play, there are huge changes in the frames behind the game – bad wheather caused by the exploitation of certain resources, more effective vegan nutrition and stuff like that really do show a change concerning the underlying frames.

    But the thing you've imagined, a realistic depiction of a world with such a system of connections (in the extreme a realistic world model) is sadly nothing i've found in the moddings of minecraft so far (don't know if it's even technically possible ^^).

  • I can't really see how we can make a game without forcing the player to obey the moral laws. If I make a game where the animals love a tight space and don't even bother treated like rocks, doesn't that mean I force you to behave the way I want the game should be played? How is that different with the way you want Minecraft to become?

  • This is officially my FAVORITE CHANNEL.
    Dude if you continue to make videos on games you will tap into a HUGE target audience . I recommend you do videos on
    1-Skyrim
    2- Fallout
    3- Rust
    4 – and if you want Detroit become human , God of war , and Definitely Dark souls
    Btw, Anyone whos reading this and hasn’t played those games , DO IT NOW

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