Video games are becoming increasingly costly to produce. New games are developed like movies, with script writers, voice actors, special effects gurus, directors and producers all working on multimillion dollar projects. Release dates mirror opening weekends – success hinges on the sales volume of that week, and whole companies can fold thanks to a single bad day. Then you have the independent arm of the business. The 100,000 Euro price tag of Angry Birds would barely purchase a single Modern Warfare map, but that didn’t prevent it from selling over 12 million copies through Apple products. Cheaper games are harder to develop because they don’t have the sheer manpower to throw at the work, which makes their success that much more sweet. The latest independent success that you have to be living in a deep hole to have not heard of is Minecraft, a blocky building game that is part Legos and part “Night of the Living Dead.” Since it went into Beta (the buggy, pre-release version of a game) over a year ago, Minecraft has sold over 14 million copies, been ported to Android devices, confirmed an Xbox release date early next year and finally released a finished version to the PC market just last month. The premise of the game is simple. You start in a world made out of cubes. Each cube is half as tall as you. When you punch things, they break up into blocks that you can use to make other things. Punch the hell out of some trees and you get wood. Turn that wood into an axe – trees are easier to cut down than to punch down. Make a pick and start digging down and eventually you’ll start finding coal, iron, diamonds and redstone – an energy producing dust that powers the machines of Minecraft. Collect enough wood, stone and other material and you can build the castle of your dreams. Blocks you pick up can be placed back into the world, giving you the ability to create absolutely anything you can think of. In the first world I created, a tall cobblestone tower overlooks a well-manicured park, full of Chinese pagodas, fish ponds and rock gardens. Redstone adds technology, letting you create automatic sliding doors, minecart roller coasters and mood lighting. But it was lonely. Creating worlds is fun, but it is much better if someone gets to see them, which is why Minecraft’s server functionality is so important to its success. A quick search on YouTube presents a huge number of results. Whole cities have been created by piles of industrious people. One server hosts a reproduction of Hogwarts; another has a model of the Statue of Liberty. Even the largest, most elaborate sandbox game gets boring after a while if there isn’t any drama, and this is where Survival Mode comes into play. Survival mode pits the player against the environment, something that seems nice and peaceful – pastoral even – until the sun sets. That’s when the creepers come out. Monsters spawn in the dark, which makes getting torches before the end of day one is crucial to your survival. When night strikes, spiders and zombies come crawling out. Skeletons wield bows that can fire long distances – and they’re damn good shots. Creepers are silent killers that try and sneek up behind you. If you hear the hiss of a burning fuse, run. As soon as they get close… BANG, they explode and try and take you with them. Then there are the Endermen, a race of monster based on the slendermen stories of northern Europe. Imagine coming out of a series of caverns that you’ve been lost in for hours. You reach the surface just after nightfall and you can see the welcoming torches from your home a long way in the distance. Across the valley you see movement and you turn towards it. As soon as you can see it, it turns towards you, staring, watching, waiting. It isn’t doing anything, so you turn to move on. When you look away, it disappears, then reappears directly beside you, immediately reaching out with its long arms to strangle the life out of you before dinner. If that weren’t enough, there is also a nether level full of lava and fire. The final release added a third level, The End, that is full of Endermen worshipping a dragon that can only be hurt by heavily enchanted weapons. And that dragon, well, he just wants to eat you.