Minecraft and Minds

The Secret Behind the World’s Most Successful Game

A howl of anguish split the air. It didn’t alarm me—with my kids, a quiet “oh!” was the sound that meant someone was going to need stitches—but all the same I went to check on the howler.

It was my younger son, typing frantically, the kitchen timer ticking down on his precious, strictly limited computer time.

“Mom!” he said desperately. “Please let me have more time! Sam accidentally left a bucket of lava in my living room, and the house burned down, and my hay was in it, and now my sheep are going to starve!”

Or something along those lines. The catastrophes varied, but so did the triumphs. It’s been awhile, now, but for two or three years my sons and their friends were obsessed with Minecraft – a computer game unlike any other.

Minecraft in a Nutshell

Visually Minecraft can be a bit underwhelming. Basically, players build things out of digital Lego-like blocks. But here’s why it’s compelling. Players have to cope with various realistic limitations (you have to procure building materials; you can acquire animals but they’ll starve without regular meals, as will you; other people/players might wander in and cause damage; lava is hot and will melt buckets), plus some unrealistic ones (zombies, creepers, and other monsters). Beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

You can engineer waterfalls and irrigation systems. You can design complex, multi-level structures (and if you forget to build stairs or doorways, you’re trapped and will starve). You can create booby-traps and moats to protect your property (though you’d better make sure your cows don’t fall in).

Some players create shockingly elaborate worlds. One of these worlds allows players living under real-world repressive regimes to make their voices heard.

The game is hugely successful. It’s the highest-selling video game of all time. It was created by one man over a weekend, shot to popularity, and then was sold to Microsoft five years after its inception for $2.5 billion dollars.

The Secret to Success

And, as Eric Holloway points out at Mind Matters, the key to the game’s popularity is its reliance on intelligent design theory. Holloway explains:

In most games, the information is only generated by the game designers. They set in place a rigid system that defines success and loss for the players. However, this is where Minecraft is different. The information is created by both the designer and the players. In this way the designer invites the players to be co-designers. Such an approach is almost completely unprecedented at the level that Minecraft provides.

.... Because Minecraft allows the players to co-create the information along with the original designer, there is unlimited appeal and value.

With Minecraft, “information is the game,” Holloway explains, and that’s where intelligent design theory comes in. Intelligent design theory says that when you’re talking about the components of the universe, in addition to (1) matter and (2) energy, there’s also (3) information.

Information Is a Real Thing

“Intelligent design theory (IDT) is a theory about information,” Holloway says. “It states that information is a thing in its own right.”

Our universe is awash in information. Pre-programmed information tells cells to divide and do myriad other things that, in their inter-related complexity, stun human engineers and physicians. Pre-programmed information instructs birds to migrate, honey bees to communicate by dancing, termites to build passive heating and cooling systems. The examples are too many to list. Information keeps the world turning.

That information didn’t develop from the physical components of matter and energy. To think it did is as silly as arguing that you could put bits of metal and plastic into a ziplock bag, shake it up—even for a million years—and end up with the code that runs your smartphone. Code is information. Information is a fundamentally different thing from matter and energy.

Where does information come from?


Minds Matter

“When we see information in the world around us,” Holloway writes, “we know that a mind is responsible. This mean that minds have a special creative power that is absent from the physical world.”

The implications may be troubling to those steeped in a materialistic worldview. Nevertheless, the evidence continues to accumulate. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Cosmos, writes at Newsweek:

Molecular biology has revealed the presence in living cells of an exquisite world of informational nanotechnology. These include digital code in DNA and RNA—tiny, intricately constructed molecular machines which vastly exceed our own digital high technology in their storage and transmission capabilities. And even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like” — implying, it would seem, the activity of a master programmer ... At the very least, the discoveries of modern biology are not what anyone would have expected from blind materialistic processes.

Only minds generate novel information. Only minds write code. Even AI that seems to have human-like conversations was itself programmed by programmers—intelligent designers.

Minecraft’s origin is in a mind, and the game is sustained through the contributions of mind.

So too the world of flesh and blood and bone.

Further Reading:

PhD, is an editor for the Discovery Institute and the author of four dystopian novels and many shorter works, both fiction and non-fiction. Before turning to editing, she taught as an adjunct English and humanities professor. She and her husband homeschooled their three children.

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