Mining data from Minecraft

PAX 2011: Ph.D. student surveys players of Mojang's Minecraft, focuses on its phenomenal success and influence on gamer culture.

Who was there: Alex Leavitt, a Ph.D. student at the Annenberg School of Communication.

What he talked about: Minecraft has spread across the Internet like wildfire. Not as quick as this fire, but it was fast nonetheless. Because of the game's unique situation, Leavitt is using Minecraft as a focal point for his research on game culture. While the popularity of Mojang's game can be credited to platforms like YouTube, the panel wasn't about why Minecraft was popular, but rather was about how a game that has players punching trees has influenced game culture.

First things first: Punch a tree.

He explained that the phenomenon is not just about a game, but about the experience in the game and the emotional connection players form with the community that builds around them. Approaching the topic from a media studies communication perspective, Leavitt broke it down into three parts: popularity, community, and development. From there, he also touched on the topics of networks, platforms, and open source.

In a recent questionnaire, he was able to learn more about the Minecraft player. While 90 percent of the respondents were male, he acknowledged that this was not an accurate representation of the network at large. Regardless, he said it was interesting to see what heavily engaged players were doing with the game.

He also believed that open source is the future of game culture, citing Minecraft as an example. The ability to modify the game has given people reason to continue to play. He stated that only 20 percent of respondents have played Minecraft without the use of any mod.

With the help of YouTube, Minecraft went viral, and the popularity shot up quickly within just a few months. The developer, Markus "Notch" Persson, was making $250,000 a day from the fast sales. Leavitt described it as a global phenomenon, especially when looking at the demographic of players. Showing a chart that lists countries that are heavily invested in the game, it appears that Minecraft is most popular in Norway, Australia, and Denmark, with Sweden coming in fourth. The United States is in eighth.

Leavitt talked about how a network of players is not the same as a community and that Minecraft's popularity is due to the large network (with communities forming from within). There are players that are sharing information on the Web via the Minecraft wiki, as well as other groups who share walkthroughs, tours, and other videos on YouTube. Information sharing is big, according to Leavitt, and an example that was used was Fallout: New Vegas. Within a week of release in 2010, New Vegas had a wiki built by 2.5 million users who collectively invested thousands of hours.

Group photo from GameSpot's Minecraft Game Night.

According to Leavitt's survey sample, one-third of the participants had heard about Minecraft through friends, and another third learned about it by watching online videos. The visibility of the game increased due to this network that was connected on YouTube. The video sharing site was a commentary center and helped popularize the game by allowing players to share solutions, walkthroughs, and house tours. In August of 2010, there were roughly 4,000 videos about Minecraft on YouTube. As of today, roughly 1.9 million videos appear during a search for the game.

Leavitt noted that by letting players do what they want by modifying the game, Notch essentially has millions of play testers. It also extends the longevity of the game for people because they can play it any way they want to.

To wrap up the panel, Leavitt summarized that the future of game culture is about participation. By participating in the network, whether it's done by creating mods or broadcasting videos, users will ultimately shape the experience of the game.

Takeaway: Minecraft's popularity was due to multiple factors. The emerging game culture (video sharing, wikis, modding) that surrounds Minecraft ultimately helped make the game as popular as it is today.

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46 comments
cjtopspin
cjtopspin

Simply put this game is Legos for adults. And what made Legos so fun as a kid makes this game just as fun for adults.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

@Gelugon_baat They deleted every single negative review so the reasons for deleting mine are irrelevant. If you weren’t such an apologist for Gamespot you would have addressed that point also.

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

@emanwell [quote]Seriously, minecraft looks so simplistic, why should I ever bother trying this game?[/quote] I wrote a review saying that I thought it would be ideal for people with learning difficulties because it was so simplistic but Gamespot deleted it. Then again they deleted all the negative reviews which says a lot about their impartiality.

Blank2k2
Blank2k2

Must admit I never saw the attraction to Minecraft until recently where i tried it co-op style with a friend of mine, dangerously addictive fun. But, it only lasted a few days before we got bored as once we'd built our fortress of doom there wasn't much else to do other than wipe it out & start over, which we didn't want to do... would of much prefered to defend it from hoards of mobs or something, but I personally never found any functions to defend my castle other than luring mobs, some random invasions etc would of made it much longer lived in my case But from a creative standpoint, brilliant game.

swmeek
swmeek

It's an awesome game !

Reyveign
Reyveign

@jasonzilla11 If you want to buy Minecraft, you had best get it before it's out of beta. The price is lower now... It'll go up once it's officially released.

DitchyJ
DitchyJ

I believe the games that are destined to sell well nowadays is those that have the following: 1) Free Roam 2) Survival Elements 3) Random 4) Complete Customization in game/out (mods) 5) Multiplayer Probs pretty obvious, but you look at all games like minecraft, and how well they do e.g. terraria. For me they give me some sort of endorphine release whenever I discover something randomly generated, build on it then survive around it...even more so when with friends. The mods just add to the fun, even if some of them are a pain in the arse to get working :)

jedediahpelland
jedediahpelland

Well what can you say.... Minecraft is awesome, Ive got my own server my freinds and I play on and we are addicted. I remember watching my friend at work play for months and thinking nothing of it, then I started watching some youtube vids and the more I watched the more I wanted it, finally bought it and couldnt be happier. Oh and @jasonzilla11, if you buy it now, you will be buying the full version also, you will continue to get updates including the final release. Its $20 if you buy it now during beta.

Raykuza
Raykuza

@MJ12-Conspiracy Since when has analysis and exploration of a medium ever made it worse? It's good to learn more about what makes a game good (it's good to learn more period). It's how we make more good games. Introspection is a good thing!

h3rb
h3rb

hahahaha "This Fire".

ziproy
ziproy

"Persson, was making $250,000 a day" is the sole reason why Bethesda is suing them for the use of the word "Scroll"

thebanewolf
thebanewolf

@MJ12-Conspiracy The devil's in the details

MJ12-Conspiracy
MJ12-Conspiracy

Why does there have to be a scientific reason why this particular game is so popular? While were at it why not analyze COD or Battlefield or half a dozen other games How did WOW get so big? I think why Minecraft got so popular is simply it is unique and daring with it's visual look as well as the experience of the game strikes a chord with people deeper than just shooting stuff.

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

@Willy105 It costs less than Minecraft. Not a whole lot, but still costs less. That's why I bought it instead. :D But I still really want Minecraft, it looks so awesome. :D

Sophia
Sophia

@Mega_Loser - Everyone's invited... you just have to check the Game Night union or the Community Blog to see when they're scheduled.

kennykenlive87
kennykenlive87

minecraft? what is this game and how do i play it

Mega_Loser
Mega_Loser

there was a gamespot's minecraft game night? i wish i was invited.

Sir-Chibi
Sir-Chibi

I can kind of see why minecraft isnt as popular in america as it is in place like norway or sweden. What I find is that the majority of americans (like myself) play action games or sports games and where we find instant gratification in the game. I think minecrafts popularity depends on the countrys lifestyle. :/

ThetaRex
ThetaRex

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

TevoxZi
TevoxZi

@Evarod48 As much as I like Minecraft, I hate to say that's taking things way too far. People can have imagination whether they like Minecraft or not, building things isn't all about imagination, it's also the motivation. Also, one can like a game and one might not, it's all a matter of opinion. People are creative in their own ways, utilizing one's imagination, but making a general statement like that is just ridiculous.

grgcucu
grgcucu

I DO like minecraft. I DON'T like persson.

demondogx
demondogx

@Frame_Dragger just started replaying half life 2 and that game still beats most mordern day games one of the thing that i especially like is the ai intelligence hiding for cover,throwing grenades to get you out of cover, running away from cover if you throw a grenade at them while in some games they just stand there and let you kill them that just makes a game so mutch more fun also then when you have stupid ai's that stend in the open and let you blow them up :)

Megavideogamer
Megavideogamer

I've never played Minecraft. Not because it is a bad game it is just not my time of game.

josephtdavey
josephtdavey

I love minecraft, I'm just extremely bad at it XD

demondogx
demondogx

what for me is great about minecraft is that it focus more on the fun of the game then the graphics to many games lately that focus way to mutch on ground breaking graphics while the game itself is just completely boring with lack of good story even tho minecraft doesent really have a stoy surviving on some island is more of a story then the crap most new games make up and most important lack of originality most new games lately all have things we have done a hundred times before

Xeogua
Xeogua

I still need to buy this game.

Reyveign
Reyveign

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

necorid
necorid

@terrascythe The version for Xperia play was released recently. It's more akin to the classic mode than the actual survival mode.

Evarod48
Evarod48

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Evarod48
Evarod48

people that don't like minecraft lack an imagination

terrascythe
terrascythe

Minecraft is still beta, the actual game releases in November this year and will be available on iPad and Droid. No word on cost yet... "Notch" would like to thank the millions of users who donated $20 and volunteered hundreds of hours to help fund and develop this game. Truely an interesting phenomena.

Sophia
Sophia

@MrPepino000 - There is one, but it's only up during Game Nights. You could join the Minecraft Union, they have one up and running.

selbie
selbie

More games should follow this structure of development. Release early game builds to the public and let the feedback guide the development.

egdekaron09
egdekaron09

punching tress, digging holes, running away from mobs, and creating a Building makes minecraft cool i wish they add a traveling house (Flying House, House on wheel, sailing house, etc..)

ZeroX91
ZeroX91

Its simplistic nature is part of its appeal, its like legos but you never lose the pieces, not everything has to be complex to be fun.

emanwell
emanwell

Seriously, minecraft looks so simplistic, why should I ever bother trying this game?

MrPepino000
MrPepino000

Go Minecraft! When is Gamespot gonna make a Minecraft server?

NeilCardiff
NeilCardiff

"Minecraft's popularity was due to multiple factors. The emerging game culture (video sharing, wikis, modding) that surrounds Minecraft ultimately helped make the game as popular as it is today." You mean fanboy hype.

omore
omore

Waiting for 1.8 and 1.9.

Willy105
Willy105

Minecraft is awesome. A lot of the results of this study makes sense, and I believe it based on what I have seen. @jasonzilla11 You got Terraria, and that costs money too.

jasonzilla11
jasonzilla11

Wish I could get Minecraft, but it costs money. :( But I got Terraria in the meantime, and then when Minecraft releases, Imma gonna get it. :D