Minecraft Became So Big Because It's Extremely Popular With Girls & Women -- Another Reason Why the Game Industry Needs to Solve Its Sexism Problem

Microsoft bought Minecraft creator Mojang for $2.5 billion (as Iris just blogged), and here's a photo which explains a key reason why it went for billions:

Minecraft slumber party girlsMaddy, Hannah, along with Lola Dibbell (left to right) playing Minecraft on mobile

These are girls playing Minecraft at their slumber party, and even though one of them, Lola, is the daughter of Julian Dibbell, who's wrote a number of acclaimed books on gaming, they are actually very typical Minecraft players: As I reported a couple years ago, according to Google stats, the Minecraft site gets far more female visitors, than male. (Notably, Mojang's lead business developer was surprised -- and skeptical! -- by this fact when I told them.)

But yes, see the screengrab from Google Ad Planner for yourself:

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Microsoft, Minecraft and Mojang: Here's How to Make Sense of Microsoft's $2.5B Purchase

Minecraft Kokeshi
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

After some speculation, it's official: Microsoft has purchased voxel-based sandbox game Minecraft for $2.5 billion. Maybe that makes perfect sense to you and maybe it doesn't. This past weekend as we discussed the massive purchase, my mother asked my why on earth Microsoft would want to buy Minecraft for anything approaching that much money. My answer? That it might be better to think of it in terms of why a company might want to buy Barbie or Lego. They're monolithic brands; highly recognizable, widely available and beloved by huge swathes of customers, both young and old. There are already teenagers who look at Minecraft with nostalgia right alongside people experiencing it for the very first time. It's a cultural touchstone.

But there's more to it than that. If you break this purchase down into its most basic economic terms, as analyst Michael Pachter did at GamesBeat 2014, it makes perfect sense. Polygon's Owen Good has picked the juiciest bits out of Pachter's comments on Microsoft's acquisition of Minecraft, and summarizes the issue succinctly:

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Microsoft, Which Once Considered Buying Second Life, Reportedly in Final Talks to Buy Minecraft for $2B Instead

Minecraft machinima

Microsoft is reportedly in final talks to buy Minecraft creator Mojang, a source tells the Wall Street Journal, for more than $2 billion. (About the price Facebook paid for Oculus Rift!) That would be an epic rise for Mojang founder Markus Persson who I interviewed almost exactly four years ago, back when Minecraft was still an obscure online sandbox building game, and Persson was cobbling it together with a four person team.

Also almost exactly four years ago, it's worth noting: Microsoft was rumored to be making "overtures" to purchase Linden Lab, creator of that other online sandbox building game, Second Life. (The rumor was never officially confirmed, but many months after the fact, some insiders confirmed to me a Microsoft overture of some kind had been made.)

Why did Microsoft pass on Second Life but looks to be buying Minecraft? Short version of the likeliest factors:

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Live Dance/Music Performance in Minecraft with Users From 3 Countries Simulcast in San Francisco & Vancouver Cafes

There’s lots of virtual art in Second Life, but can Minecraft also be turned into platform for creating new works of online artistry? DC Spensley, a Bay Area-based artist widely known in Second Life for his live SkyDance performances, recently orchestrated a live performance on a Minecraft server. Behold MineOpticon, shown simultaneously in Vancouver and San Francisco:

“[I] figured that when horses came out in Minecraft,” Spensley tells me, “it would be good to respond with something quirky… This illustrates what I mean about being somewhat agnostic about which virtual world I use.”

To pull this show off, Spensley’s collaborators logged into a Minecraft server from literally all over the world, for both the rehearsal and the live show:

Minecraft dance

“MineOpticon performers were in California, Florida, Vancouver and Manahattan. Like any virtual world they logged on from their location to rehearse for many months before the shows. The technical director Bill Cruikshank (Jesting Rabbit) logged in from Australia and our composer (Yagiz Mungan from Turkey via Purdue University) just happened to be in SF on a job.”

The differences between Second Life and Minecraft as an artist’s plaform? DC Spensley tells me both have their advantages and disadvantages:

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Here's What it Takes to Build a 1KB Hard Drive in Minecraft

Cody Littley's 1 KB Minecraft Hard Drive
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Polygon's Charlie Hall recently posted a video tour of one of the most mind-blowing Minecraft builds I've ever seen. As Hall floats through and around an ingeniously made 1 KB hard drive that exists entirely within Minecraft, its creator Cory Littley walks both him and the viewer through its meticulous construction.

Littley's hard drive (like the Minecraft calculators and such that have come before it) relies on redstone, an item in the game that conducts a current used to power various devices. In my experience, redstone's simplest applications are easy enough to wrap your head around. If all you need are a few lamps, powered rail cars, or maybe an automatic door it's not hard to get a handle on how to use it, but things get exponentially more complicated the larger and more intricate your project is. That's what makes Littley's hard drive so incredibly impressive, even if it's barely big enough to hold the text of this post.

Don't just take my word for it: Watch the tour for yourself on Polygon.

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Cubic Castles: A Free-to-Play Sandbox MMO That's Like Minecraft, but...

Cubic-castles
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Minecraftbut. That's the term that Rock, Paper, Shotgun's Alice O'Connor recently coined (in the same vein as roguelike) to save us all from having to say "It's like Minecraft, but..." one more lousy time. It might just be my favorite piece of gaming shorthand since "Abilitease".

Cubic Castles (a new free-to-play game that you can snag on Steam, the iOS App Store or straight from their website) is one such Minecraftbut, with an emphasis on building, crafting, puzzle platforming, and easily shared massively-multiplayer worlds. The problem with writing about Minecraftbut's is that defining one thing based largely on how it's different from that other thing is a difficult and often unhelpful way to explain any thing. There's a comparison to be made... But it's much better just to see the thing in action for yourself.

With that in mind, I did a dreadfully unprofessional (it's been a loooong week, you guys) stream of Cubic Castles earlier today so I could share the experience with you. Check it out:

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What's at the Root of Racism and Sexism in Minecraft Communities?

Minecraft Skin Racism
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

This week Christopher Long posted an interesting article over on Medium about the experience he went through with his daughter. She went from playing Minecraft Pocket Edition on her iPod to dipping her toes into PC multiplayer servers, and parental conversations about online safety and discretion turned to conversations about racism and misogyny as she engaged with other players who had less than appropriate things to say about the girly, dark-skinned avatar she'd chosen for herself.

These moments are now part of coming of age in a plugged-in world, but I doubt that their experiences will take many Minecraft fans in particular by surprise. Here's why:

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Minecraft's New Terrain Modification Will be a Welcome Addition for Explorers, Modders, and Mapmakers Alike

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Yesterday Mojang released a preview of a very significant change coming to Minecraft version 1.8: World customization. While players can already specify (and share) seeds, modify basic map features, and of course terraform manually the new world customization options will offer access to a broad range of variables to fine tune a newly generated world to suit their needs.

That said, it will be modders and map-makers in particular who will get the most out of the new terrain modification system. Tailoring a map to suit your needs when you're developing an adventure/challenge-oriented experience to share with others currently involves a lot of painstaking work, literally done one block at a time. These new tools will streamline that process so custom mapmaking will be a little less arduous and a lot more fun.

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Sandbox Summit: Don't Miss The Latest and Greatest Ideas in Educational Gaming (Even if You're Not There in Person)

Sandbox Summit
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you're into that sweet spot where gaming and education intersect, the hashtag to watch right now is #sandboxsummit14. There you'll be able to see live reactions to talks and workshops being conducted at MIT's Sandbox Summit, an annual get together for educators and scholastically-minded developers alike. The event runs today and tomorrow, and  just because you're not there in person doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two from afar (thanks to social networking and streaming video.)

In this case "gaming" isn't limited to video games, either. One of the most interesting topics so far (if Twitter is any indication) has been The World Peace Game, a massive tabletop game in which an entire class can wage war and peace, and gain a better grasp of the effects of both. 

You'll eventually be able to view videos of this year's talks on the Sandbox Summit website, but until then keep your eyes on Twitter, and check out recorded talks from the 2013 summit here.

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Top 5 Games Beyond Second Life - NWN Readers' Choice

Guild Wars 2 Bees
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Let no one say that Second Life users aren't still gamers through and through. Last week I asked you what your favorite games are, and I'll admit that the enthusiastic response that followed here, in Plurk, and in my inbox took me completely by surprise. Some of your picks were just as surprising, too.

So what are the top five games New World Notes' readers love to play (outside of the metavese, of course)? You'll find out after the jump!

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