The Theological Reason Why Minecraft is so Addictive

Minecraft IconI set out today to write a paper for one of the classes I’m taking.  Instead, I played Minecraft.  Reflecting back on why this happened, I came up with a number of reasons: the engaging gameplay, the open-ended ultimate “sandbox” feel, the awesomely retro look.

But there’s a theological reason, too.

If you go back and read Genesis 1-2, you discover something interesting.  When God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden of Eden, it doesn’t say it was perfect in the “this is so good, it can never change because to change would be to lessen its goodness” way (i.e., the typical Greek philosophical way of looking at “perfection”).  Instead, it was “good”, even “very good”!  But even at the beginning, before the fall, human beings were given a job to do.

They were to care for creation.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

Adam and Eve were given a task by their maker: subdue the earth and have dominion over it.  Now, this is not a “lording it over, I’ll do what I want with it when I want” kind of dominion.  Instead, it’s ruling it as a wise and just leader.  In short, we are to act as God to the rest of creation around us.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  We’re not God.  We’re created, not the Creator.  We have limits.  But working within those limits, we are wired to find joy in caring for, structuring, and interacting with the world around us.

And this is what Minecraft lets me do.

Think about it.  In Minecraft, there is no developer-defined goal.  You simply take the raw materials you find (mine) and reorganize them, re-form them (craft), into something new and fun and cool.  You can’t create something out of nothing.  Instead, you work within the limits of the game (unless you inventory hack … cheaters), and it’s a joyful experience.  I play it because in some way, I’m getting to do what I’ve been wired by my Creator to do.

Now, Minecraft is just a simulation – a simulacra, as my more-educated friends might say; it’s not the real thing.  It’s giving me a quick and easy way to experience caring for creation without actually caring for creation.  This said, we ought to be careful not to sacrifice the real thing for an emulation.  Yet, the sheer fun and joy and addictiveness of this kind of game can serve to remind us of what it means to be human – what God our Maker has made us to be.

Note: I’ll be honest, some of these ideas about what it means to be human – what it means to delight in our creatureliness – I got from interactions over the last couple years with Dr. Charles Arand, a prof at the Seminary who penned the amazing CTCR document Together With All Creatures. If you’re interested in learning more about a theology of creation, check out his document or head on over to his blog, listed in the sidebar.

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