Its not because Minecraft's position as a game is a weak one. To the contrary, Minecraft is a great example of a straightforward gaming experience. What makes Minecraft's appeal so difficult for some people to grasp is not that it lacks any elements of a game, but rather that so much of Minecraft's game is dependent on the player using the tools of the game to create something that is wholly their own.
The ability of game to allow players to create and build in their own way is one of the things that truly sets games apart from any other medium of entertainment. Outside of a few exceptions such as Tabletop gaming, much of the entertainment media consumed today is a static experience. You go to see a newly released movie and nothing you do or say in the theater will have any affect towards what transpires on screen (aside from possibly getting you thrown out). Books, music, and other forms of entertainment are largely the same way: What you see is what you get. While nothing is wrong with this at all (such a style is needed in order to broaden worldviews and promote ideas) games have a rare gift in the ability to let the player make choices, ranging from simple to grand. While some games play out similar to movies with predetermined courses of action, some of the best loved and often most played games succeeding today are those that let you be the one to make a choice in some form or another.
|Choosing skills to compliment your style helped make Borderlands a more gripping experience|
Other games offer a different route. One of the most advertised and best loved features of Bioware's Mass Effect series is how the players choices, moral and otherwise, snowball through the games plots. A minor character slighted in some small way can come back to be a very big problem later on, or the same character treated well may choose to help you. Players are given the choices of how to respond to each and every request in the game, and what they choose builds not only their characters reputation, but also the world in which the game takes place, modifying the plot and even having major ramifications on characters in the story. These moments of creative freedom draw in the player because they begin to feel emotionally invested in the characters and events, not because they enjoy them, but because they are the ones responsible for them in the first place.
|They are manly. They are mine.|
Ultimately, giving players even a small amount of creative freedom extends the lifetime of a game many times over that of games without some form of customization. Whether its the freedom to build your own worlds or cities, customize your characters weapons and skills, or even just adding a new coat of paint, giving players the freedom to change a part of their gaming experience makes the game less the developers and makes it more something of the players. This in turn attaches the players more firmly to the game and extends the life of the game for both the players and the developers. While a game doesn't always need to have the element of creative choice (after all, many titles have enjoyed long and successful runs without giving one bit of choice to the player), creative choice can be a determining factor in the success of a game over a long period of time.