The New York Times Built Its Own 'Minecraft' World

Here's why that's such a cool thing.

It's been a long time since "Minecraft" could rightfully be known as that weird new computer game your kids are obsessed with. The game turns 7 this year, and over 23 million people have bought the PC and Mac versions -- with thousands more joining every single day.

Begin typing "my kid is obsessed with..." into Google, and "Minecraft" comes right up, just behind "guns." Articles about its educational potential now verge on cliché. But The New York Times Magazine has attempted something new in its latest cover story, published online Thursday with the title "The Minecraft Generation." Not only does the outlet take a deep dive into the game's rich history and unique components — it's created a "Minecraft" world for readers to explore.

"'Minecraft' is a pretty unusual video game," Clive Thompson, a well-known tech writer who authored the feature, told The Huffington Post. "All the experts I've spoken to have remarked on how it gets kids doing all sorts of cognitively and socially complex things. There's a lot of mental arithmetic and visualization that goes into building something complex, and a ton of experimentation, trial-and-error and tolerance for failure."

Like so many things that children latch onto, though -- the X-Men comic books that are actually about racial and sexual discrimination, whatever the heck is going on in Pee-wee's Playhouse -- the overall point can be lost on parents who just view it as another diversion.

"If you start messing around with 'redstone' [in 'Minecraft'] you're basically playing around with logic. This stuff is really powerful in requiring kids to think in complex, difficult modes," Thompson said. "If you're a parent who doesn't know how Minecraft works, though, it can just look like your child is... playing a video game. It can be hard to see all the interesting stuff that's going on."

Think what you will about the game, but the magazine feature is maybe the best way yet to fully understand, with no prior knowledge, why it's significant for so many people. 

For example, while you may see your child's avatar shooting arrows at a friend, you may not understand all the work that went into the creation of the weapon. Thompson explains: 

One day last fall, I visited Gus, a seventh ­grader in Brooklyn. He was online with friends on a server they share together, engaging in boisterous gladiatorial combat. I watched as he typed a command to endow himself with a better weapon: “/give AdventureNerd bow 1 0 {Unbreakable:1,ench:[{id:51,lvl:1}],display:{Name:“Destiny”}}.” What the command did was give a bow-­and-­arrow weapon to AdventureNerd, Gus’s avatar; make the bow unbreakable; endow it with magic; and name the weapon Destiny, displayed in a tag floating over the weapon. Gus had plastered virtual sticky-­notes all over his Mac’s desktop listing the text commands he uses most often. Several commands can be packed into a “command block,” so that clicking on the block activates them, much as clicking on a piece of software launches it.

Of course, criticisms abound over "Minecraft" obsessions: The game's not all good, necessarily. Some allege it doesn't encourage true "unstructured play," for example, thereby limiting a child's creativity.

If you'd like to see what it's all about for yourself, though, The New York Times' new world might be a good place to start. The publication worked with Hypixel, a group that constructs "Minecraft" levels, to showcase what's possible in the game. It's hard to get a full sense of the game just through the level the Times built, which contains a sort of roller-coaster ride that moves the player forward, but you'll see some pretty creative structures built using in-game materials.

Once you've read the article, you can log onto the Times' map by following these steps:

  • Go to to buy and download the game, if you don't already own it (it costs $26.95).

  • Once the download is complete, open Minecraft and select "Play."

  • Choose "Multiplayer" mode.

  • Click on “Direct Connect” and type in this server address: