But that's really a non answer, the question then is of course why I enjoy it and that's not all that easy to answer, I'd have to figure it out myself first.
I'd say it's probably because I'm getting a mix of calm predictability mixed with periods of hectic unpredictability.
I do a lot of mining, I find it peaceful but still exciting, I can clear my mind and listen to YouTube debate shows while digging along finding iron and coal, redstone and lapis and then suddenly diamonds, it's like winning the lottery! Even when I get to the point where I have more diamonds than I could ever use I enjoy the feeling when I find some more.
And then I hear the mob noises and know there's a cave nearby, so I dig up and dig around to the sides until I find it and I get the excitement of fighting mobs and exploring, hoping there's a dungeon or something else interesting.
Basically I'd say it's an emotional roller coaster where almost no matter what mood I'm in I can find something to do that fits it.
…which simply raises the question: why is playing MC fun and relaxing?
MC (at least the way I play it, others will be different) is a combination infintite block set and problem solving game where one sets oneself the problems.
The block set aspect (Lego® sets being the most common 'brick and mortar' analogy) lets one have the fun of building things without the need to take them down at the end of the play session. At least occassionally, I've also had the enjoyment of returning to a build and finding it came out well.
As an exercise in problem solving, how to go about building a thing (often, but not always, involving redstone) provides enjoyable mental exercise.
Again the expense of materials is non-existant.
The ability to set oneself problems (rather than having to react to what the game foists upon one) is also very attractive.
MC has an aditional advantage in that (given my current circumstances) the 'kid key' [AKA the ESC-key] allows far more time to be devoted to the game than would be available for shop work or something similar. [The lack of uninterrupted blocks of time being the main reason I don't do SMP.]
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WARNING: I have an extemely "grindy" playstyle; YMMV — if this doesn't seem fun to you, mine what you can from it & bin the rest.
I play Minecraft because of a sense of nostalgia, but also a mixture of other things. As I had gotten it at a time when I actually still had friends IRL, At the time it was a big game for me and my friend. I got it when Survival was just getting into Beta. I didn't know of any servers, but at the time I didn't need any. I'd make my own Minecraft world and my friend would make his own on the same account. We'd take turns. An hour or so on my world with him watching, then an hour of him playing his world with me watching. It was a decent experience, but once the ability to host a game of LAN, my friend got his own account so we could play together. I even remember when popular texture packs like Painterly Pack by Rhodox was still updated, and all the different custom options for texture in that pack. That and we didn't have the whole Snapshot deal. When an update came out, that was it. No 'pre-release' or snapshots. Although updates were frequent and always added at least something new. Which was fun.
Nowadays I play Minecraft for nostalgia, but also nowadays it's an easy game to get into and just play. It's nice and relaxing. I can make a single player world and do what I want. I can go into a creative world and mess around. Build stuff, or just fly around and watch the world as it generates. Or go into survival and play a relaxing and not super intense survival game. That with the ability to just stop playing at any time with no real punishments at all is also a really good reason to play.
Servers are also plentiful and easy to find (you can find servers people host here on the forums, Planet Minecraft, or other sites dedicated to it) so it can be easy to just go in and try many servers before finding the right one for you to go back often. That and due to how calm and not as hectic Minecraft can be, I actually don't mind talking to others on a server through chat. Which in other games can be a death sentence in-game as stopping to type can be rough. Minecraft often isn't like that on servers.
Not to mention how Minecraft is a big open sandbox of a game, meaning everyone can go do things differently.
I started off playing Minecraft by pure chance really. Saw it pop up on some of the old message boards I used to frequent about this new game still in development etc. Decided to give it a go (it was like $10AUD back then, maybe not even that) and see what the fuss was about. There wasn't much to it at all back then (Indev / Infdev / Alpha) but it had the potential.
Would always stop playing for a few months and come back to new features. Would binge watch old YouTube people like Coe's Quest to get ideas on how I could play myself. Started up multiple fun little servers with friends (mixture of pure vanilla and then even some more modded Bukkit servers).
Took a solid break off and have been hard into it again recently with all the changes. I've always played purely as it's a great game you can pick up, do something, put down without having to invest hours into a single session to feel you've achieved anything.
My daughter also loves it so it helps that its an additional game we can play together
I really feel the opposite, that the game gets better the longer you play, but YMMV.
Oh absolutely! If you're just starting out on a new play it takes some time to get into a rhythm, but once you've got to a certain point (not even that far in) you can manage to get a lot done in short sessions (30-60 minutes as an example) if you've got a bunch of pre-planning done already.
I started playing for the 'survival' elements, new updates, community content (mods, adventure maps, texturepacks/resourcepacks).
I have stuck with mods mostly, I very rarely join servers but I do know Minecraft is fun with friends no matter how you play the game survival, creative, mods and both of those things, adventure maps.
There is a lot of fun to be had, sometimes (depending on the area your taking a lot at) learning is needed especially with community content like mods, datapacks (like mods but different), adventure maps. And that's in the more installing of mods/datapacks/adventure or actions to complete tasks sort of way more so for adventure maps.
New updates for Java Edition is fun, but other versions, while I haven't used many (only the Xbox 360/Xbox One and Vita versions), its still fun if you have the ideas behind it. But as a mostly Java Edition player I like the community content, the bug reporting/content testing these days over what I used to do and sometimes still do. Is play with Technology mods, compared to RPG/Adventure/Dimension stuff or just quality of life or small tweaks mods that add HUDs or helpful little things.
It depends on what your into or what sounds intriguing to you really.
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'Niche Community Content Finder' for fun and support of creators. I just swim through my 'Experimentation Pond' of content that intrigues me or really needs a bit of acknowledgement or bug fix testing/reporting.
Creator/Maintainer of Fabric, Rift & Tesla Mod Discussion Threads/Niche Mod Youtuber.
Minecraft is infinite fun and creativity for me. I play Minecraft because of all of the things you can do. The challenges Minecraft can throw at you can be absolutely fun or difficult, depending on how well you tackle with them. But like most others, I play because of the community. People make new mods, maps, texture packs, servers and more all the time. Minecraft really has been, is and will be my favorite game.