2009 ~ An obscure Swedish game developer by the name of Markus came across the idea largely by accident; drawing inspiration from the voxel-based system off 'Infiniminer,' another Indie Game centered around combat, he created what would ultimately become 'Cave Game.' Originally intended as an RPG of some sort, Perrson posted videos of the game's development, and took feedback from forums in the development process. He eventually quit his job to focus full time on the game as sales increased, and hired more programmers, creating the beginnings of Mojang Studio. Updates to the game were free, and from the start, development was focused on community feedback and trying new ideas. Origins such as this would prove crucial, as the game almost unknowingly began to pioneer new territory.
In 2011, the beta version of Minecraft released. Around the same time, Jens Bergensten, a Mojang Employee, became the lead creative director of the game. Minecraft was eventually acquired by Microsoft for an enormous sum of money; but continued to develop under Mojang's direction.
Growing to become one of the most influential games of the twenty first century, Minecraft pioneered the idea of an open world game; a medium in which players could do whatever they pleased. Regular updates continued to keep gameplay engaging, and continued to attract more and more new players. In 2013, 'The Update that Changed the World' brought new biomes and world generation to the game. Beginning in 2018, Mojang set about updating existing areas of the game, with the 'Update Aquatic,' 'Village and Pillage Update,' and 'Nether Update' all bringing needed improvements to existing areas of the game.
2021 ~ Minecraft celebrates its tenth anniversary, marking it as one of the oldest games still in active development, (rather than, say, a franchise; sporting both the indie game vibe, and the support of a multi-million dollar studio). The game is still going strong, and indeed, has seen a recent uptick in popularity. With the 'Caves and Cliffs' updates in 2021, and the subsequent 'Wild Update' in 2022, Mojang enhances begins the process of enhancing the biomes themselves, bringing more life and grandeur to everyone's favorite voxelated worlds.
...Walking amongst these places feels strange for older players; for those who have been with the game since its infancy. It's still Minecraft, obviously, but the game itself has changed and matured alongside them. The world is still familiar... but also distinctly different from what it once was. It feels both a familiar place to return to, as well as a place changing and evolving with time.
From 2023 to 2035, Minecraft continues to receive regular updates. Archeology is added to the game, alongside long-awaited new combat mechanics, and a much-needed revamp of many naturally generated structures. Over the course of the next few updates, different biomes are improved in turn.
At long last, the aptly named 'End Update.' (Affectionately termed 'The Update to End all Updates'), drops on all platforms. Mojang declares that this will be the last major content update to the game: in short, that with this, Minecraft is nearing the end of three decades worth of development. They assure the community that this does not mean the end of all future updates; merely that future updates likely won't be so intent on fundamentally changing the game, and will focus more on its technical capacities, modding capabilities, and other such areas.
True to its word, the End Update is fairly long in coming, but is a stunning final update, dramatically overhauling the barren third dimension, while still retaining its strange, ethereal atmosphere; adding a variety of new biomes, creatures, and game mechanics. It remains a dangerous and transcendent place... but also a beautiful and serene domain, beyond the comfortable familiarity of the Overworld, and savage ferocity of the Nether.
Those who played Minecraft as young people have children of their own now; they have lived to pass down the game to their own offspring. And why not? It remains a versatile sandbox of possibilities- and though many have tried to emulate it since, Minecraft remains the original- one of the first games to not merely question the linear style, but to throw it out almost entirely.
For these older players, traveling to the new End is a surreal experience. Minecraft is supposedly complete- and they have been with it from the beginning. Now, in this strange, floating domain, is its finale recognized. Parity has been achieved; all three realms have been overhauled, combining the old with the new. They feel uncertain... but strangely at peace.
2050 ~ Over the next thirty years, Minecraft sees the full potential of new technological advances... and takes advantage of the gradual shift towards VR games: In particular, the style of Open world game it helped propagate. These days, the vast majority of major games are at least partly, if not entirely sandbox, open world experiences in a similar vein. Especially with the immersive nature of VR headsets, players increasingly are leaving behind linear games in favor of ones that grant them more initiative: games that serve as worlds to explore, rather than stories to live out.
Mojang continues to studiously update the game; albeit without adding much in the way of new content; focusing on smaller community suggestions, technical upgrades, bugfixes, and the like. Render distance becomes a thing of the past; Cubic chunk systems allow players to reach new heights. The game now features built in developer resource packs, allowing for far more realistic, (or stylized) visuals than ever before... however, most players still prefer the traditional look of the game, in spite of all the upgrades it has undergone. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
Perhaps most crucial in the continued popularity of the game, (If not the raging popularity it once boasted during its early days), is, (firstly), its eventual full-blown move to VR systems, and the dramatically increased capacities of public servers. This era sees a sort of Minecraftian renaissance: while plenty of other, newer games boast for more complicated, intricate, Massively Multiplayer worlds; Minecraft still holds claim to being the first, and still holds sway over a considerable player base. Servers now host thousands of players at any given time, as they push the boundaries of the game: previous servers are dwarfed by these new centers of player activity, and Mojang implements more features intended to aid in multiplayer interactions.
With the game now almost exclusively played in first or third person via. a headset, many of these new players, introduced to the game by their old-fashioned parents, have little idea of what it was once like, and are soley accustomed to the modern version of the game; complete with fancier graphics, bustling, sprawling cities, and the immersion offered by VR. Only the older players recall what it was like, some almost forty years ago; to walk alone in an endless world of limitless possibility. To view this world through a screen, and, upon finishing the game, to commune with its gods.
2111 ~ Minecraft celebrates its one hundredth anniversary, sparking a brief renewal of interest in the game, which has gradually seen decreasing popularity over the past decades- though its longevity still remains a phenomenal feat: its servers still by far the oldest in the Virtual realm, and its player base, while decreasing, still multitudes larger than it originally was. The festivities are celebrated over countless well-established servers- both the large, new domains of the renaissance, and some of the particularly ancient worlds that transferred into VR from the earliest versions of the game. These older servers, generally maintained by very small groups of players, see a sudden and dramatic increase in activity during the celebration, as interested tourists arrive to explore historic places- terrain generated before various updates; locations maintained for literal decades, enormous monuments gradually assembled over the years... the celebration lasts quite some time, and marks one of Minecraft's last big moments in the spotlight in a fitting fashion.
...And by no means does Minecraft abruptly disappear, or gradually fade. Indeed, the game remains strong, and an important piece of history. Games are now regarded as by far the most consumed (and most important) artistic medium, and historians acknowledge Minecraft as by far the most crucial turning point in the idea of 'games as art,' as well as the tendency towards more modern, open-world styles of gameplay. However, unlike old literature, which might seem dreadfully outdated; Minecraft is a world, simultaneously a work of art, and a place one can visit.
However, it is no longer the biggest game in the world, even if it is still acknowledged as by far the oldest still active. Many people still make frequent visits to this historic realm- some even prefer its simplicity to the far more elaborate, complex new recreations VR has to offer. Indeed, nearly every user visits some part of Minecraft at some point or another- there's no reason not to, as the game is now largely free to play- though its developers still accept donations towards historical maintenance. It is seen much in the way its original players might see a classic novel- interesting, masterful even, reminiscent of a simpler time- but not preferable to a more contemporary, action-packed story. People still dwell here, and a dedicated cult following still wanders increasingly abandoned worlds, living in the remains of lost servers and forgotten cities.
2300 ~ As humans colonize other worlds, they take their recreations, their headsets with them. Minecraft is played for the first time on an alien planet. As sentient AI, bred from deep-learning processes, finally gain civil rights, it is inevitable that these strange, self-aware algorithms begin to explore the vast domains humanity has created for itself in VR- it is inevitable that a sentient machine plays Minecraft. With new neural rigs, VR is more alluring than ever, and there exists a growing divide between those who crave the virtual world, and those who insist on living in the real one. Even with modern advances in medical technology, everyone who was alive to play the original versions of Minecraft is long dead.
With the aid of the Sentients; humanity is now capable of transferring their minds completely into the Virtual World; digitizing their consciousnesses and living as gods in VR. Some eagerly defy death; others refuse, and begin to abstain from VR entirely. These new immortals initially act as one would expect ordinary people to act, having suddenly obtained god-like powers. Living exclusively in VR, they have no need to eat, or sleep. They can experience every feeling imaginable, can go anywhere, be anything. It is the fullest recognition of the internet; of humanity itself: they have beaten death, and now live in an environment they are in complete and total control of.
Rapidly, these beings begin to change. No longer bound by death, they are no longer mortals... they can experience things we cannot imagine, can replicate their minds, tamper with their own psyches. Build entire worlds down to the smallest detail, live entire lives in a role of their choosing. Imagine, if you will, a roleplaying game in which you are the main character- with your memories of the real world blocked off, you live an entire life convinced that the world you find yourself in is real, a lucid dream that lasts a lifetime. Imagine, for example, a hardcore world that you live through.
Some of these beings lead entire lives in Minecraft, for the novelty of it. They lead lives in fantasy worlds, and far flung futures; in abstract worlds, and in historical depictions of Earth. They lead lives of joy, and pain, and heroics, and obscurity.
Even this begins to bore them.
In the depths of their world, Minecraft remains- one place of many increasingly muddled domains. Its inhabitants are no longer quite players- they are literal gods. Some come to build inconceivable designs, others to descend in mortal form into a world of blocks that is, for all purposes, as real as anything else.
...And here, the gods of VR begin to realize their error. If the world is utterly at their whims, then what even is reality? In defying all restraints, have they lost what it means to be human? Once, they were a mind in a body- a mind capable of observing and thinking and influencing, while existing within the world. Now, they find themselves completely untethered- and ungrounded.
???? ~ Millenia pass. The inhabitants of VR would no longer be recognizable to their primitive ancestors outside the simulation, in the same manner that a human city would be incomprehensible to an ant. Their minds have endured so long, been shaped so extensively, have become so vast, and mutated, and evolving, that they no longer resemble anything coherent to mere mortals. They no longer care about the outside world- they understand it in abstract terms. Their thoughts are vast and unknowable, their intentions as confused as the realm they inhabit; a chaotic, colorful ocean of mutated code, incomprehensible thoughts, unknowable powers, forgotten relics, intertwining webs of information and light, churning seas of confusion. They did not become immortal; because ultimately, immortality and death are identical. They became the primordial chaos of the Universe, out of which new order might emerge through random chance. The dreamtime had begun once more.
Amidst all this, fragments of one of the oldest dreams remains; blocks, and worlds made from blocks- lonely worlds inhabited by a single living soul; vast, colorful cities built by hundreds. Humans dreamt from the moment their sentience arose from the chaos; they reached for greater and greater power, seeking to become separate from the Universe, to retain what was ultimately a transitory state indefinitely- but in doing so, they returned to the greater chaos, nonetheless.
Nothing lasts forever- like Minecraft, it evolves, and changes constantly- order rises here, an island in the sea- only to sink back again; only for others to emerge. People. Worlds. Games. We shape it. We are a part of it. We return to it. We are the players.
(And yes, that dog you left in your single player world in 2015 is still sitting there, waiting for you, unaware that its owners have transcended into pure chaos and become one with the universe. You really ought to take better care of your pets.)
(In the future, when anyone asks you where you think Minecraft is headed, just start rambling about the inevitable immortality of humankind within simulations, and the metaphysical implications of attaining godhood. The Combat Update might at least be a bit more divisive, but believe me, if you act like this, people will think you're really intelligent, and just stop asking.)
(A big thanks to C418's 'Cookie Clicker' soundtrack for inspiring this bit. If you think that sounds absurd, check it out for yourself.)