Anyone reading along or even checking over some of the titles of past posts knows my current situation: I’m not in a financial position I’m comfortable with and I’m working to change our habits and establish sustainable values that will make my family and I financially comfortable. The first steps aren’t always that much fun: stopping spending habits, even when you realize that they’re simply habits and not a part of your long-term goals or values, often feels like a sacrifice and a punishment. Particularly when you consider the low-hanging fruit of budget austerity: eating out, buying entertainment, attending events: you know, the things a lot of people associate with living a full life and having a good time.
I was one of the original crop of videogamers: the first Atari 2600, now referred to in collector’s circles as the “Heavy Sixer,” that arrived in our living room the very first Christmas it was available (with the Combat cartridge that came in the book-style box) was actually the fourth videogame we owned. Lost somewhere in the garage sales of time was our Odyssey, the very first cartridge videogame system whose graphics largely consisted of plastic overlays that clung to the tv screen by static alone. Having yet to shake my collector mentality, I still own consoles from Atari, Magnavox, Coleco… and later generations from Nintendo, Sega, and Sony. My “newest” console is a dated and beginning-to-get-cantankerous-about-reading-certain-discs Playstation 2.
I feel like a terrible father, nigh-on abusively forcing my kids to grow up with generation-old videogames.
And for them, that’s something we intend to address. There’s a Wii on our “to get when practical” list… both because they have friends and relatives with Wiis and already have favorite games on the platform (old computer hardware chestnut: buy the machine the runs the software you want), and because of the Wii’s trend toward family-oriented games (reminding me, incidentally, of playing four-paddle Video Olympics on the 2600 with my own sister and parents).
But let’s face it: if I didn’t have kids, I wouldn’t be saving up for the Wii for my personal gaming. In fact, at this point, I’m likely not to to be saving up for a game console for my personal gaming ever again. There’s just too much available for a platform that I already own, Mac OS X, for me to pother with another piece of hardware.
It’s true, there was a day not so long ago that games on the Mac were often late-arriving and more expensive versions of Windows games. Things have changed, enough for me, anyway: between Java games, online games, and indie games, there are more games available to me than I will ever have time to play.
Many of these games are free, at least to try for some time period or some number of levels. There have been virtual festivals for indie programmers where several games are offered for a bargain price. And every once in a while, you find something that you break out the PayPal for.
It’s happened to me: I’m fallen victim to Minecraft. If you haven’t heard of it yet, wait a few days: it’s gaining some of that internet virality that is the YouTwit generation’s gift to marketing. Which is well and good, but it’s not why I sent them $13.77 (the current US equivalent of Minecraft Alpha’s 9.95 euro price).
First off, it’s a clever, addictive game… the kind where you get involved with exploring and the next time you look up it’s 3:37 in the morning. The graphics might be described unflatteringly as cartoonish and blocky by some, but to a gamer my age, they’re retro-pixelated goodness. Playing this game gives me the kind of joy I got playing BoulderDash in the eighties… playing BoulderDash in three dimensions. Where you get to build stuff out of the diamonds you picked up.
I mentioned this was Minecraft Alpha: it’s an unfinished work in progress. The current pricing is half of what the game’s author is going to charge once the game goes Beta, and who knows about general release. If you buy the Alpha, you are promise all future releases at no charge. The author sends out updates with improvements and additional gameplay features on Fridays.
The author has sold over 300,000 copies… to the tune about 4 million US dollars.
The author is named Markus Persson, and is a Swedish game designer who quit his job to work a project that interested him.
This is something I can get behind: doing something you’re passionate about, doing it well, and being rewarded. I was happy to drop my thirteen bucks, my drop-in-the-Atlantic, into his pile, because this is my own dream: figure out what it is that I am “supposed to do” and then do it… and let rewards take care of themselves.
I mean, I don’t even need $4 million bucks… but I’d feel like a better dad if I could get the kids their Wii.
You can find out more about Minecraft, download it, and purchase the Alpha at minecraft.net.