In the final part of his examination of Mojang’s sale to Microsoft, Anton takes in the geek culture reaction.
Read part one here.
Read part two here.
Now that the business side of it is all discussed, I feel it is time to move on to talking about what may be the most important part of the whole equation.
People sometimes overreact. Hair-trigger geeks tend to overreact slightly more than average. I think that this is because they feel almost totally invested in the idea/show/film/comic/game/character/book, and have attached some part of themselves to it. If that changes, they change. They cannot possibly be the same person if this part of their life is different.
So when such-and-such gets killed off in whatever series of books, or whatsisface turns heel and powerbombs thingybob through a table, it has not only affected the story, it has actually affected their life. By becoming affiliated with Microsoft, Notch, Mojang and Minecraft have, to some people, ceased to exist in their true form and will forever more be tainted.
Granted, this doesn’t make any logical sense. Looking at it from this angle, it’s difficult to understand why anyone could get upset about anything like this. But the internet, as hard as we try to see it differently, is an illogical place. Rage motivated by hard-lined opinions will always look ridiculous to the outsider. But Minecraft is, understandably, just that important to some people.
I wonder whether there would have been the same volume of displeasure if Notch had left the company before the sale went ahead. Notch, for the last few years, has been an icon to many people. He has been the definitive archetype of the little guy; the underdog. He has surpassed anything that anyone could have expected from him, and through the whole thing he has stayed that humble independent game creator archetype.
But when something becomes big enough that it crosses language barriers, cultural barriers, age gaps and gender differences, there are inevitably going to be a lot of people who want to attach a name or a label to you. He has been called both a hack and a saviour countless times, usually in the same comments thread. To some he is the man who restarted the Indie Games movement and brought it out into the mainstream. To some he is a fraud who took an idea that someone else had and made it his own. But to none of these people is he a human male who made a game that was well liked and critically acclaimed.
And that appears to be the problem. For all of this vitriol and venom to make sense, Notch cannot possibly be just a man who made a game. Either he has had this plan in mind all along and was just stringing along the punters until he could sell out, or he has been tricked out of his beloved baby by the evil MegaCorporation who will destroy and devour everything good about the game they love.
At the root of it all you can find the main reason that internet rage exists: because people are scared about their toys being taken away from them. It sounds trite and oversimplified, but in any of the major trolling scandals of the last five years the basic argument has always been that my opinion means more and if you disagree then I will publish your details on the internet and order fifty pizzas to be delivered to your house, which is then followed by torrents of abuse. These things really do mean that much to some people. If Minecraft had no intrinsic value to someone who was playing it, they would not care so much. If they hadn’t poured weeks of their life into building a cathedral or a village with temples and pyramids then literally no one would care. But because it has become such a huge part of who they are, they feel the need to defend it. Otherwise those weeks and months of building a farm and amassing a huge collection of wolves would be rendered pointless.
To some people, it really does matter that much. Enough to write a two and a half thousand word essay on why it matters at all. And there are not many games that could do that. Gaming as a whole is such a broad subject because it encompasses all sorts of things, from the people who play games to concepts of level design and risk vs reward. But Minecraft is one of the few games that is almost a subject of its own. It is so many different things to so many different people. That is something that has not been achieved on such a scale in as long as I can remember. And as long as people continue to play it, it will survive.
Thanks so much to Anton Krasauskas for his take on the Mine-crosoft situation. You can find Anton on Twitter @ajkrasauskas