Monday, September 15, 2014

Notch - Leaving

Notch - Leaving and Minecraft

Notch wrote this post this morning, in light of the recent news that his company Mojang, and Minecraft are being purchased by Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars.  I mean, superficially that's a lot of money, because it is.  But it's not just about the amount of money.  I've seen a tremendous number of posts this morning about the purchase and how Microsoft is never going to make that money back, that it's a poor business decision, that Minecraft only made 120 million dollars last year and it'll take more than ten years to see profitability after that...

But I think people are wrapped up in the fiscal numbers and have forgotten a few profound things about Minecraft, about Mojang and about Notch.

Minecraft has changed the world.

We just haven't seen it yet.  We being the adults of the world.  In the way that our parents and the generations before us didn't understand how the internet changed the world in their time, I seriously, profoundly believe that Minecraft has changed young minds already in an encompassing, crazy, beautiful way.  And we just haven't seen it yet.

Minecraft gave, has given, and is giving young people tools to affect their world.  It is a great equalizer for CREATIVITY where the internet was our great equalizer for our voices.  The capacity for making is unrivaled in Minecraft, it is why the 'game' enjoys uncomperable success.  People look at the blocks, the pixels, and they see possibilities.  The capacity for creating buildings, and cities, and worlds.  They forged up societies and methods for interaction, infinitely diverse and wild places.  They recreated imaginative, transformative spaces together, and are sharing them.  They are adventuring in them, building, iterating, creating more, spreading out...all in the spans of pixels.

Children of all ages, teenagers, and even adults are affecting worlds and showing each other.  Minecraft has given rise to an exciting modding community, personal servers, this crazy era of Let's Play and streaming content.  Three years ago, I told people I thought twitch and was a passing fad, but now I'm convinced that the future of gaming communities might sit somewhere in that strange digital wild west.

We've never had a time as exciting as this in our era.  Children are bored of our modern video games, because they can't transform them.  Because the stories we set down, lay out, mock up, voice over, can't be affected.  They aren't personal, they have less meaning than the ones they themselves create.  Children have found a medium for their imaginations and we are attempting to catch up on that.  But they are at the forefront of creating.  We were at the bleeding edge of communicating, but now they're doing one step further...they're making.  We should never lose sight of that change.

We are not without our growing pains, as any new technology and any new exploration of our expressive freedoms can be.  But the world has already changed, it did it years ago.  We just won't know the reprecussive impact for a while yet.

Today, Minecraft was formally purchased by Microsoft.  For a lot of money yes.  A lot of money, but that lot of money isn't a business decision in my opinion.  And anyone who tells you that it's a poor business decision is living in an older world that isn't framed around what we know for today.  Microsoft is hedging a bet, in the same way that Gates did about software vs hardware, in the same way that those code-cowboys did with Windows, in the same way that they bet against Sony and Nintendo.

They're a company with a lot of money that is hedging a bet about where culture might be going, where our WORLD might be going.

Are we trepedatious that a massive company might hold the reins to this?  Sure.  Of course we are.  We're afraid of abuses, and privacy laws, and ridiculous monetization just the same as we've always been.  We don't want anyone holding the reins, we don't want anyone leading us to water.

But friends, the Cat is already out of the bag.  Those kids who play minecraft, they aren't going to forget their wild and digital adventures.  It's already happened.

The sad part of this blog post, is that we should also acknowledge that some good people got trampled along the way.  Some good people like Notch, who made something that they didn't understand, and weren't ready for.  Like probably most technological advancements, they weren't prepared, and had to become a lot of things to a lot of people.

2.5 billion is a lot of money, but all that money can't make you into what you want or don't want to be.  And years from now, when we look back at history, 2.5 billion will never change this moment in time.

I don’t see myself as a real game developer. I make games because it’s fun, and because I love games and I love to program, but I don’t make games with the intention of them becoming huge hits, and I don’t try to change the world. Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it’s changed games. I never meant for it to do either. It’s certainly flattering, and to gradually get thrust into some kind of public spotlight is interesting.

A relatively long time ago, I decided to step down from Minecraft development. Jens was the perfect person to take over leading it, and I wanted to try to do new things. At first, I failed by trying to make something big again, but since I decided to just stick to small prototypes and interesting challenges, I’ve had so much fun with work. I wasn’t exactly sure how I fit into Mojang where people did actual work, but since people said I was important for the culture, I stayed.

I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with. I was confused. I didn’t understand. I tweeted this in frustration. Later on, I watched the This is Phil Fish video on YouTube and started to realize I didn’t have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I’ve become a symbol. I don’t want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don’t understand, that I don’t want to work on, that keeps coming back to me. I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter.

As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately.

Considering the public image of me already is a bit skewed, I don’t expect to get away from negative comments by doing this, but at least now I won’t feel a responsibility to read them.

I’m aware this goes against a lot of what I’ve said in public. I have no good response to that. I’m also aware a lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.