Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the cube.

I’ve recently become addicted to Minecraft, like seemingly every small child I know. I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner; I’ve played similar games – like Terraria and so on – and I always enjoyed playing with LEGO as a kid, but I just never managed to get hooked by Minecraft.

Maybe it was the terrifying number of crafting recipes that (until recently) you either had to memorise or Google; maybe it was my frustration at the less-than-ideal (to put it lightly) behaviour of the game’s creator; or maybe it was my lack of friends who wanted to hang out in a server with me. Whatever it was, I successfully avoided a Minecraft addition… until now.

Recently in Melbourne I visited ACMI, where one room boasts an impressive collection of films and videogames – and artefacts related to their creation. The room was overflowing with school children when I wandered through, and many of them were drawn to Minecraft. In fact, while I was watching, a group of students were busily modifying texture packs, of all things.

I understand now why so many children have been captured by this world: it seems to have something for everyone. It allows people to understand as much or as little of the system as they like, and still enjoy themselves within the space. Children who want to modify textures or create their own mods are welcomed, but those who want to explore, or fight, or create, or mine to bedrock are welcomed too.

This is epitomised by the group I play Minecraft with, each of whom have different approaches to play. Some enjoy action shooters, and find joy in playing Minecraft in survival mode, struggling through nights of killing (or avoiding) the various hostile creatures that roam the world. Others enjoy building new structures, so spend their time in creative mode, floating around and constructing impressive homes and monuments.

And just as Minecraft offers my friendship group an array of options, it offers them to me as well. It’s a space for me to go on (slightly scary) adventures with my friends, laughing with one another via voicechat, just as it’s a place for me to lose myself in methodical tasks while I’m the only one online. It’s a place to perfect my mining style, burrowing underground while watching television shows on my second monitor. It’s a complex fidget toy, giving me something to do with my hands and head that isn’t particularly strenuous. It’s a jigsaw puzzle, where the image I’m putting together is of my own creation.

Minecraft has become a sort of self-care for me. I often struggle to incorporate social interactions into my hectic schedule, but Minecraft has given me a way to spend time with people I care about inbetween commitments. Similarly, methodical and repetitive tasks are a coping mechanism for keeping my anxiety in check, and Minecraft offers a more interesting alternative to sitting with a bunch of grapes and pulling them, one-by-one, from their stems.

It’s also surprisingly accessible. It’s the little things: depending on the day, I might want challenging adventures or relaxing exploration, and the mode I choose can account for that. And as somebody who struggles with auditory processing, being able to adjust every part of the music and sound effects using separate sliders makes it so much easier to hear what I want or need to, without it being lost in a cacophony of other sounds. Minecraft may be an obsession for a lot of kids, but I can’t see why – it’s clever.

I understand Minecraft, and the people who play it, better now. The children playing this game have found a respite from their anxious minds, an adventure through which to socialise with their friends, and a platform for exercising their curiosity and practising all sorts of skills, and I’m honestly sad it took me this long to join the party.

Doctor Minecraft