The Minecraft phenomenon

This morning’s Observer column

A funny thing happened on the way to this column. Browsing idly through the Publishers Weekly site, I came on the list of the Nielsen bestselling books of 2014 (so far) in the US. The Top 20 list was dominated by “young adult” fiction, books such as Divergent by Veronica Roth and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, plus the usual movie tie-ins. At No 9 ,there’s a religious book, Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by missionary Sarah Young. At No 11 is Heaven is for Real (“A little boy’s astounding story of his trip to Heaven and back”).

Two slots further down there’s a “junior novelisation” of the Disney film, Frozen. At No 15 is an “activity book”, complete with 50 stickers, based on the same film.

At this point, your columnist was losing the will to live. Is this, he wondered, what a free society really chooses to read? But what’s this? At 16 and 17 there are two computer game manuals – Minecraft: Redstone Handbook and Minecraft: Essential Handbook.

The only people in your household who will be astonished that two computer game manuals are selling like hot cakes are the adults. This is because they don’t know what every child from the age of six upwards knows, namely that Minecraft is the most absorbing and intriguing gaming idea since David Braben and Ian Bell created Elite in 1984…

Read on