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Minecraft Fans Gather For Minecon In Paris

Minecraft fans gather for Minecon in Paris By Mark Ward Technology correspondent, BBC News in Paris

Thousands of cheering, stamping or whooping fans. Pounding dance music. Videos that are cleanly edited and produced. Dry ice machines. Spotlights moving across a stage. Giant screens hanging overhead.

This is not rock music.

This is not a surprise PA in a nightclub by an boy band.

This isn't the launch of a blockbuster movie.

This is Minecon - the international convention for Minecraft creators and players - a videogame set in a world of blocks that has become a worldwide phenomenon in just a few short years.


Rough industry estimates estimate that Minecraft's PC version has sold eight million copies. However, this estimate does not include the many people who have played it on the Xbox 360 and on Android phones, iPhones, Android handsets, Kindles, and a growing number other devices. Global Minecraft communities are estimated to be around 40 million strong.

Why has it proved so popular?

Erik Christiansen, a gamer who plays Minecraft as Torencresent, said "Freedom." "You can do whatever in the game."

People do many different things. Some create massive structures, others make giant castles, and some even recreate real world locations with Minecraft blocks. Others make simple blocky devices and machines out of the materials available.

And, Mr Christiansen explained that if the thing you wanted was not there, you could create a modification - or a mod - and share it with other players to allow millions of people to do what you did.

He said some of the improvements players suggested also made it into the game's core code. That virtuous feedback loop from fans to game and back again is almost unprecedented, he said, and has only helped turn it into a huge hit.

Big stars

Minecon 2012 took place at Disneyland Paris. This is where the game's 4,500 most loyal fans gathered to meet other faithful, see in-person friends they only knew via the game, dress up as the creatures and people in the game, and talk to Minecraft's creators.

"They are stars," said Danny Gelder (aka Nyloch in game), an avid player who runs a Minecraft server for himself and a few friends.

It is hard not to agree with the reaction the game's curators and developers get when they step out onto the stage during the opening ceremonies. Minecraft They look slightly stunned as they blink, grin and take in a lot of flash photography.

Markus Persson aka Notch is the biggest cheerleader. This unassuming programmer coded the original game, then made it free online for others to use while he worked on improving the game.

"When I started to make the game, it was going be a six-month long project." He told the BBC later, taking some time to drink coffee, relax backstage, and then he said it to the BBC.

These moments of silence are rare during Minecon. It is impossible for him to take more than a few steps before someone asks him to pose for a photograph, thrusts forward a poster or flyer to sign or raises a hand for a high five.

He must admit that he's still surprised and amazed by the game’s success.

"I was hoping to see if I could make enough money to make another game - that was the dream goal of it," he said, "but it just kept growing and exploding, thanks to the community,"

His surprise is not only at the volume of copies sold, but also at how large the community it has created.

He stated that there are people who make a living from Minecraft content and making things. This is something that is truly amazing to consider.

Some of those others are also stars at Minecon. They are the fans who have made YouTube videos that millions see, coded mods and skins for millions, or created maps that other players use.

They are far better known by their game and web alter egos (Vareide, CaptainSparklez and SethBling to name but a few) than by their real names.

They also receive a hushed reception when they are introduced on the stage. They are well-known and are often stopped for autographs or photos as they move between the conference rooms at the show.

Serious uses

Lydia Winters, who oversees Mojang's links with its players, said that the game's true strength was its community.

She said, "The community, and the things they come up with are actually far beyond what we could expect or comprehend."

The fans are also here to hear about what's to come in the game. The next big update to the game is expected in January. It will fix up the code supporting Redstone, a Minecraft resource.

It is a great tool for creating electrical circuits, and can also be used to power many innovative devices when used in the correct way. Redstone will now be even more useful, and it can be used to create a wider array of circuit components.

There's also talk of Minecraft running on a Raspberry Pi computer. The code to accomplish this is available now. Anyone can load the game on a Pi and share it with their friends.

There are also lots of sessions where fans can get advice about running their own server, creating custom maps and creating videos of what they get up to in game.

Sessions can also be held on how to use Minecraft for serious purposes. It is being used in schools already to teach programming, geo-politics, and geology.

Stephen Reid, an educational consultant, used Minecraft in schools for the same reasons that it is so popular among gamers.

"It's mainly about the process of creation and people love to create," he said. "As humans, we constantly strive to improve, we continually try to build and achieve, and Minecraft is exactly that."

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Vareide - YouTube

CaptainSparklez - YouTube

Raspberry Pi

Danny Gelder (Nyloch)

Stephen Reid

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