If You Let Them Build It…


I’ve been playing Terraria on and off for the past two weeks or so. It doesn’t immediately sound like a fun game. You collect materials and build things. I know it’s got to be boring to watch. Despite this, I can’t stop playing it. Terraria, and games like it, have become very popular in the past several years. Just look at the success of Minecraft. Nearly 54 million copies of the game have been sold. So why are these slow-moving, story-starved, pixelated games so popular? It’s because they give the player a taste of what everyone wants; that is, the ability to create.

I have spent quite a bit of time watching my avatar slowly chop down trees just so that I could get a little more wood to build my house just a little bit bigger. I’m not pulling off crazy combos or overcoming powerful enemies, although there are some pretty tough bosses in the game. I’m chopping down trees and planting acorns. On paper, it doesn’t sound like a good time, but it really is. Whether I’m digging tunnels, clearing out trees, or building up another room on my house, I’m constantly having fun in Terraria. It’s the fact that I can take any material in the world and use it to craft or create almost anything I want. This game doesn’t force a specific play style or plot on you, it sits back and lets you create your own story and landscape.

It’s that sense of freedom that keeps me coming back to Terraria. I believe it’s what also has lead to the success of the ‘world building’ genre as a whole. These games literally and figuratively give the player the tools to build their own version of the game. It’s that ability to create that’s so enticing. If there’s one thing that we humans like to do, it’s create. Just take a look around you. Inventions everywhere! That’s what’s so great about a game like this. In most games, you can show someone a level and say, “Look at what these people created!” In this game, you can show someone the game and say, “Look what I created!” That person will probably tell you to stop showing them so many games, but the point stands.

Terraria House

Needless to say, you can spend a lot of time building in this game.

I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to play Terraria, but that relies more on my own creativity than the game itself. I’m sure that I will run out of ideas before the game runs out of options. It really is what you make it. It’s this reliance on the connection between player and game that really highlights how unique of a medium video games are overall. Music, movies, art; they’re all one way. Video games need their audience in order to reach their full potential. This is why gamers feel such a close connection with the games they play. We have a desire for stories and a desire to create. Video games are able to satisfy both of those at once.

If you haven’t tried out a ‘world building’ game, give it a shot. This was the first one of this type that I’d played, and I’m definitely interested in trying out more of them now. If you’ve got a good imagination and feel like putting in the time, they’re very rewarding games. So get out there and slowly build intricate tunnels with precisely placed torches and well fortified houses. It’s actually a lot more fun than it sounds.

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