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Minecraft: A World of Information

The world's bestselling video game captures the insight that information is created and consumed by human minds

What if I told you intelligent design theory is responsible for the most successful computer game of all time?

This game is Minecraft. It has sold over 238 million copies, the highest selling game of all time.  What makes the game even more extraordinary is it was created entirely by one man, Markus Persson, over a weekend, who then later sold the game to Microsoft for $2.5 billion dollars. Hard to make this sort of thing up.

How does Minecraft work? You can think of Minecraft like a computer game form of Legos, the popular building block toy, with added monsters.  You are dropped into an algorithmically generated world where you have to discover resources, find food, and build structures to survive the day night cycle.  At night, the world becomes populated by fearsome monsters, and without adequate preparation during the day, your lifespan becomes shorter.

A World Built of Blocks

The world itself is build out of blocks, and this is where the Lego angle comes in.  All the blocks in the game can be removed and added, making the world very dynamic.  Just like with physical Legos where tinkerers build incredible structures, so with Minecraft players build amazing worlds of their own.

What does all this have to do with intelligent design theory?

Intelligent design theory (IDT) is a theory about information. It states that information is a thing in its own right.  Information is not matter. Information is not energy. Information has properties that matter and energy do not have. For example, if matter is moved from one place to another, it will no longer exist in the original location, and will exist in the new location.  Likewise with energy, when energy is added to a system, it must be removed from another system. On the other hand, if information is moved from one place to another, it can exist in both places at once. This means that information is not produced by matter and energy. Instead, information comes from minds. So, when we see information in the world around us, we know that a mind is responsible. This mean that minds have a special creative power that is absent from the physical world.

We know from IDT is that there are three distinct categories in reality:

  • minds
  • matter
  • information

This basic schema allows us to dissection computer games and compare them to Minecraft.

The matter in computer games is the game mechanics that dictate how the game works. There are two primary minds at work with a game: the game designers and the game players. The information in the game is the structure of the game, and can be generated by either the designers and/or the players.

In most games, the information is only generated by the game designers. They set in place a rigid system that define success and loss for the players. However, this is where Minecraft is different. The information is created by both the designer and the players. In this way the designer invites the players to be co-designers. Such an approach is almost completely unprecedented at the level that Minecraft provides.

So why does this result in such a successful game?

Information is the Game

The reason is that the information is the game. We can think of the information like a yummy Philly cheesesteak.  When a player plays the game, they consume the information. When the information is consumed, the game value has been exhausted. There is no more cheesesteak to eat. Additionally, not everyone likes cheesesteak. So, when a game has limited information, the game has limited appeal and limited value.

You can probably see where this is going. Because Minecraft allows the players to cocreate the information along with the original designer, there is unlimited appeal and value. It is like an endless buffet of endlessly diverse tasty treats. And since the buffet is endless, the players never have to leave, and invite more players to join.

Finally, this last aspect is even more significant. Because other players can join, then they can share the created information with each other. They do not have to rely on the limited information resource in the game.

And that is why Minecraft is the most successful game in the history of games. It has captured the core insight of intelligent design theory that information is a distinct entity that is created, and consumed, by human minds. 

Eric Holloway

Senior Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Eric Holloway is a Senior Fellow with the Walter Bradley Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence, and holds a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Baylor University. A Captain in the United States Air Force, he served in the US and Afghanistan. He is the co-editor of Naturalism and Its Alternatives in Scientific Methodologies.

Minecraft: A World of Information