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Minecraft, Nostalgia, and Growing Up

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I'm sitting here writing this on a rainy Monday night. This article is going live on April 2nd, the day of my 18th birthday. Tomorrow, I'm legally an adult. I can vote. I can drink. I can smoke. I can go to an adult shop. I can gamble away my savings.

I could dwell on the encroaching responsibilities of adulthood or reminisce about the 'end' of my childhood. I could even lament the gum stuck to my shoe that I keep forgetting to scrape off. But I want to write about a game that sits with me. Minecraft.

Like many of my generation, I grew up with Minecraft. My journey with Minecraft began many years ago through YouTube, watching people like StampyLongHead and iBallisticSquid. Now, looking back, I realise just how strong my feelings for the game are.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when I discovered the game, but I'd suggest around 2012. I can still recall losing myself for hours watching Let's Plays, Hunger Games and humorous bumbling through various adventure maps.

Pocket Edition

I started playing with Minecraft Pocket Edition Lite. A cut down version of the game designed as a demo. I played it for hours. It was limited and lacked much of anything. It had a limited block palette and an even more limited world. It wasn't much, but it was Minecraft, and, to me at the time, that was a lot.

Simple menu featuring 3 options.
Main menu of Minecraft PE Lite.

In 2013, I bought Pocket Edition for my iPad. I still remember being out the front of my house when my mother, whom I had been nagging to let me buy it, finally said yes.

The game was limited, but it was Minecraft. I built garish houses of diamonds and gold, laid out intricate patterns of TNT just to watch them explode, and tested just how much of a superflat world I could fill with lava.

I remember the big update when potions released and splashing them everywhere just to see the particle effects. I remember horses being added and having to consult YouTube to find out how to tame them. I recall end portal frames appearing in the creative menu, and not knowing how to use them.

Pocket Edition grew around me, and was the version I played the most. However, I could never shake the feeling that it was inferior. Playing it made me feel like a second class citizen. Everyone else played the bigger, better versions, and for the longest time, I only got to experience them through trips to friends' houses and YouTube.

I didn't have a computer equipped to run the Java Edition, but my family owned a few consoles, and it wasn't with the Pocket or Java Editions that I had originally fell in love with the game anyway. My journey truly began with the versions featured in the YouTube videos I avidly watched: the Legacy Console Editions, starting with the Xbox 360 Edition.

Legacy Console Editions

In 2012, 4J Studios released Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition. 4J didn't just port the game. They went further. They improved it. They could've settled for a direct port, but they took the extra step and then broke into a sprint.

Splash screen featuring a sandstone castle built in Minecraft with several players standing on it.
TU9 splash screen for Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.

The first thing that appears in my mind when I think of the Legacy Console Editions of Minecraft (or Minecraft as a whole for that matter) is the tutorial world. The tutorial world served as a way to introduce the player to the mechanics of the game. Something no other version does. It was beautifully crafted and let the player explore and learn at their own pace.

The tutorial world Minecraft expanded alongside the game itself, evolving gradually over the years to become more extensive and immersive. Redesigned multiple times, it even included nods to the community, such as snippets of Stampy's Lovely World.

There were also many smaller alterations, such as minecarts moving at twice their Java Edition speed, leading to them being far more practical. Plus, an exclusive song titled 'Dog' playing following the completion of the 'Cat' music disc.

Screenshot of the crafting table menu.
Legacy Console Edition Crafting Interface.

They also completely redesigned the user interface for controller. I find myself blindly fumbling through the UI of the modern Bedrock Edition, but can smoothly glide through Legacy Console's UI with ease. The crafting UI specifically is one of the best controller oriented user experiences I've ever had, although the option to use the standard grid was still available.

Legacy Console also featured an excellent set of customisation options for superflat worlds. You could choose the blocks layer by layer and specify exactly what structures should generate. The customisation was so excellent that it spawned countless challenges. Even now, years later, no other edition has superflat customisation to this level.

Another thing that speaks to 4J's commitment is their implementation of the minigame modes. Exclusive to the Legacy Console Editions are Battle, Tumble, and Glide. Battle is Hunger Games, Tumble is spleef, and Glide is an Elytra race. Each of these modes were well fleshed out and polished with a custom UI. The lobby for the mini games was also intricate and played host to a range of Easter eggs.

The game was also optimised to an impressive degree. Looking back, it's easy to forget just how limited the seventh generation of consoles were. The Xbox 360 had a meager 512 MB of RAM. Yes, there were limitations. You couldn't have as many mobs, and the worlds weren't infinite. But most of what defined Minecraft was there, and the limitations were more than made up for by the numerous tweaks 4J introduced.

While the legacy editions were remarkable, they're nothing without the experiences I associate with them. I've got excellent memories of going round to my friend's house and fighting him head to head in the various minigame modes on his PS3. I also cherish playing worlds built by my cousin.

Some of his most memorable included a labyrinthine adventure map infested with spiders and an excellent PvP tower defence map. The latter comprised of a set of two castles built entirely out of gold blocks, suspended over lava. Both castles were adorned with chests full of enchanted weaponry and TNT cannons that were prone to self destruction.

Yet over time, I found myself playing with others less and less. Minecraft fell out of favour, and other games grew in relevance. I stopped watching many of my favourite Minecraft creators. They stopped uploading. I drifted apart from the game. Time moved on. I moved on. I grew up.

The Legacy Console editions are all unsupported now. The PS3 and Vita Editions were the last to go, with both receiving a last update on April 15, 2020. The 360 Edition got its last update on April 30, 2019 with TU75.

The Xbox One Edition received an unexpected update, CU59, on April 9, 2024. It seems to have just removed the button to switch to the Bedrock edition. You can view the update page on the Minecraft Wiki for more information.

Growing Up

Eventually, I bought the Java Edition. I joined the big servers and played with friends, but the spark wasn't there. Big servers felt corporate and bland, and multiplayer servers with friends failed to evoke the emotion I associate with the game. I attempted to start a single player world, but found myself abandoning worlds after just a few days.

I loved Minecraft then, and I love it now. Putting on C418's soundtrack evokes a unique sense of melancholy that nothing else can rival. Occasionally, I still find myself watching the old YouTube videos that first pulled me into the game, just for that hit of nostalgia.

I realise now that I wasn't merely playing a game and manipulating pixels on a screen; I was forging memories - memories that, years later, I still hold dear.

As the rain subsides outside the window, I reflect on my memories of a game that brought me so many hours of joy. The past has passed, but I'm not sad it's gone. I'm happy it happened.

Thank you.