Why does Minecraft's Redstone Matter?
If you’ve ever played Minecraft before, then it is most likely you have come in contact with the in-game block/item known as “redstone.” It’s a simple little powder in the game that produces some very cool effects. Placing the dust of it on the ground, allows one to create what “redstone wiring”. This “redstone wiring” can be used to carry what is effectively electrical charges from other blocks/items like pressure plates, buttons, and levers, over to various target blocks that can produce some creative results. Using this rudimentary system and the game’s mechanics with redstone, people have created some truly astounding works in Minecraft. People have even gone so far as to being able to create a playable version of Minecraft, inside a Minecraft world. If that isn’t both some crazy ingenuity and something straight out of the movie “Inception”, then I don’t know what is.
But why does this matter? It’s cool, but so are a lot of things in video games. What makes Minecraft’s redstone mechanics so interesting that I’m sitting here fanboying over it to all of you on this blog?
It comes down to three words that when combined, carry a very important meaning; accuracy, straightforward, and fun. But what do I mean by that and how do those three words apply?
So first off, let me tackle the easiest one, accuracy. By this, I am referring to how accurately Minecraft’s redstone replicates real world electrical engineering. If you ever go on to any webpage or guide on how to use redstone, you'll quickly find yourself immersed in terms like “flip-flop gates”, “X-OR”, and “resistance”. To any electrical engineers in the house, you probably have heard these kinds of things as if they are elementary projects, but to the rest of the world, these are hardcore concepts. The reason people have been able to build such crazy real world contraptions as computers in Minecraft is because we already know how to build them in Minecraft without ever having to play the game. Redstone so closely mirrors real-life electricity and electronics, that we can take real world schematics and mostly be able to rebuild them in Minecraft, with nothing more than a guide on what in the real world corresponds to its Minecraft counterpart.
The second word is key when remembering that Minecraft’s target audience is generally kids. Minecraft’s redstone is very straightforward and easy to use. While you can read up on all the tutorials like I mentioned earlier, there really isn’t a need to. Within the confines of the game, redstone feels like something that is just easy to wrap your head around. You place a little bit of wire next to a lever and have it run to the iron door and then magically, when the lever is flipped, the door opens and when and switch is flipped back, it closes again. Such simplicity is elegant in the fact that even small children can figure out how to use this crazy complex, yet super important material.
Finally and perhaps the most important thing about Minecraft’s redstone is the fact that it’s fun. Something can be the easiest thing in the world and incredibly accurate to the real world, but to quote the great Reggie Fils Aime, “If it isn’t fun, why bother?” At the end of the day, Minecraft’s first job as a game is to be entertaining and fun. In this fashion, Minecraft’s redstone knocks it out of the park. There isn’t anything nearly as cool as the first few times you experience with redstone and then some invention of yours works and your mind starts running wild. You go from building an automatic door that opens when you get close, to thinking about the amount of redstone you would need to build an automatic farm, an automated home defense system, or building your own roller coaster to tour the great town and castle you’ve built. It gives you a rush and lets your imagination run wild. Something that Minecraft itself is all about, imagination and dreaming.
So back to the original point, why does this matter? Sure, those three terms might apply, but what does their application mean?
It means that young kids are effectively learning complex electrical engineering and electronics in a safe environment that feels like fun. Minecraft is one of the few games out there that has deceptively made learning fun and has gotten kids to want to learn more. Even better, it has gotten kids to actively go out and become more educated on a topic. Not just any topic at that either, a topic that is quite complex and hard for many adults to wrap their heads around. Thanks to such a matter, kids growing up playing Minecraft today, will most likely have a better grasp on how the electricity of our world works. They will most likely know better than many adults living now about how things like clocks, electronic locks, and even computers work. As a Minecraft player myself, and on behalf of all Minecraft players out there, thank you Minecraft for teaching me Electrical Engineering without me ever really asking.