Review: Minecraft: The Story of Mojang deems itself much more than just a regular documentary
In 2009, telling Markus “Notch” Persson that in just three short years his early build of a simple mining game, Minecraft, would go on to sell millions on multiple platforms would as meaningful to him as saying you’re going away to a lunatic holding to find buried treasure. Maybe crazier, telling Notch this and then explaining that the phenomenon would be captured in a documentary titled Minecraft: The Story of Mojang. Well surprise, because both has happened, and yes, in just three short, short years. As gamers you’re probably accustomed to what Minecraft is, but do you know how it came to be? Better yet, how indie developer Mojang came to be? Minecraft: The Story of Mojang sets out to take fans and strangers alike on journey through the history of Minecraft and Mojang, and boy does it do so fantastically?
The feature opens with, well, the beginning of Minecraft: Notch himself. What develops early on is Persson’s relationship with fellow, eventual, Mojang partners, and their transition to becoming a “studio,” though Notch himself uses that term lightly it seems. Insight is a word we’d normally use for this development, but even that wouldn’t do it justice. From Markus’ (now) wife to known journalists and developers (i.e. Geoff Keighly, Peter Molyneux), you’re presented more-or-less a story than a documentary, and as it unfolds you see just how Minecraft’s early beginnings set the stage for what we play today. Better yet, fans get a solid picture at just whom “Notch” is. Sure, you’ve heard the name, but do you really know the mastermind behind this cultural sensation? The early minutes of Minecraft: The Story of Mojang presents you this with firsthand accounts – accounts that really show a (still) humble Markus Persson.
As the documentary unfolds, and Mojang comes to be, the DVD transitions to a more game-driven approach. The development cycle – a cycle that’s unprecedented in today’s gaming industry – is spotlighted, as early successes, failures, and worries are captured in stunning fashion. As serious as this sounds (and it very much is), you’ll come to see another side of Mojang. Notch himself made a very stunning statement in the documentary that I think reveals this nature: “I'd rather play a fun game. And I want us to make fun games, not just big production games." So yes, Mojang is a serious place, but it’s also a very fun place to be, especially with their current success. The DVD presents this atmosphere and the close-natured friendship these “business partners” share. In a nutshell, it’s a really intriguing way of doing business in this industry, but it’s a path that I believe all developers wish to follow.
As the hundred-plus minute feature film, filled to the brim with extras, wraps up, you see just how “wowed” Notch and the Mojang team also is. They share their concerns for the game’s longevity, reveal upcoming plans for future Minecraft updates, and even tease some of Notch’s future titles. Within all of what we’ve written are interviews from those who’ve benefitted from the game’s achievements, including podcasters, YouTube gameplay artists, and a teacher who’s using Minecraft in his grade school classroom. By the end credits, we believe you’ll see Minecraft in a different sense – on a different scale. And maybe more importantly, you’ll see that humble beginnings, and a touch of luck, can bring unthinkable successes if you simply believe.
For $20 on Fangamer, Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is worth every cent, especially when your physical copy comes with a free digital, downloadable production. Not only is the documentary a tour into the lives of those who’ve personally impacted the game, it’s a celebration of gaming itself. An experience like this only comes around once in a while, and for our media – our art form – this is exactly what makes being a gamer so rewarding.
"Minecraft is basically another version of your life, except it's a magical version." Yes, yes it is.