In the world of “Minecraft” — the best-selling video game in history — players know that they’re never supposed to dig straight down as they explore and create new worlds. What they should dig is a new exhibition celebrating the runaway hit at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture.
“Minecraft: The Exhibition” is a colorful, playful, immersive recreation and celebration of life inside the game — a game which has attracted 91 million unique players and sold 176 million copies during its 10 years.
MoPOP built one of its most expansive exhibitions ever block by block, in partnership with Mojang, the Swedish game development studio that created “Minecraft” in 2009. Microsoft acquired the franchise and folded it into Xbox Game Studios in 2014 for $2.5 billion.
“We want people, right from the beginning, to feel like they’re in the world of ‘Minecraft,’” said Jacob McMurray, MoPOP’s director of curatorial, collections and exhibits, as he stood beneath a giant rendition of the game’s start screen this week. McMurray and senior curator Brooks Peck led a tour through the multiple rooms of the 6,000-square-foot exhibition, high up in the museum founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
For those who haven’t played the game, chances are they know someone who has — perhaps even a child who is deeply immersed in the seemingly simple world of placing blocks and going on adventures.
“We’re trying to speak to both audiences: the people who know and love this game as well as the people who maybe heard of it, don’t know too much about it and maybe want to learn more,” Peck said. “I call them the parents in tow.”
The blocky, right-angle design of landscapes and characters from the game is transferred throughout the space — a stark contrast to the curvy lines of MoPOP itself. And the construction had to take into account that the exhibit will hit the road, after closing in Seattle next year. Making it fit in the unique interior of MoPOP will surely be the most challenging venue, McMurray said.
With lighted “torches” leading the way, the exhibition is punctuated by selfie-ready characters, or Mobs, throughout, such as Chicken, Panda, Llama, Wolf, Zombie Pigman and Skeleton. A 30-foot Ender Dragon will also greet museum visitors above the ticketing area.
Because the exhibition relies more on the experiential aspect of playing the game and being witness to the modern community that has embraced it, it’s unlike other MoPOP exhibits which are built around historical artifacts.
Crafting stations and Xbox-enabled gaming pods will offer the chance to go hands on. Films throughout also explain the history, game play, elaborate creations and the educational aspects tied to “Minecraft.” A mock bedroom, decorated with a variety of merchandise, gets across just how deep the fandom can go and how the design lends itself to a multitude of products.
Parents who have looked on in confusion at kids drawn to YouTube and tutorial videos of the video game being played by others may come away with some satisfaction in learning that they are not alone.
It’s a ‘Minecraft’ world. We’re just living in it.
“The community comes up with stuff that the developers never thought could be done,” McMurray said. “It’s this interesting feedback loop — ‘Minecraft’ wouldn’t be anything without the community to play it and come up with ideas to figure out where the game could go. So as time goes on, ‘Minecraft’ becomes more and more of a creative platform where people can really do anything. Some people have described it as a digital LEGO, and in some ways that is pretty apt.”
“Minecraft: The Exhibition” tickets go on sale Thursday. An exclusive preview for MoPOP members is Friday and the opening weekend celebration for the public starts on Saturday. Visit MoPOP for more information.