The guys responsible for the new “Minecraft: The Exhibition” installation at the Museum of Pop Culture have discovered one downside to making an exhibit about an extremely addictive video game: It’s extremely addictive.
“When I started this, I started totally cold,” said Martin Christoffel, designer of the exhibit. “I had no idea what Minecraft was, other than seeing a friend’s kid playing it. And now I’ve probably logged at least 2,000 hours in the game.”
Two thousand hours?!?
“Seriously, I know,” Christoffel said with a laugh as his co-workers exclaimed. “All I’m doing, dude, is running around and exploring. I’ve just found it absolutely fascinating. I build stuff in 3-D all day long, so it was a different experience for me. It was really just trying to find these moments throughout where we could make things that resonated.”
Christoffel and co-curators Brooks Peck and Jacob McMurray discovered there’s an endless landscape to explore as they began to log serious hours four years ago when they started talking about an exhibit. There’s a lot buried beneath the blocky surface of one of the world’s most popular video games, now with more than 176 million units sold and counting, and it can be used in a lot of different ways.
“When I started I was super clueless,” Peck said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I started asking my friends’ kids to show me what to do and they would come over and patiently — or not so patiently — teach me what to do. So that helped, and then it’s trial and error. That’s one of the big themes of Minecraft: trying different things, trying to make it work. If it doesn’t work, you can try again.”
The trick for creators is relating that sense of exploration to the rest of us. The exhibit is the first long-term Minecraft celebration. Co-created with Minecraft parent company Mojang, it marks Minecraft’s first decade and opens Saturday, Oct. 19. Its 6,000 square feet are crammed full of both experiential and educational elements.
There will be 17 characters from the game, called mobs, created by artist and prop designer Greg Aronowitz. There will be a diorama — allowing visitors to feel like they’re in the game — that includes a Minecraft tree, a zombie and a wolf. Phantoms will fly overhead, chickens will be underfoot and a 30-foot Ender Dragon will rule them all.
Though it’s been under wraps, museum visitors who have caught glimpses of the exhibit under construction immediately recognize what’s being built.
“It makes you realize how much Minecraft is part of the popular consciousness and has kind of suffused throughout popular culture now,” McMurray said. “There’s a kind of joy and delight of seeing something that in our day and age of hyper-realistic graphics and things like that, we have a game that by contrast feels fairly simple fidelity-wise, but still has so much emotion and evokes so much for the visitor.”
There are videos and features that allow players to connect through shared experience, such as the video nook where veteran players relate their survival-mode horror stories. One section allows visitors to watch time-lapse videos of complicated structures being put together. Viewers can run the film back and forth to learn the sequences.
Exhibit designers were especially excited about the real-life crafting table where players can use ingredient cards representing things like wood, iron and obsidian to craft 33 items, from rudimentary sticks to extremely useful tools like diamond pick axes.
And, of course, there are opportunities to play the game.
“We want to encourage intergenerational play,” Peck said. “I love watching kids teaching adults Minecraft stuff. This is the chance to be the expert in something the adults don’t know about and it’s super empowering.”
“Minecraft: The Exhibition,” Oct. 19-Sep. 7, 2020; MoPOP, 325 Fifth Ave. N., Seattle; tickets including “Minecraft” exhibition and general museum admission: online $34 adults, $25 youth ages 5-12, free for children ages 4 and under; in-person: $36 adults, $27 youth, free for children; 206-770-2702, mopop.org