Nostalgia for Minecraft is a good read on a young person's take on Minecraft and Roblox and what social dynamics that emerge in these creation-oriented engines based on how their different business models work.
Personally, I've never played Roblox, and thought it was pretty similar to Minecraft, which I've spent countless hours in. This piece made me realize they're quite different.
Minecraft is an open-ended collaborative experience where people create for the sake of creating, and the worst negative externality is some people do it to gain views on Youtube. There's no in-app purchases, just the upfront price of the game.
On the other hand, Roblox sounds like a place where a sort of creative hustle underlies the whole experience, where everyone's creative experience is about trying to figure out what they can get from others. It has a lot of mini-games made by player-creators, many of which players must pay for.
One thrust of the piece is that playing Roblox promotes "indoctrination into entrepreneurship for children", by way of many of the 'tycoon' style games. Author also points out how accruing possessions is a large part of Roblox:
"Compared with Minecraft, most Roblox games are highly individualistic and use private property as their main incentive rather than skill-building or a sense of common good."
Author then frames Roblox as operating a kind of multilevel marketing scheme, where everyone's hustling to make game modes to get game currency from others, and it all flows up to Roblox. It may not match an MLM perfectly, but it really made me think about how games are places where a lot of these really negative ideas from the offline world (like MLMs, gambling, etc) can appear in similar form in game worlds.
The last paragraph is great:
"By enabling self-defined goals and DIY accumulation of skills and resources, Minecraft once seemed to promise fun without fixed form, without ownership, without competition and hierarchy. Roblox has no such pretense. Though its premise of blurring the line between player and creator may seem democratizing, it transforms conventional gameplay into entrepreneurial striving while indoctrinating young children into capitalist society’s hierarchical scoreboards, its fantasy of being the best by having the most."
Is this all just a reflection of adding in-app purchases with a % going to creators? Feels like it.
The author goes into a digression about streamers and creators showing off their work on Youtube, and that being something that sort of sullies the purity of these creative mediums. I don't see that as particularly unique to these games though, as that's part of the broader trend of 'life as performance' which exists everywhere in social media. ↩︎