That’s a wrap for this liveblog. There is a closing ceremony to come, but I have two young Minecrafters of my own who I’ve promised I’ll be home in time to read a bedtime story to, and it’s a long-ish journey ahead.
The thing that’s hit home this weekend, though, is that Minecraft is much more than just a game that children (and adults – someone was telling me the other day that the average player age is 28, although I haven’t had that officially from developer Mojang) play. For many children, Minecraft is their entertainment – and the YouTubers who make Let’s Play videos with it are their pop stars.
I haven’t written nearly enough this weekend about the crossover between Minecraft and education – from the efforts of Mojang’s new parent company Microsoft to the Wonder Quest education series launched recently by Stampy to the various initiatives exploring whether Minecraft can be used to help children learn and practise programming skills.
That’s something to watch closely in the months ahead. Anyway, off I go, leaving an audience behind me happily waving their foam diamond swords and cuboid balloons. And as for the children…
fyi Daniel wanted to be a policeman when he was younger, his favourite colour is blue, and he doesn’t speak any languages other than English. And the final question, from one bold youngster: “Will you come to my house?” He might pop round for a cup of tea.
So now you know.
Middleton has just punched a man off the top of Big Ben. “Oh no! I’ve done a terrible thing!” Meanwhile, it has started raining in virtual London. And punching the man has solved the quest, for reasons nobody seems quite sure of.
But regardless, he’s now giving the jewels to the Queen because London. There might be an MBE in this for him one day. Oh, he’s taking a virtual selfie with her. Maybe not.
And now questions from the audience. What does he like best: pugs or Minecraft? He can’t choose. How much Minecraft does he play a day? About six or seven hours. What’s his favourite video on his own channel? DanTDM Gets Sick:
What would he be doing if Minecraft didn’t exist? “If YouTube was still around as a thing then I’d like to think I’d still make video on something. But something in video or music production, as that’s what I did my degree on.” Favourite block in Minecraft? Diamond blocks, although he flirts with the idea of saying the slime blocks.
Who inspired him to do YouTube? “I started watching Minecraft videos like Sky Does Minecraft and VanossGaming,” he says. His favourite mob? A villager, with pigs coming in second. Who’s his favourite YouTuber? VanossGaming, again.
It’s striking how naturally he answers the questions – which are all coming from young children – no talking down or fake-wackiness. “PS my mum’s best friend loves you!” says one questioner, drawing a big laugh from the parents in the room.
Anyway yes, Middleton is playing an adventure set in London, searching for a missing bus sign, then solving a jewel robbery – all with plenty of audience participation. Fans are shouting the answers whenever he asks a question, while parents give one another “I don’t understand this but at least we have seats for an hour, remember Peppa Pig World NEVER FORGET” glances.
It’s an interesting contrast to what you’d think of as traditional children’s entertainment, though: no exaggerated slapstick or shouting from Middleton – he really is just sat behind a laptop playing Minecraft and chatting about it with a fairly relaxed drawl. But his audience is rapt.
In other news I’m about four rows from the front to watch Daniel of The Diamond Minecart spend an hour playing Minecraft live – along with at least 3,000 other people. What scenes!
There was an extremely grumpy boy sat behind me complaining loudly about not being able to see. He’s moved now. That’s one of the awkward things about being a grown-up at Minecon: wherever you sit, there’s the risk that you’ll end up blocking the view of a six year-old who’s not afraid of calling you names.
‘You don’t need to be scared of YouTubers. We’re as scared of you!’
I heard the quote above while eating lunch earlier, from a woman sat behind me who was obviously famous enough on YouTube to have children nervously approaching and asking for her autograph. She was joking to reassure them, but it did neatly sum up the curious situation that gaming YouTubers find themselves in, when they get popular.
A lot of the ones I’ve met remind me of, well, me as a 21 year-old: gamers keen to communicate their passion to a wider audience. Except that while for me the main option was to take a staff writer job at a magazine publisher like Future Publishing or Dennis here in the UK – I did exactly that with Official Dreamcast Magazine back in the day – for them it’s about online video and audiences in their millions. But also the pressures that brings.
These gamers are stars for their audience – somewhere between children’s TV stars and pop stars on the scale of fan fervour. They have gaming skills and video-making skills, but they’re also having to develop the kind of people skills required when every other child you see wants your autograph and/or a selfie and/or a deep chat about a specific element of a certain Minecraft mod or video. Celebrity skills, I guess you’d call it.
And all the time, they’re uploading videos every day, getting involved in conversations on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and having the kind of direct relationship with fans that a lot of traditional TV, film or music stars didn’t. They’re a fascinating new layer of pop-culture stars that, I suspect, the media still hasn’t quite gotten its head around.
I do hope they’re getting good support and advice, though: I can’t imagine the 21 year-old me being plunged into this kind of environment – where fandom crosses the digital-physical divide – and not finding it overwhelming at some point.
I’m assuming this has been announced before, but hadn’t seen it written about: Mattel is making a Minecraft-branded quadcopter drone based on the Ghast character (but you’ll have to wait until Autumn 2016 to buy it):
There’s an online TV show broadcasting from Minecon, with interviews shown live on nearby screens. Here’s Daniel Middleton, who runs the Diamond Minecart channel on YouTube, having his say.
Out of shot there was a growing crowd of children with foam swords and pickaxes, ready to seek an autograph as soon as he dares set foot on the expo floor.