Friday, 18 January 2013

[INDIE MATTERS #2] - Minecraft: The Story of Mojang (2012)

Director: Paul Owens
Starring: The whole production team behind Minecraft - Mojang
Certificate: TBC
Run-time: 98 minutes

IN SHORT: The Story of Mojang is essential viewing for Minecraft fanatics but slightly tedious for casual documentary viewers.

This may be hard to believe but... I've never actually played Minecraft! Yes, the award-winning indie game that gave everyone a new-found interest in architecture and landscape gardening has so far alluded me. However, although I've never played the game, I was certainly aware of its popularity and the sensation it has caused amongst gamers. I was therefore extremely interested when I was contacted by 2 Player Productions who had made a documentary about Mojang - the development team behind Minecraft.

Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is a pretty comprehensive documentary. As its title aptly suggests, the film is about Mojang's story and the creative brain behind it all - Markus 'Notch' Persson. When Persson's small side-project started to gain significant interest, and sales, he soon realised that he had a business on his hands and so Mojang was born. As well as sit-down interviews with Persson and his team, the crew follow Mojang to various festivals and events such as the E3 conference to fully understand what it feels like to be an indie game rockstar.

Markus Persson creator of Minecraft
Markus 'Notch' Persson, the creator of Minecraft
Just like Indie Game: The Movie, viewers gain insight into the indie game world. Although The Story of Mojang doesn't concern itself so much with the technicalities of game development like Indie Game does. Instead, we learn more of the emotional side as Markus Persson quickly goes from obscure computer game developer to best-selling indie sensation, seemingly overnight. The guy experiences a whole whirlwind of emotions as he's jetted around the world, conducting interviews and doing guest-spots.

The film-makers are quick to convey just how modest Persson and his crew are. They operate from a small Swedish office and the team itself is comprised mostly of friends. They're all normal guys who have been flung into the spotlight. This is somewhat of a problem too, as although Persson and his team are interesting, friendly people, they lack the charisma to keep you interested for the duration of the film. Whilst these guys are now celebrities in their community, they're still not fully comfortable in front of the camera and this does reflect in the film.

Interviews with industry experts (like the editor of PCMag) do help to break up the pace. Stylistically, it's very much a 'point-and-shoot' doc where boom mics and interviewers can be seen in shot. Personally, that style doesn't bother me but it's worth pointing out. Sometimes the interviews feel repetitive, more a case of 'quantity over quality' but for the most part they are insightful. Although, ten minutes could be chopped off and the film would still feel the same.

The Mojang Minecraft team photograph
The Mojang team.
The strongest parts of The Story of Mojang are the interviews with fans and actual players. The film-makers do a great job of tackling how and why Minecraft has become such a success story. Community is one of the answers. However, the most popular answer given by fans and industry experts alike is that Minecraft gives the power back to the gamer. Minecraft is what you make of it, you can tailor the experience to your own personal tastes. This is further exemplified when the film-makers interview a gamer who has made a replica model of the Starship Enterprise inside the game!

The Story of Mojang is a must see documentary if you're a Minecraft fan. Whilst it does have its flaws, and it may drag at points, it's still a curious watch for non-Minecrafters. As we know that Minecraft is a global success, The Story of Mojang lacks the emotion or tension of Indie Game: The Movie. It's more of a love-letter to the industry, an appreciation of what these developers have done to further independent gaming. After I finished watching, I purchased myself a copy of the game so for that reason alone, 2 Player Productions have succeeded!

Are you an independent producer, writer or film-maker? Do you have a project that needs promoting? E-mail me at with your project. If I like what I see, I'll be happy to write an article, review or feature about your film.


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