Sandbox games encourage creativity


Minecraft version 17.1 Pocket edition screen shot by Paige Collins

Paige Collins, Graphic Editor

Real-time strategy, shooters, role-playing, simulation, puzzlers, action-adventure… Video games are one of the most popular forms of modern entertainment.  

A unique type of video game is the sandbox genre with no objectives or set storyline. Players are simply left to their own devices to create and play in whatever way they want, differing from typical games where there’s guidance on how to complete the game. 

“I like that a person can spend their time in their own little sandbox world doing whatever it is they enjoy best,” said Lindsay Casey, science teacher and video game enthusiast.

One of the original open world  sandbox games was “Elite”, released by the BBC Model B in 1984.  Set in a spaceship, the player could just explore space with randomly generated areas and enemies to combat. 

Elitewas truly profound because it presented a game-world space and a freedom of movement and choice that for the first time felt real and unbounded,” said Steve Breslin, author of the article “The History and Theory of Sandbox Gameplay.”

Released in 1985, “Little Computer People” by Activision for the Commodore 64, was the first sandbox game where the objective was to simply take care of fictional people with  no set path.  Controlling and living vicariously through these little people on the screen became vital to what made something a sandbox game, bringing the open world to life.

 “Believable and self-motivated characters have become key to sandbox play, because they produce a rich space for interactivity and greatly help establish the open-world aesthetic,” Breslin said.

Sandbox ventured into world creation and engineering with Roller Coaster Tycoon released in 1999 developed by Chris Sawyer and published by Infogrames. Players constructed and simulated running an amusement park while getting an infinite amount of choices for the coaster designs, environments and overall placements of the venues.

“I used to play that game when I was younger,” junior Teagan Cutshall said. “I loved how the rides looked.” 

The game that brought the sandbox genre to mainstream wss The Sims, developed and released by Maxis in 2000. It was a game similar to “Little Computer People”, but the life simulation graphics were more advanced, and the premise was taking care of a whole village instead of just a house. 

“It’s cool because everyone when playing Sims has their own agendas and their own idea of how they play the game,” junior Ahmed Shahab said.

  One of the most well known sandbox games, Minecraft released in 2011 by Mojang, changed the gaming scene.  Using blocky graphics, everything is made from squares including the tools and items in the game, like building materials and armor. Minecraft’s two modes of gameplay, creative where you get to build and make whatever you want, and survival where you have to live off the land and gain resources to survive, expanded the sandbox genre.

“My favorite part of Minecraft is getting to play it like a survival situation like getting your own supplies and making a house,” junior Maddy Adams said.

In March 2020, people in lockdown around the world embraced Animal Crossing: New Horizon. Players were able to create a world with no conflict and provided a sense of power and control lacking in the real world at that time. This game rides the fine line of sandbox and story oriented because there are goals to complete, but they are optional and not vital in order to use the games features. ACNH accounted for 39% of all Nintendo Switch game sales at the peak of its popularity.

“I was a huge fan of New Horizons and was incredibly excited when I was able to get a copy,” junior Noelle Asiyambi said. “I definitely fell in love with it.” 

Asiyambi concurs.

“I loved the sandbox aspect to the new Animal Crossing,” Asiyambi said. “It was so cool creating my island.” 

Sandbox games can be a controversial genre of video game because some people love the creativity and possibilities it brings, but others think the game gets stale due to the lack of guidance. 

“Sandbox games are cool, I guess but they get boring after a while,” sophomore Rebecca Song said. “No objectives really give me much game to play. ”