I mean, a win conditon ends the game. You strive for it. It is imposed from without.
But it does just as well by giving us a framework in which we (I want to say inevitably) form our own win conditions. My boss spent the day constructing a temple with an entrance shaped like an enormous cock. The game didn't tell him to do that, and nothing happened once it was complete. Other than him showing me. But he had a task and he set to it, against obstacles. He died but persevered against obstacles. He learnt from the process. All that gamey stuff, that happened.
I guess if you're wedded to the idea that games do need a win condition, you could argue that Minecraft is merely a frame that gives rise to such. But that seems such a mincing theoretical cop out, when so many things construct fun in just the same way. Like Electroplankton. Can we just call these things games? They feel like games when we play them, even if they do require our engagement. We don't deny the status of play to plays with audience interaction, just because they're only finished when they're performed.
I have also argued vigorously (and while drunk) that Minecraft has an excellent story. It builds it generatively, and you help make it, but that doesn't argue against the craftmanship with which it was designed by Notch. That's a step further, though.
There's a deeper link to the self-effacing games designed by the Copenhagen crew (and written about by Doug). But I'm two pints too far to tease that out right now. And on screen keyboards suck.
Sent from my phone.
08 April 2011