We've been avoiding Minecraft for the same reasons that sensible people avoid meth. We witnessed the Minings and the Craftings on the Penny Arcade server, saw how very, very, very much people liked it, and we were afraid. We haven't loaded it on our machines, and we don't even like to talk about it, for fear of invoking dark powers we can't understand.

For those who know nothing of it, Minecraft is a game that's garishly old-school in appearance and interface—and despite still being officially in alpha, the ultra-low-budget game earned nearly $3 million in a month (and has probably earned at least triple that by now). Its sole developer, a sweet and now-bewildered 31-year-old Swedish nerd named Markus “Notch” Persson, has barely had time to buy himself a new hat.

Persson describes Minecraft as "a game about placing blocks while running from skeletons." It's pretty much that simple, with a shared-world, open-ended premise that's ridiculous and brilliant: you mine—breaking down rocks, trees, whatever, into more rudimentary components—and then you craft, combining those components into more complex items—torches, walls, homoerotic Mario and Luigi statues, the USS Enterprise, Planet Earth, a fucking functional 16-bit computer. Every ten minutes, the sun sets on your low-res world and the monsters come out, bent on destroying you and everything you've built. The game has no stated object, and there is no way to win. (Although this bit of unintended comedy comes close.)

The state of the art in ridiculous Minecraft meta-nerdery (as of Tuesday) is this ridiculously (again with the ridiculousness!) painstaking recreation of Bioshock's iconic opening:

Some people have called Minecraft the future of MMOs. If you sign up, you can play right now in your browser. But better first to watch a tutorial on how to survive your first night....

The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.