Last-minute gift ideas

Welcome to this year's Gift Guide, a piling-high of our most loved items from 2014 and beyond. Books, comics, games, gadgets and much else besides!

Plush Minecraft blocks

The 20cm^3 plush Minecraft TNT block is covered in suede-effect polyester and stuffed with soft foam; for something less explosive, try the Chest or the Log (or get the 10cm set with Grass, TNT, Diamond and Creeper blocks).

(via Geeky Merch) Read the rest

Detailed, handmade gamer soaps

Chrystal "Digital Soaps" Doucette makes soap in the form of detailed replicas of gaming gear and tropes: Minecraft creepers, NES cartridges, N64 cartridges, Xbox controllers, Mountain Dew shampoo, Gameboy cartridges and more. (via Geeky Merch) Read the rest

Minecraft Creeper apron

The Wild Bunny made this excellent Minecraft Creeper apron.

Read the rest

UNBOXING: $150 Kano computer

I took photos of the cute-looking Raspberry Pi powered Kano computer, which was made for kids to learn how to code their own music, games, and software. Jane and I will hook it up to the TV (it uses any HDMI device as a monitor) and let you know what we think. Read the rest

Interview with Minecraft composer C418

Ziad sez, "I interviewed C418; we talk about Minecraft's early days, the purchase by Microsoft, how the gaming community has helped him become a self-sustaining, independent musician, and creativity in the gaming industry." Read the rest

The narrative lottery at XOXO

Glenn Fleishman reports from Portland's beloved arts and technology festival, where a darker sense of mission and meaning took hold in the event's third year.

Microsoft to acquire Minecraft for $2.5bn

Tech giant Microsoft is to buy Mojang, creators of Minecraft, for $2.5bn, reports the Associated Press.

Launched in 2009, Minecraft is a sprawling, endlessly-replayable "sandbox" game that dumps the player in a randomly-generated abstract world. By exploring, gathering materials, crafting items and equipping their avatars, players can set about surviving hostile fauna, launching expeditions deep into ore-filled caverns, and constructing anything from huts to palaces, and even vast machines.

The phenomenal appeal and success of Minecraft -- just check our archives over the last few years! -- is hard to define, but it's been downloaded more than 100 million times since its inception. Created by Markus "Notch" Persson, Minecraft remains the most popular game on Xbox, and the most popular paid game on iOS and Android, according to the AP.

Yet that word hardly scratches the surface of the blocky world-simulator's Lego-like possibilities, though: a fact hit on by Satya Nadella, Microsoft's new CEO, who said that it was "more than a game."

"It is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft," Nadella was quoted as saying in the press release. Microsoft expects to close the sale by the end of 2014, and break even by the end of 2015.

Microsoft also committed to keeping Minecraft available on all the platforms on which it is available today, including Sony Playstation and cellphones running Apple and Google-based operating systems

"Yes, the deal is real," wrote Mojang's Owen Hill at the company's official blog. Read the rest

3D geology of Britain--all of it!--implemented in Minecraft

Many countries have been surface-mapped in Minecraft, but here's one that goes right down to the bedrock, courtesy of the British Geological Survey: "Glaciofluvial deposits and superficial deposits of mainly gravelly composition are represented by Gravel." Read the rest

Lego wishes it invented Minecraft

"Minecraft is digital Lego," says Lego marketing director David Gram. "We only wish we had invented it." This is mentioned in about the same breath as the phrase "core brand beliefs," a concise reminder why they didn't. Read the rest

"Life in the Woods" mod turns Minecraft into beautiful survival sim

Bored of the sandpit? This all-in-one collection of mods makes it prettier, deeper, and more focused on wilderness survival. [via RPS] Read the rest

Minecraft bans money-making server swizzes

The world's most entitled and whiny gamer community started screwing itself for cash, then creator Notch took it away. What happened next was entirely predictable. Read the rest

Kickstarting Kibo: robot-blocks for kids 4-7

Jenise sez, "When I worked for a robotics company, I complained bitterly about the lack of robotic toys for my daughter to my boss, Mitch Rosenberg. Yesterday, he sent me an email with the answer to my problem: KIBO, a robot kit specifically designed for kids age 4-7. Mitch partnered with Marina Umaschi Bers, co-creator of Scratch Jr., to found KinderLab Robotics, Inc., and they're trying to produce the toy I dreamed of for my daughter."

Looks amazing, but it ain't cheap: $219 minimum to get the actual blocks, $349 for the full set. Read the rest

A Talk with Threes App Designer Greg Wohlwend (New Disruptors 74)

Greg Wohlwend co-created the popular game Threes. He talks with host Glenn Fleishman about the joy of success, the burden of being independent, and the problems with parasites.

Drowning in Problems: Notch's surprisingly moving text game

Notch, the celebrated creator of Minecraft, has a new, existential webgame: Drowning in Problems. It's a pretty damned great example of telling stories with interactivity, and how the medium can evoke emotion without resorting to the clumsy trickery of narrative. It takes about ten minutes to play through, and by the time I was done, I felt like I'd gone through a journey that made me thoughtful and reflective about the very meaning of life. (via Mefi) Read the rest

Danish Geodata Agency commissions 1:1 Minecraft replica of Denmark

For the kids! (Thanks, Shi-n0-bi) Read the rest

Renaissance Space Invaders art

Artist Dan Hernandez painted a gorgeous series of frescoes depicting Space Invaders and other vintage game screengrabs as Renaissance and Byzantine art. They're hanging in a show called "Genesis" at the Kim Foster Gallery in NYC. Read the rest

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