There's one easy test to work out what kind of Minecraft player you'll be: how did you play with Lego when you were younger?
Were you a builder, painstakingly making spaceships and pirate ships according to the strict guidelines laid down by the instructions? Were you a rulebreaker, crafting your own flying cars and putting together little box-y versions of your favourite things? Or were you a smasher, stomping around your house and stepping on the moonbases your brother spent an hour constructing just for the thrill of seeing all those ordered blocks come tumbling down? The best thing about Minecraft: it provides a home for all three types of people.
Minecraft is Lego, in all but name. It's an infinitely wide toybox, stuffed with blocks of various types, colours and flavours. In its single-player mode, all the best blocks have been hidden somewhere at the bottom of the box - you'll have to sift your hand around and dig under the top layer to find the little cubes you really want to play with. Start a single-player game and Minecraft invents a world, generating it from scratch.
Your world isn't the same as your friends, and the blocks all around you are uncharted and unmapped. It's best to start small: punch a tree for a while, and - just like in real life - you'll get a small, perfectly cuboid block of wood. Open your inventory menu, and you can condense this into planks of wood. Arrange them in a square in the same menu, and you get a crafting block.
Use that crafting block and you can make your wood into a pickaxe. Use your pickaxe to hit rocks, and make another pickaxe with the cute little rock cubes you receive in return. Repeat this process as you dig down through the world, replacing your existing kit with better, harder materials, and you've got the mechanics of Minecraft worked out. A few hours in, and you'll be whacking monsters with a sword made of pure diamond and wearing a golden hat.
ALONE IN THE DARK
That's Minecraft at its most robotic: dig for better stuff. But the game's brilliance comes from the stories you create on your way down. In single-player mode, monsters can appear in darkness. Dig too far down and you're likely to come across a zombie, a spider, or - worst of all - one of Minecraft's seriously spooky Endermen.
These guys are nine feet tall, jet black, and stare at you with purple eyes like portals to hell. But it's not just the caves below your feet you'll need to watch out in: Minecraft has a day and night cycle, and the terrors underground come out to play once the sun has set. You'll need to build a house, and make a little pool of lit safety against the spooky gloom waiting outside.
Your first house will be a mud hut. The next day, you'll have had time to venture underground and build a stone hovel. By the tenth day, your home is now a castle, complete with thick rock walls and an iron drawbridge. Fifty days in and you're living in a diamond mansion surrounded by fully working traps that you designed yourself, laughing at zombies and spiders who dare to come near your shiny palace.
BUILD YOUR DREAMS
Minecraft's main single-player mode makes you work for your creations, slogging in the mines to get better materials. But delve online, onto one of the internet's vast number of servers, and you'll likely have an easier time getting supplies.
Many servers are build-oriented, giving players blocks for grand projects. Giant recreations of gaming characters are a particular favourite - you'll be hard pushed to find a big server without a 50-foot Mario watching over you on login.