Last Fall my boys were begging me to get Minecraft for them (or for me to put in a good word with Santa so that they could get it from him for Christmas). I knew nothing about it and, to tell the truth, I still don’t fully understand it.
Anyway, I was able to get a deal on an XBox 1 with Minecraft during the holidays. (Note: if you can wait until the holidays, there are better deals to be had. XBox 1 was on sale with Minecraft already installed, plus I got a free controller, which is key if both boys want to play the game at the same time.) On Christmas Day, they ripped it open and wanted to play it right away, of course.
If you’ve never installed a gaming system, it is not a 1-2-3 proposition. Setting it up with cables and all that was easy. Turning the game on and getting started took almost four (4) hours! It seems that video game consoles go through an updating process every time you turn them on. So, on Christmas Day, the boys had to wait hours to play the game. If your twins have the patience most do, one option would be to turn the game on the night before and do the initial setup while wrapping presents. This way, when the kids open it up and want to play right away, it will be ready. The game is available on PC, Mac, XBox and iOS (iPad, iPhone, etc.)
I decided that there has to be
hundreds millions of parents that are just as clueless as I was/am about this game that seems to be as popular as Pac-Man was a generation (or two) ago. That’s why I decided to interview my 9 year-olds, and create this Parent’s Guide to Minecraft.
What is Minecraft?
Markus “Notch” Persson, a Swedish gamer and programmer, developed and created Minecraft as a “sandbox” style game. (“Sandbox” means that the players can build things in a virtual 3D world. The players gather resources, craft items, build and, at the player’s discretion, combat. No, you don’t need 3D glasses.) He solicited and received input from other programmers and gamers to mold the game. A company called Mojang further developed the game under Persson’s guidance. Microsoft bought Mojang in 2014.
This description may sound rather esoteric, but the main reason I have come to appreciate the game is that there is no violence. Players build stuff. Of course, there are some variables involved, and some danger just to keep it interesting.
There are four modes in Minecraft:
Survival mode -where the player must work for and acquire resources (iron ore, wood, stone, bedrock, sand, etc.) to build the world and maintain health.
Creative mode -where players have unlimited resources to build with, (meaning they don’t have to work for them) plus the ability to fly.
Adventure mode -is very similar to Survival mode except it is the place where players can play custom maps created by other players and have to complete certain tasks to reach their destinations for resources.
Spectator mode -which your kids will never play because all you do is watch without interacting, hence the name.
My boys focus almost exclusively on Survival and Creative modes. They actually prefer Creative though because (somehow) they actually don’t like working on and for things (just like their room or toys!).
But, wait there’s more. LOTS more. (Caution!-Sit down before reading…My head is till spinning from the overload of information!)
There are creatures like: wolves, ocelots, creepers, skeletons, witches, villagers, zombies, etc. (Too many details to go into in an article like this.)
There is also another place called, the “Nether” world. It is only accessible by the Nether portal. If there is a bed there, it will explode in the Nether and The End. If, for some reason, the player(s) fall into lava and die in the Nether, they can respawn in the Overworld, but they lose anything (resources) they had accumulated in the Nether.
“The End” is the last dimension. It is really dark in there and it is a spit of land floating in the blackness. It is home of the Ender Dragon and if you fall off one of the islands, you die in Survival and Creatives modes. You later respawn in Survival mode. (My boys wanted me to write this part as they dictated it to me).
For a more complete description of the game, you can go to Wikipedia and search Minecraft as well as other websites. Some go into more descriptions than others. Essentially, they all describe the game in a similar vein, and probably leave you just as confused.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into when buying Minecraft. When I found out that other parents at my sons’ school had purchased it and my boys were talking about it, I decided to make the leap. Minecraft is a great game for kids. No violence, no sex, no bigotry or jealousy and it allows the boys to be creative and build things.
However, here it is, my caveats of Minecraft. It is an obsessive game. My boys talk about it constantly and beg to play it almost every day. My wife and I have limited their playing time. They could easily play it 24 hours per day. We have restricted game play to Saturday and Sunday for two-hour increments, and never on school nights. (That does not preclude them, however, for asking for more.)
There is also a sense of rivalry or competition between the boys. They don’t always agree on how to do things or build things or where to go, etc. I think that’s fine, but if it gets acted out physically, like pushing or shoving, I turn the game off.
We have yet to allow access to the Internet, so they cannot play with other kids. As they become older, and more mature and responsible (hopefully, someday), we will reconsider our restrictions. If you want to open that gateway, I suggest setting up your own server so that you can control who they play with, i.e., kids they know.
My other main concern about the game is how they play. Right now, they are playing and standing right in front of the TV. We don’t like that because they are way too close to the TV which is supposedly bad for you and with the way they are standing, it could set up bad posture for them.
Believe it or not, there are books written on how to play Minecraft. Of course, our boys had to have those, at least, some of those we conceded on. Playing the game was new to them, as it will be with yours, so I would suggest doing some research. You can buy books or even watch videos on how to build things on YouTube. This is a great opportunity to share time with your kids by getting involved with their learning process. (Be careful of the YouTube videos. Some of them include harsh language and adult references.)
Some other things I’ve heard and seen around the Internet about Minecraft:
- Parents do not understand what’s going on at any particular point in time.
I don’t see any other way around that other than learning the game yourself.
- Minecraft CAN require more complex skills as the game progresses.
This is true. I can see where, if a child is too young, the game could get overwhelming for them. It may be difficult to make the right decisions or they may need better motor skills. This may be discouraging for younger players, so keep that in mind when deciding if minecraft is right for your kids.
- Playing Minecraft can be intense.
This is probably true, especially for younger kids. Scary sounds and monsters and even death, in its own form, do exist. If things like these worry you, I recommend playing in Survival mode with difficulty set to Peaceful. You can also have them play in Creative mode where there are no monsters. Our boys were 8 when they got the game. They seem pretty o.k with it, but every child and situation is different.
- It is easy to lose time playing Minecraft.
Yes, of course, but that’s probably true for all video games.
- Playing with other people across the internet can be dangerous.
Need I say more.
The Bottom Line
Buy it. Learn it. Play it. Enjoy it. Monitor your kiddies. Be aware.
-Special thanks to our boys who have read this article and given their “thumbs-up” to it.-