I give up! Like all phases my kids have gone through, I thought the Minecraft phase would surely pass after a year or so. Oh, how wrong I was!
Minecraft consumes my three boys’ lives more than any religious cult could. They eat, sleep, drink and breathe this fuzzy virtual world made of imaginary blocks. They even have their own “worship” music that would rival any Hillsongs album release. My kids walk around the house singing Minecraft parody songs with more glee than Glee.
So, I’ve decided that, if Minecraft is here to stay, I had better embrace their passion for building stuff, fighting zombies and singing about baking imaginary cakes.
If you’re new to Minecraft, let me enlighten you
While us grownups are busy checking into Facebook, our kids are on gaming sites like Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual world made of blocks. It’s kinda like Lego but on a computer screen, and it is highly addictive.
In order to survive and thrive in Minecraft, users need to mine for elements to build tools, so they can cut down trees, build houses, and fight off creepers and zombies. You can play in creative mode, where it’s all about building stuff and I’ve seen some pretty impressive Minecraft worlds. Some dude even built a replica of Rome.
There are also a variety of gameplay modes where you have to fight for your survival. Survival mode even has a virtual Hunger Games (without the blood and gore) server (disturbing, I know… but to my kids it’s just running around with a bow and arrow) and players can even play in Hardcore Survival mode where if they are killed on the game, they must delete their map. Adventure mode is about exploring and building but players can still come under threat and they have to have the right tools to ensure their survival. The fact that they have to work so hard to stay in the game, build stuff and survive is a big part of the attraction.
My kids have played all incarnations of Minecraft. You should hear the screams when they’ve fallen into the void in Hardcore Survival Mode. They have also built solar power stations and nuclear power stations in Industrial craft, created adventure maps and made up their own Minecraft parody songs. Unlike a lot of virtual worlds, Minecraft offers unlimited creative opportuntinies for kids. And kids as young as four are playing!
So, that gives you a picture of the up-side. Now for the challenges
If you have dedicated Minecraft fans in your home, your bandwidth usage will soar. This fact is not to be taken lightly as increased bandwidth allowance means increased $$$.
You also need to be vigilant about who your kids are talking to online what they’re watching on Youtube.
Here are some of the things you need to be aware of:
Youtube and Yogscast
If your kids are into Minecraft in a big way they will be searching for “how-to” gaming videos with a vengeance.
Yogscast is a podcasting network for gamers and is one of the most popular gaming channels on Youtube. Yogscast looks like it should be for children, with cute cartoons avatars and cartoon backgrounds, but don’t let looks deceive you. They heavily feature info about Minecraft, info your kids are hungry for, but they clearly don’t have a child-friendly policy in place like platforms such as Club Penguin and other made-just-for-children games. Why? To be honest, I’m wondering, so I’ve asked them to “please exploin” on Twitter. Thus far have had no response.
A while back my kids were raving about this Youtube gaming star Martyn aka “In the Little Wood” and he seemed harmless enough… that was until I checked out his Yogscast channel and Tumblr. Here was this creepy guy using the F-word frequently, talking about yogscast boners while playing Winne the Pooh vs Kanga games on screen and putting sexualized cartoon images on his Tumblr blog. Sadly this means his podcasts will have to go on the blacklist in our house.
Your kids will likely be invited to play on different servers. Most server managers have rules in place and are well moderated but many don’t. Be aware that many servers have text-chat switched on. As a general rule, I’d suggest steering your kids clear of public servers as they are frequented by grownups as well as kids and you just don’t know who they could be. For child-safety, I would strongly suggest you limit their server interaction to private servers with kids they know in real life or at the very least, monitor the conversation that happens. For the most part it will all be game-related, but you do need to supervise and keep a watchful eye out for inappropriate behavior or language.
Also be aware that your kids may want to Skype with other players while they play, build and explore Minecraft. My kids are limited to interacting just with friends they know in real life on Skype.
Your kids may want to create their own blogs and Youtube videos
Minecraft presents some amazing learning opportunities. But just don’t mention Minecraft Edu. If your kids are like mine, they’ll run a mile. Grownups just don’t seem to get that once you label something “educational”, all the fun disappears. Kids want to learn on their terms, in their way and Minecraft is a great way for them to learn stuff without the need for teachers. If you see yourself as a facilitator and resourcer, rather than an educator, this will go down well with kids who are hungry to create and find out as much as they can about how to do stuff on Minecraft.
Do your kids play Minecraft? What have been some of the challenges/positives?