Minecraft is easily one of the most popular video games among children and it has been growing in popularity since its release in 2009. With that level of popularity, it’s not unreasonable for parents to have a few questions about what it is that they’re buying for their kids. I hope to answer several of those questions in this blog post by briefly going over the basics of this game.
What is Minecraft?
It’s a simple enough question, but one that requires a bit of a long winded response. On the surface, Minecraft doesn’t look like any other game out there on the mainstream market, which is always trying to one-up itself with the quality and realism of its graphics. Minecraft looks more like a 3D version of an 8-bit adventure game from the 1980’s than something that came out in the early 2000’s.
However, the graphics are not what drives the popularity of this game. Instead, unlike many games that are based around lengthy storylines or quick hack-and-slash multiplayer rounds, Minecraft is what is known as a sandbox game where the player is dropped in to a procedurally generated world where the player gathers resources, crafts tools, builds structures, and recreates the world in a way which is only limited by the player’s creativity.
That’s the beauty of Minecraft and what makes this simple looking game so popular with kids and adults (and one of the most popular workshops we offer at camp!). This game is centered around the player’s ability to imagine.
You want to build a house? Done. What about a castle? Done. Well, what about a scaled recreation of planet Earth, or a one-to-one scaled model of the country of Denmark, or an actual working computer? Done, done, and done.
Also, the studio behind the game is always adding new content to the game (for free!) which allows the player to continually create and play in new ways every time he/she plays.
Is this game’s content appropriate for my child?
This is a completely understandable question if you’re on the fence about whether or not you should buy this game for you child. To answer this question, I will first explain a little bit more about how Minecraft is played. Minecraft has two game modes which the player has the choice of playing, each with its own set of rules and challenges.
Survival is what I call the “basic” game mode. In survival mode, the player has to build their own tools, mine their own resources, and ultimately “survive” by foraging, farming, and crafting food supplies as well as building armor and weapons to fend of the nocturnal and cave dwelling zombies, skeletons, and creepers (a green monster packed with TNT that silently creeps up on players) that will inevitably attack them once the sun goes down.
Sounds scary right? Well, aside from a few moaning sounds from zombies and the surprise of the hissing a creeper makes after sneaking up on you, the game is not really designed to be scary. However, these sounds could be scary to a younger audience.
What about the violence? While a name like “survival” can sound like it would contain a lot of violent actions, the combat in this game is not gory or graphic in any way. The weapons that a player, and some of the monsters, use are limited to a sword or a bow and arrow. There are no guns or explosives (with the exception of TNT, which they can create for mining or building traps). When the player gets hit by an enemy, the screen quickly flashes red and the player gets pushed away from the monsters a little bit. If the player dies they can simply respawn and keep playing the game.
Combat is also completely optional in this game. A player can play without ever swinging a sword or launching an arrow.
If survival mode sounds too violent or scary for your child, you could consider Creative Mode instead. In this mode, the player has any and all resources available to them from the start so they don’t have to do any mining. This allows them to dive right in to the creative aspect of the game. Also, while in creative mode, the monsters will not attack the player, removing all aspects of violence from the game.
Minecraft does support several different versions of multiplayer gameplay, both on a local area network or online. In multiplayer, your child will have the chance to play with friends or random other players on servers which have everything from free-play to player created mini games. While the Minecraft online community seems to be a friendly group of people, parents should always monitor their child’s online activity to make sure they are playing in a safe environment.
Is Minecraft Good for my child?
This is what it all comes down to, right? Sitting in front of a computer screen is obviously not healthy. However, unlike most video games, Minecraft does have some attributes to it that can be beneficial for your child.
Minecraft encourages several positive behaviors. For example, working with friends to mine and craft various projects in the game can improve teamwork skills and the previously mentioned freedom to build anything works on a child’s creative skills. Also, encouraging your child to take the time to think and plan out a project before building can improve project management skills.
And don’t forget! You, as a parent, can also get involved and use Minecraft as a family bonding activity.
I hope this brief overview of Minecraft has answered any questions you might have about the game. If you have additional questions, I encourage you to take a look at the Minecraft website or search YouTube for Minecraft videos – they’re a great resource for getting a first-hand look at what this game has to offer.