5 Minecraft Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know
- Minecraft is a computer game that has been compared to playing in a sandbox. The comparison comes from gaming lingo, where sandbox refers to an open, rule-free world. Minecraft is just like playing in the sandbox, where the player decides if he’s going to build a highway or dig tunnel or explore the moon–or all three. Levels and rewards are not offered, which is good news, since those are the very things that “hook” players and get parents freaked out about the “A-word” (addiction).
- Minecraft has also been compared to playing with Lego blocks. Players construct scenes and structures with textured cubes. It’s possible to build a mountain, a tower, an ocean, a city–whatever. It’s self-driven, fun, and limitless. Like squeaky-clean, wholesome Lego blocks, yucky stuff such as violence, gore, swearing, and sex are minimal with Minecraft.
- Players can play alone in creative mode (building) or survival mode (escaping from nocturnal monsters). Or, in multiplayer, they can join others–potentially strangers–unless you take the safety step of setting up your own multiplayer server or “white list” of friends. Alternatively, you can join a family friendly server, such as Intercraften.
- Minecraft is mandatory for 13 year olds at a school in Sweden. Yes, that’s right. They play Minecraft at school! Why? Because it can be educational. The game encourages creativity, problem-solving, and use of practical maths. It is a safe place to explore, try, and fail, and it can be social! Sharing and collaborating are encouraged. Universities recognise the potential for learning about city planning, environmental impact, and future thinking.
- Minecraft might not be addictive in the traditional, dopamine-rush sense–where players are driven to keep going to the next level and the next and earn more rewards. However, it can become problematic because it’s engrossing. Creative, self-initiated activities draw people into a deep state of focus that is intensely satisfying. It can be difficult to switch “out of” that state.
Ever been snappy when someone interrupted you while reading deeply, doing craft, or painting a model plane? We know our crabbiness isn’t about being hopelessly “addicted” to our hobby! It’s more about being forced to suddenly switch tracks from intense focus to a “broader mindset.”
Try a gentle reminder with a snappy kid. Raise awareness first, and give them a few minutes to re-adjust. Say something cheery, like: “Hey, remember? We were working on you trying to be more pleasant when I tell you it’s time to stop. Go wash your face. When you come down, I want to hear your polite tone!” (Cue Snow White’s singing birdies!)
So How Do You Manage Minecraft?
Minecraft is considered one of the safer games available to kids these days, and it’s not terribly expensive, which is another bonus. That doesn’t mean it should be open-slather, Minecraft 24-7. Parenting expert, Dr Michael Grose, recommends bracketing rather than banning. If you ban it, you lose all those great educational benefits. Letting your child play Minecraft at the end of the day, only after homework and chores are done, is a sure-fire way to ensure both are rushed. Instead, bracket it! Set a time limit between two activities, for example, a half hour before dinner is ready. That gives kids a natural end point. What a great tip!
Best tip of all? If you have a kid who’s into Minecraft, ask her to show you what she’s up to. Ask questions! Go on a tour! Show an interest. You never know–you may have fun!
Want to read more? Check out my sources at these sites:
What is Minecraft exactly? Penny Flanagan makes a bold attempt at description
On mandatory Minecraft in Sweden
Dr Michael Grose’s blog ParentingIdeas includes an article by Dr Jason Fox