a brief intro
One of the most popular video games of all time, Minecraft has been downloaded more than 122 million times. It’s available on all platforms including PC, Mac, and almost all mobile devices. Minecraft is a “sandbox” game which allows you to play in a unique world all your own or to share worlds with others. You can build, hunt, explore, die and mine all sorts of treasures from the earth. This game is very popular with younger gamers, and really appeals to the older, geeky side of teens who adored brick building systems as young kids.
Wanna Relate? –
speak their language, understand what this game is about
If you want to joke around with your kids about Minecraft, you can be hip with very little knowledge. The internet abounds with memes which are easily searched through Google, but here are the key points and why they are funny.
Blocks – The world, in Minecraft, is made up of blocks. These are cubes of matter that you use to build with, craft with, enchant, and create. Types of blocks vary in rarity, opacity, luminosity, flammability, and other variables. The most valuable are Emerald, used for trading with villagers, and Diamond and Redstone. These last two are found deep in mines and are used to craft the strongest weapons and powered creations. Minecrafters often lose their lives and their inventory items while trying to obtain valuable stones, so jokes about about the risks in mining these items are prevalent.
Steve and Alex – When you start playing Minecraft, your character is named Steve or Alex. You’re officially called The Player, and you have problems. It’s hip to be square, and everything the player sees is. Well, it’s cubical. Even things that don’t seem cubical are, because they take up a whole cube of space. There are lots of jokes about Steve, and about the fact that the world he wakes up in appears to hate him. He is constantly beset by enemies, especially once night falls on his world, which it does after about 10-12 minutes of daylight. (20 minutes in the real world equals 24 hours in Minecraft.)
Mobs – “Mobs” is short for mobiles. These are creatures that can roam around the game either helping, hurting, or having no effect on Steve. He needs the mobs for the things he can get by killing them or trading with them.
Creepers – these green creatures made of cubes are one of the most dangerous of Steve’s challenges. They can walk around in the daylight, unlike some of the other denizens of the dark, and they blow up unpredictably after they start hissing. You want to lead the creepers away from your stuff, or they will destroy tons of your hard work. They love to do this. It makes them happy. Well, their expression never changes, but we assume it does. Their unofficial catch phrase is “That’sssss a very nice <random valuable object> you’ve got there… It’d be a ssssshame if anything were to happen to it…” coined because of their tendency to hiss before exploding. They are the most popular icon of the game and are available in every possible merchandise permutation from stuffed animals to hats to keychains, etc. The creeper is one of the most popular Halloween costumes for Minecraft players each year. The ease of creating a creeper costume by painting boxes makes it especially popular.
Images of hostile mobs from The Minecraft Wiki – http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/
Other attacking monsters you’ll meet from the very beginning of the game include zombies, skeletons, spiders and Endermen.
Neutral Mobs – Some creatures will not automatically harm the player and can provide much needed supplies like food and friendship. If playing in Normal Mode you’ll need to eat frequently and Cows, Sheep, Pigs and Chickens will provide the most filling food. They’ll also give you useful items like leather, wool, and feathers.
You can even shear the sheep and die their wool different colors by making dye from flowers. This wool can be used for decoration and to create decorative banners.
Some animals can be tamed to be pets. These animals will follow the player around the game and will attack creatures that attack the player or which the player attacks first.
Mob images from the Minecraft Wiki at http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Minecraft_Wiki
Wanna Play? –
how to get started
To start, you download Minecraft from the Official Minecraft Site. From this site you can also purchase and download various add-ons to the game. If you are using someone else’s account (your child’s for example), you will only need to download the game onto your device. The cost of $26.95 is to create a login, not to download the game. Each login can have many worlds, so your family can really share a login and each have your own world on it. Beware, this means that other family members can enter your world and do damage. And in that world they will be playing with your character, so they also can lose your stuff and get you killed.
There are an endless number of tutorials showing you how to begin, survive, and excel at Minecraft. This game is absolutely endless with an astonishing array of possibilities. And it is absolutely frustrating without some guide of how to start. The Minecraft Wiki has a Beginners’ Guide that can help you on your way if you prefer to read instructions. The bottom line is, “don’t start the game unless you’ve read something first.” Once you spawn, you’re burning daylight, and you will get yourself in serious trouble and experience undue frustration.
You can start with no research and experiment, or follow along with any of a million tutorials on YouTube. Many of these will even give you the “seed” for their world so you can play in the same exact environment along with the tutorial. I really enjoyed following the tutorials of Paul Soares, Jr. You can find them at https://www.youtube.com/user/paulsoaresjr. He’s also got a lot of videos on his Minecraft Dad channel.
The essential Minecraft Wiki contains more than 5,300 articles and 11,100 files managed and maintained by more than 270 active contributors from the Minecraft community, along with the wiki’s administration team. Anyone can contribute. The wiki contains information on every feature of the game and is a critical resource for the all-important crafting recipes you need to use the natural resources you find in your Minecraft world to craft tools, weapons, building materials, and more. It’s also a good place to check before attempting anything dangerous like exploring Desert Temples or Woodland Mansions.
Be Safe! –
stuff that moms really want to know
ESRB Rating: The Entertainment Software Ratings Board rates Minecraft at E10+ for mild violence.
Cost: Minecraft is not free to play, opening an account costs $26.95 as of the date of this writing. If you want to play with a group, you can opt for Minecraft Realms on top of the sign-up fee. Only one member of the group has to pay for the Realm to be hosted on Minecraft servers, the cost is about $7/month with advance pay and auto pay options. You can also host your own Minecraft server on your home computer. There are instructions for setting that up on the Wiki as well as in YouTube videos. There are also additional items that can be purchased for the game, both from Minecraft (now owned by Microsoft) and from outside sources. Enterprising players sell everything from “skins” that change the appearance of in-game mobs and items, to “mods” which modify the game for various purposes, to access to their whole world on their server.
Servers can also be hosted on a variety of outside services for various costs. Players often join other minecrafters in playing on their hosted servers. Sometimes there is a charge for this, sometimes it’s free. Be sure you know the cost before leaping on to a server.
Community: The Minecraft Community tends to be pretty tame. There are “griefers”, of course, who if given the opportunity will tear down your house you’ve spent weeks building, or who offer rude or inappropriate videos, memes, and forum chat. This is a staple of all online gaming. But in Minecraft the audience tends to skew a bit more towards folks intent on building something amazing or competing to “speed run” the game by setting a goal like “fastest to find diamonds,” or “fastest to kill the Ender Dragon.” You’re never really “done” with the game, although there are some definite milestones. YouTube contains some absolutely astonishing creative build videos that will blow your mind, and plenty of “play along” videos that will guide you to some fantastic adventures. The creativity and endless play let even adults enjoy Minecraft as a wonderful creative outlet. Many Minecraft servers have discord servers that allow players to communicate with each other about game play and other topics. Discord is a free social media service, so people should use appropriate caution on these servers. Kids should be careful not to post personal data. Discord tends to be a fun, nice place to hang out in the Minecraft servers, and people can both voice chat and text chat about many topics. The app is easy to use, and it is easy to mute or block people that cause issues.
Playing Discipline: Unlike many online games, Minecraft can basically be paused at any point by pressing the ESCape key. This returns you to the main menu where you can Quit the Game, change modes, adjust the sound, and more. It’s a good idea when starting Minecraft to agree with your child on a play duration. The game is never-ending, so allowing an hour of play will allow for three cycles of day/night. Your child should learn to view this as a long-term project to be done a little each day, not a marathon session which will still leave him in the middle of the game and completely exhausted.
Fear: If your child is already afraid of the dark, this game could worsen that fear. Night is terrifying in the Normal Mode of this game, bringing on exploding Creepers who destroy your buildings and kill you, Zombies who bite and poison you, Giant Spiders, Witches, arrow-shooting Skeletons, Endermen and more. If your child is fearful, you may want to choose Peaceful Mode at the beginning of the game (you can change it as you become more accomplished) to avoid the spawning of mobs who will kill your character. Frankly, as an adult, I still started on peaceful until I joined a server and could gang up on the hostile mobs with fellow players.
Frustration: Minecraft should be closely supervised for children with anxiety, severe frustration, or anger issues. The game can be extremely frustrating and perverse. as well as quite addictive.
- The one material you desperately need at any given moment is often the one you can’t find or will die trying to obtain. (or will die as soon as you’ve obtained it)
- When you die in the game you are returned to your “spawn point” which is either the place where you first started the game or your created “bed” which resets this feature. This can be a very long way from where you were mining diamonds.
- You return, however, with empty pockets. I once acquired a set of golden horse armor from a treasure chest in a mine only to have a waterfall push me into lava and kill me. My beautiful horse armor, lost forever. (or until I found another set)
- You can easily become lost. Tutorials have lots of advice for finding your way and keeping track of your surroundings, but it is extremely easy to get lost, both under and above ground, and find yourself a long way from safety at nightfall. One should always carry the means of creating a quick shelter with them on any overland (or underland) trek.
Violence: To last very long in Normal Mode, you must kill to eat and kill to survive. It’s “mild, fantasy violence,” but you’re killing sheep, bunnies, cows, pigs, and chickens to eat. There are mushrooms for mushroom stew, but you’ll probably be dead long before you find them, unless you initially spawned in just the right place. Along with apples, carrots, bread, potatoes, beets, and other things you can craft, you can sustain a vegetarian diet, but these foods aren’t as filling as meat. Above your items on the screen you’ll see a row of small chicken legs. When you eat, these fill up. When they start emptying, you won’t heal from damage, so you’re easier to kill. You need to keep Steve’s belly full. If you play in Peaceful Mode, you don’t need to eat. Eventually you’ll still need to kill things to get some items you’ll want like leather and feathers, but there is always a chance of finding these things in a treasure chest.
Sound: If you’re playing in Normal Mode, you need to play this game with the sound activated. The sounds in Minecraft are extremely important. Even in Peaceful Mode they greatly add to the game play.
- You can hear the existence of valuable caves, they make a shimmery sound.
- You can hear hostile mobs sneaking up on you.
- You can hear the presence of water and lava, often before you walk right into them.
- Wandering animals make their usual animal noises.
- Occasionally there is a bit of sleepy, pretty music. This sort of appears randomly and is not very loud. I am determined that it signals midnight and noon, but others insist that this is not so. New music and sound effects were added recently.
- You can build a jukebox to enjoy music discs you will find in the game.
Online Interactions: Your child can play Minecraft alone, or the family can play together. But there are also lots of opportunities for them to play with the broader online community as well. You need to discuss the safety issues and possible frustrations of playing in multiplayer worlds where your hard work can be wiped out by another person, or where inappropriate conversations may happen between players. Other players may ask you to join them on Skype or a Discord Server so that they can chat together about the game. These interactions should always be monitored when minors are involved. Multiplayer servers can be very rewarding however. Players form close-knit teams that work together to solve design, and logistic issues. They can learn a great deal about working with others, group dynamics, building a city/town/country together, leadership, and creativity. Being part of a thriving Minecraft server has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. Joining as a family can be very rewarding, too.
Copyrights – Minecraft content and materials are the trademarks and copyrights of Mojang. You can find more information on that here – Copyrights