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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mining for Understanding

Creepers. Endermen. Zombies. Spiders. Mods.

Are your kids speaking a foreign language? Or, are they just addicted to one of the world's most popular games: Minecraft?

I am here to steal your diamonds. And your time.

Whether you play on a PC, XBox, Playstation, or mobile device, chances are, you been invaded by this pixelated crack. At last count, the PC game has been downloaded over 17 million times. At $26.95 a pop, plus the recent sale of the title to Microsoft, you can bet the Mojang team are laughing all the way to the bank.

That's right, 17 MILLION.
It's even in our schools. 

Their gain is your frustration. Moms all over the internet describe kids who zone out for hours, "mining" in search of treasure, or building elaborate houses or other structures. They trade with villagers, grow crops, and fight mobs. (Which are, by the way, different from "mods". Get it right, or risk being the victim of an eye-roll.)

Not only are the kids playing the game you unwittingly plunked down thirty bucks to buy, they probably watch Youtube videos as well. Names like Etho, Captain Sparkles, and PewdiePie are whispered like charms to appease the vengeful Minecraft gods. There are inside jokes and secrets known only to denizens of the Minecraft world. There is more than treasure in the depths of the game. The delight of seeing Notch while playing on a "server" is only surpassed by the shock and fearful awe of glimpsing the mythical HeroBrian.

Would it kill this guy to blink once in a while? I mean, really. Holy creepy, HeroBrian!

By now, if you're like most moms, you're reaching for the Advil and Chardonnay, just thinking about it. Minecraft seems like an alien planet. You suspect that it's secretly a parasitic creature, crawling into your kids' vulnerable little heads and feasting on their growing brains.

Fear not, fellow Mamas. The addiction isn't fatal, and in fact, has real benefits for your kids, and, potentially, for you. As your tweens grow into teens, they may become withdrawn, quiet, and increasingly secretive. Even if you avoid the cliched "My parents are the enemy" attitude embraced by some young people, chances are you will sometimes struggle to make a connection with your child.

For those who are willing to take a step into their child's world, to learn something about the game that their kids are so passionate about, the rewards are better than finding a whole cache of diamonds. Since Minecraft has a connective feature, you and your child can play together. You can meet on common pixelated ground.  And, who knows? While beating a few zombies together, you might even... Talk. Laugh. Bond.

Your kid's obsession might seem weird, but it's important to him. 

Is it a stretch to think that a video game could produce a magical unicorn-and-bunnies-pooping-rainbows-all-over-the-living-room relationship with your kids?


Parenting takes work, and a few hours of sharing screens isn't going to be enough, on its own, to build a relationship. But it's not inconceivable that playing Minecraft could provide you with a shared interest, and give you something to talk about when everything else is just too awkward. Who knows, you might even find that you like playing. After all, it's not that different from Legos.

Remember these?
Bonus- You won't step on Minecraft blocks on your way to the bathroom at night!

Ready to give it a try? Or at least find out a little more about your kids addiction, and win the title of Coolest Mom Ever? Check out the video tutorial series I've created on Youtube, specifically for parents baffled by the phenomena known as Minecraft:

Happy mining.

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