A Parent's Guide to Minecraft

Or why the heck are my kids playing with Lego blocks on the screen?

Old is New Again?So, Moms and Dads...Some of you parents may be gamers yourselves, like me. You might be old-schoolers or you are actually keeping up with the current generation. Some of you may check out these kind of sites to find out what games the kids are wanting or some maybe trying to figure out what the kids are already playing. One of the most popular of these trending games is Minecraft. This still growing sensation from Mojang is available on the PC, X-Box 360 and now even mobile app versions for Android and iPhone. Upon first glance, you might have thought someone had dug out the old Atari or Intellivision console or... are those Lego blocks?I can say to you, take heart.Minecraft is new, but it touches on some old school joy and you should have no worries if this game is being played in your house or someone is wanting it for their birthday. You may have to set some time limits though. This game can burn a lot of game hours.It's an indy game success story created by a company that welcomes players to tear it apart and try to make it better.Why Is It All So Blocky?The 8-bit look of Minecraft is deceptive. It appears to be a simple game of building blocks, but in reality there is more beneath that grainy surface than dark caverns and the flaming Netherworld.Sitting down for the first time, it might be best though to try out some basic building. You gather materials from chopping down trees or digging tunnels or by harvesting nearby animals. These materials then become your building blocks which you can lay out anyway you wish. And these same materials can be used to craft useful tools.Some elements of gravity and physics don't apply in Minecraft, so don't be alarmed if some things seem askew.What You Need  To KnowTo be able to speak to your child about Minecraft, you at least need to know a few things.First, the game was created by a guy everyone knows as Notch. This is Notch (a.k.a. Markus Persson). He is the creator of Minecraft and founder of Mojang, the company that developed Minecraft. Trust me, your kids have heard of him. Why? Because he actually plays his own game on occasion (at least that's the rumor my kids tell me) and has a very open sense of humor about his product.Then, you may wonder why the kids talk about butter so much. But, it's not butter... butter. In Minecraft, bars of gold which make weapons, armor and other useful things, are called Butter. Don't ask me why. They just are. Roll with it.Also, the game can be played in one of two modes: Survival Mode is just that. You have to gather materials to build and eat to stay alive. Things in the game can hurt or kill you, especially at night. And there is actually an end goal to achieve. Creative Mode allows the player free reign of their realm and all the materials they need to build with. And baddies can't hurt you. Mods are any downloaded add-on that changes or adds new elements to the game.So, What the Heck is Going On?Most games, you can look at the screen and know pretty fast what the deal is. Batman's swinging across Gotham to get the Joker. The little Italian guy on the kart is trying to win a race. The Asian girl with the funny haircut is beating up a blonde guy with a funny haircut. Cut and dry. Looking over his shoulder, I had been watching my son put together a multi-story house block by block. He added furniture, secret doors, a ladder leading into the mines below, etc. Then, he began to mix items he'd collected. I asked him, what are you making? "There are a lot of things in Minecraft you can build. You can make a diamond sword. I used to always use it, but then I found out that butter (gold) swords are easier to craft and they last quite a bit of time."  So, not only can you build things, you can make your own tools. Is that a blocky cow? "There are animals in Minecraft too such as pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, squids, wolves, and ocelots. You can tame the ocelots and wolfs. For ocelots you use raw fish, and for the wolves you use bones which you get from skeletons when you kill them. Then, you can make the wolfs fight for you, but the ocelots just run away." Darkness came and some green guys showed up. What are those things? Are they attacking you? "During the night there are hostile mobs (mobs meaning bad guys) such as Endermen, Zombies, Spiders, Creepers and Skeletons." Okay, is that a Paintball gun? "There is also mods. Mods will give you all kinds of awesome stuff. There is a mod for almost everything." And he wasn't kidding. I looked online for Mods. These are additions, alterations and various items that can be downloaded and added to the game. This is a major reason it's so popular. The players can make their own mods and offer them to everyone else. My sons have designed numerous skins (new looks for their avatars) on their own already.A lot going on, I know. And that's why I will tell you not to be concerned if your child plays this game. Yes, there are some weapons. Yes, they can kill animals for food or kill a bad guy. But, the primary thing going on here is IMAGINATION.And by that, I mean players creating an entire world of things. Houses with automatic doors and secret hatches, switches that work levers and turn on devices, objects and food crafted from raw materials, etc. The possibilities seem only limited by the player's ideas. Mods can have add-ons for new items or customization of existing ones to create even more outlandish objects and structures.Via the internet or X-Box Live, players can share the worlds they created with others and allow them to wander about their 3-d creations and even try things out, etc.The BasicsIn Minecraft, you play Steve. He's a blocky dude that occupies a whole blocky world.Steve's world can be a dangerous place, especially at night. That's when the baddies come out. But, he also can encounter them at anytime underground. Animals roam the land, some friendly. Some can be tamed or even ridden. Neighboring villagers keep to themselves but are willing to make trades.To survive, you must build yourself a shelter and begin to gather food. Everything around you can become a resource. Hacking at trees gets you wood, digging up the ground gets you stone, etc. Gathering plants or killing animals will give you food and other resources. You can then use those resources to make building materials. With time and some effort, you can also craft objects by combining resources in a furnace or at a craft table. There are lot of recipes for making weapons, armor, food, etc. Check out this handy Crafting Guide.Lights... Camera... To get an idea of what is possible in Minecraft, you can peruse hundreds of videos that include helpful ideas. Captain Sparklez is currently one of the most popular creators, but there are nearly endless themes and parodies as well as suggestions and survival guides.For that matter, the Mindcrack Network has several contributors posting game news, regular podcasts and even interviews with notable creators. One network member Building with BDoubleO has over 600,000 subscribers for hundreds of episodes, including the amazing Inspiration series with Keralis that shows some astouding creations.Another popular video maker is Skydoesminecraft but be warned that his audio tracks often include inappropriate language.Geek Tested, Parent ApprovedWith the addition of mobile versions, mods coming out daily and a widening base of players, Minecraft is becoming a monolith. But, this is game that you Moms and Dads can take heart that their kids are not just mindlessly button mashing or brutally committing acts of first-person shooter violence.There's a bit of a learning curve, but it's not hard to get the basics. If you've ever sat and put together a puzzle, built a model or built buildings out of blocks with a child then you understand that's not just playtime. That's the time when you really connect.*All answers in italics are my son's own words. Thank you, Evan.

Contributor

Amazon, Pirate and Gator 'Rassler who terrorizes the seas aboard her frigate The Crimson Widow in the original Pirates Online and now in The Legend of Pirates Onlines (www.TLOPO.com). Also an administrator of the Pirates Online Wiki (https://piratesonline.fandom.com/wiki/). Have swung a hammer in Guild Wars 2, slung a S.A.W. in Defiance and winged across the galaxy in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Published Oct. 27th 2017
  • Magex_5759
    Your kid is obviously brain washed by youtube videos by sky just search sky in youtube and you'll get the guy I'm talking about also golden swords do not last quite a while the have the lowest durability in the game and do less damage than iron swords
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - Do understand that this article was written well over a year ago. The game and my youngest child have matured and grown. This article was meant as a basic quick summary of the Minecraft phenomenon was at the time.

    He does still play on occasion, but has moved to focus on action games. His older brother and a couple of online friends also play and have made some pretty amazing places in both scope and detail.
  • Norsk_Xenophile
    Gold is only called "budder" or "butter" by SkyDoesMinecraft fans. No one else does. Look it up!
  • michaela_3047
    Minecraft is fun but the skins should be free, who thinks so
  • Bayliss_5956
    This website is outdated!
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - I realize that Minecraft is always changing and evolving. This article is a year old next week. I may sit with my son and work out an update. If there is anything here that's false though - please tell me so I can fix it.
  • Big Chief 1
    Featured Correspondent
    Awesome article, and a must-read for any parents out there with gamer kids.
  • Lisa_2677
    I bought a card at Wal Mart & it never worked at all on my son's computer & Minecraft nor Wal-Mart would refund the money (both said it was the other's place! Had to then buy the Xbox version.

    Be careful Iif buying via that card!! My son loves the game & so do many of his 8 yr old friends.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - I've not heard of such an issue and find it troubling if Wal-Mart would not return it. The version my sons have we bought a key from Gamestop and simply went home and downloaded it for the PC.
  • Ryumoau
    I was really hoping for Minecraft to be a launch title for ps4, but it got delayed. I guess i'll have to wait abit longer before i can finally try this series.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - Just picked this item off the wire. It looks like it's in the works but not quite ready yet.

    http://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2013/12/09/minecraft-is-running-on-ps4-and-xbox-one-but-theres-a-lot-more-work-to-do/
  • prOkrEAt
    I really wish people would quit mentioning sky as an acceptable commentator in these articles. His videos are banned in my house due to improper language for children as well as him being generally obnoxious in videos. There are far more appropriate commentators out there. Captain Sparklez at least keeps his language appropriate and has a bigger following if that is the merit of mention for these articles. ANY of the Mindcrack crew are great for kids to watch. BDoubleO is a great builder. Etho is a great redstoner. DocM is great for learning how to manipulate the game. Its sad writers default to recommending a poor and unacceptable commentator when writing an article for parents who don't have à clue.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - Actually, I have viewed many of the videos you mentioned. It has been some time since this article was updated. And at the time, a warning should have been applied. I'm glad you brought that to my attention.
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Howdy EC! I was tweeting this and wanted to tag you but it looks like your social links are dead. Just a heads up in case they're broken, or a reminder to remove them if you're not using those profiles.
  • Joshua_8491
    This is amazing, I am more than willing to show this to my parents to make sure they understand this game much better and hopefully show some more support for it and for me playing it. Mind if I share my insights on this article as well? I'd be delighted to do so.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - Josh, that's wonderful praise. Thank you. When my sons and I put this together, I had no idea it would continue to be read by nearly 1,000 people a week.

    Please use the reply space or better yet, craft your own article to add to Gameskinny!
  • Shaun Wood
    Minecraft is a game and like any tool it can be used more or less effectively. Trying giving your kids some of these Minecraft challenges with a educational side.
    http://minecraftkidsquests.blogspot.co.nz
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Great post EC! I meet plenty of parents who hear about Minecraft but don't understand what it's all about.

    Curious: do you have time Wednesday evening to take part in a GameSkinny chat for parents on Twitter? We'll be answering a bunch of questions about gaming and family, and I'd love to see you there! We're very interested in providing more family/parent oriented content, and it would be great to have your experience and know-how applied to the topic.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Contributor
    - actually that could work out very well. Me and my sons will be together that night and I'm sure they'd be happy to give me their insights as well.

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