Minecraft is a minefield and if understanding it is going to assist us in having some control over how, when and who plays this seemingly addictive game then I think the answer lies in getting our heads around how this thing works.
Here goes, and for the record I’m still amazed that I can hold a device to my head and hear the voice of a loved one and it’s even more mind blowing that this same device can show me an image of them talking as though they are right in front of me. Telephones, Televisions, Computers…I don’t really get any of it so who better than to try and give you a basic version of one of the most popular games out at the moment, Minecraft.
I also want to share with you how I have as an adult managed the twists and turns of having this game in a household of two boys now aged 8 and 14. Master 8 is Autistic making such games even more important (to him) and control of it even more difficult (for me.)
So let’s start at the beginning, forget the world we all really live in, school, homework, chores, parents who nag us, siblings who nag us, pets who nag us (you get the picture.) Imagine a world with perfect lush green grass (that never needs cutting), cascading waterfalls, picturesque skies, a sun that never requires you to wear sunscreen and a place where you will NEVER run out of interesting and fun things to do, make, create, be.
Imagine a virtual realm. As the sun sets, you don’t need to brush your teeth, or clean up your toys, no time wasting pyjamas, no, you have zombies, skeletons and creepers heading straight at you and you have a house to make. You can’t stop now, not for dinner (of the real kind) not to reply to something your nagging brother didn’t need to ask you anyway, and the only way you’re going to get the blocks to build your house is by punching the tree in front of you.
And you’re a boy, and what boy doesn’t like trees and punching, except this isn’t just a way to relieve stress, it actually makes something useful, and what boy hasn’t thought up a million ways to escape a zombie apocalypse. You’ve got this. This is YOUR world where YOU are in control, and your world; well it needs you RIGHT NOW. Do not stop. Do not stop for anything, or for anyone. Are you having fun yet?
OK, now take some of the wood blocks off of the tree you’ve been punching and make yourself something to work off of, you’re going to need tools, you can make these also with these blocks and in about an hour’s time you’ve pretty much got yourself shelter in the form of a four walled house with a door where you will proceed to hide away from the roaming zombies until the sun comes up. You’re going to need a torch (You can make one by combining a stick and coal which is found underground using a pick axe to get to.)
How do you get the pick axe you ask? With a crafting table! How? Right click on the work bench you made earlier and drag from your inventory sticks and wood or cobble stone. Voila pick axe. You’re also going to need other items to build your house and build your world. These can be found in the light of day, but be careful in the mean time as there are giant spiders and creepers who love the dark.
SURVIVAL is the key. And in order to survive this game it is going to take a lot of repetitive actions, especially if you want to create anything interesting. Oh and there’s no manual of sorts. It’s all on YouTube. If what you’ve read about giant spiders, zombies or creepers concerns any parents so far , go onto YouTube yourself and if you do scan hours and hours of YouTube (data sucker so be careful) what you are more likely to find than anything sinister are amazing creations made by children and adults alike. What you’ll find is a whole lot of people online really proud of their accomplishments.
Mention the word “Minecraft” and unless you’ve got your kid locked in a closet he will have had some interaction with the game. And I have difficulty faulting it. As far as a game for kids with Autism, or kids without Autism the pros stand firm. This is a game that is visually appealing, it promotes creative thinking and it promotes logic and patience. (I mean you have to hit that tree one heck of a lot of times to get the amount of blocks needed for anything even close to spectacular!!!) And it encourages social interaction. There are tens of tens of thousands of kids playing this game and many kids on and off the spectrum struggle with social engagement. Even better, it’s portable. These kids can play it anywhere which leads me to the few cons I have for the game.
It’s not real. It is a VIRTUAL REALITY. In the real world, you can stop working on your day job (as a builder) to eat with your family because zombies are NOT going to come after you or your parents. In the REAL world, you DO have homework and you DO need to clean your teeth and you DO need sleep. This world is so engaging and so captivating that kids lose themselves in the minefield of Minecraft and will do ANYTHING to get back to their “world.” In the real world activities do end, people do shut off and we do not always need to be “doing” something.
In my opinion it has less to do with the game and more to do with screen time and the difference between one screen and the next which I feel many parents have difficulty differentiating between, mostly because they just don’t understand how this thing works. There is a very big difference between watching cartoons for an hour than building, creating, negotiating and engaging with friends. But the real world should take precedence over the virtual one. Here are some suggestions on how to monitor Minecraft time.
- Negotiate the rules together.
- Homework after school (checked by a parent) and IF no after school activity scheduled then 45 minutes of mine craft is allowed. (This is your house and your rules.)
- Get an egg timer and have the child set the time themselves.
- If they do not manage the time add those minutes onto chore time.
- Give a 10 minutes heads up when the time is nearing.
- Allow 2 hours during the weekend but in shorter spurts, (four ½ hour blocks for example.)
Engage in their “world.” Let them show you what they’ve made or talk about it over dinner or why driving to school. YOU bring it up!!!
At the end of the day, this is something I personally feel your kid is safe to play and we can choose to be proud of their accomplishments. We can choose to praise them for being creative or showing initiative. We can choose to ask them to show us what they’ve been working on. Don’t get it yet? Ask an 8 year old, he or she will be happy to take you on a virtual tour.
Written By School Mum Carla