Minecrafting With the Kids

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Minecraft is one of those games that has been well-established as insanely popular for so many years now that I couldn’t even tell you when it really started. My kids didn’t latch onto it until this last October, though, when W, our younger kid (third grade), was playing on a Nintendo Switch with a friend who had the game and the next thing he wanted to know was if we could get Minecraft on our Switches too. A (sixth grade) hadn’t gotten bit by the Minecraft bug yet. He had resisted it previously because classmates talking non-stop about it had annoyed him rather than pulled him in, although his friends had recently started showing him videos of epic builds and his hesitance was starting to waver.

W jumped right in with an unbridled amount of enthusiasm, and we eventually acquired a number of books on how to build things or guides on everything you needed to know about this and that. Some kids get those books and lightly look over them. W consumes them and becomes a mini walking encyclopedia on the subject.

A few weeks ago, W asked me to play with him. I figured why not. Over the years I have shared a number of my geeky loves with the kids, some of which they took to more than others. However, sometimes they come across something on their own and bring it to me so I get to explore something new and fun with them. Minecraft looked like it might be one of those things, and I quickly got why people love it so much. I downloaded a fun little fantasy world called Gendry’s Tavern by Fall Studios with some established buildings and used that as a base to start building up and exploring while W offered his advice and knowledge from the sidelines. We actually found my kids play really well together when I let them loose in my little world and we’ve been having a lot of fun. Here are some of my takeaways from it.

View of the World Gendry’s Tavern by Fall Studios. Some of the buildings I added. Screencap by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

It’s Like LEGO But Cheaper

While, yes, there are ways to purchase skins or worlds from other players, there’s a lot of free content too. With creative mode you don’t even need to farm all of the materials for things, so you can just build and you never run out of a certain block, nothing gets lost only to end up in the vacuum or under someone’s barefoot, there’s no real clean up, and building something big and glorious doesn’t come with a several hundred dollar price tag either. Not that we don’t love LEGO in this household because we certainly do, but I get why kids who love LEGO would be into Minecraft.

There Are So Many Fun Creators

Minecraft is one of those things that rightfully hit the creator community pretty hard. I love the tutorials on how to build certain types or designs of buildings, and it’s helping me start how to creatively place items in ways you might not have thought of to get a certain look. Honestly, it reminds me of some of the things that I love about Animal Crossing. (That community is also ridiculously good at stacking or rotating objects to pull off certain creations.) Seeing what these creators have pulled off is really fun, and it actually has the boys and I hoping to eventually create and design an entire castle as we work our skill levels up. I started following a YouTuber named Cryptozoology after I built one of his storage units, although over time we’ll likely discover more creators to follow.

The Open-World Nature Is Really Great

House I build with instructions from Cryptozoology on YouTube. Screencap by Elizabeth MacAndrew.

There are no real goals or levels in Minecraft and, sometimes, when I’m just trying to destress, that’s exactly what I need. I can just randomly decide to focus on something for the day. Maybe one time I’m making a barn and gathering up and breeding farm animals, another day I’m farming, on a third, I might be mining, on another I’m chopping trees and preparing to build something fun and new. I like that I can just sort of do my own thing and see where my own whims take me. The only frustrating part might be the number of times I’ve found myself repairing something an unexpected Creeper manage to blow up. Creepers are absolutely the worst and I don’t understand why people would buy merchandise with Creepers all over it. I guess there are some things about Minecraft that I will just never be able to understand.

I Like the Bonding With My Kids

My kids don’t always get along, but Minecraft has become an interesting neutral territory. When they play in my world I give them pretty free rein to run around and do whatever as long as they aren’t messing up something I’ve built. They can farm, fish, raise animals, build things, etc. They’re more likely to get defensive about their own worlds, but the beauty of Minecraft is they can each have a world that is theirs alone while being allowed to visit mine. Just the other day, we finally mined deep enough to discover some more rare items, and as A called out to W over it, W was eagerly talking about things we’d be able to make. It was A who saved us after digging ourselves into a bedrock hold we couldn’t get out of by pouring water in and letting up swim up. W was the one who quickly jumped in and patched up the source point when I hit the water while mining and flooded an area. There have been some great moments of teamwork like this that I’ve really found myself appreciating.

I know there are some parents out there that might run screaming for the hills if they hear anything else about Minecraft, but, honestly, I’d really like to encourage them to maybe consider just joining their kids. The kids not only enjoy spending time with you, but they really love the feeling of getting to teach and share something with you. Building and adventuring together can also be lots of fun, and these are the moments they’ll really look back on and treasure.  

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