[Video Games 101] What Is Minecraft and Why Do Kids Like It So Much?

Posted by | May 06, 2015 | News, Tips for Parents | 11 Comments

This post is part of a series that addresses the needs of the parent who “just doesn’t get video games.” I’m here to catch you up, Clueless Parent!

Parents who aren’t in love with video games in the first place have a hard time understanding what all the fuss is about. They’re glad their kids are into something that’s supposed to be educational, but they’re worried their love of Minecraft is slipping into pathological territory—an obsession.  Sometimes this fear causes parents to fall back on some not-so-helpful but oh-so-common behaviors—worry and avoidance.  Or they overreact (“No more Minecraft for you, EVER!”), which can be just as bad.

Here’s how popular Minecraft is: there are at least 54 million copies out there. It’s available on PC and Mac, but also on Xbox and mobile.  The game is HUGE.

Not only do kids love playing it, they love watching people play it on Youtube. The pint-sized fans of Captain Sparklez and Mr. Stampy Cat are legion.

How To Understand Minecraft Love

What you need is practical rules that fit your kids, but if you don’t know what you’re making rules about, you can run into trouble. Compare kids’ love of Minecraft to your love of a TV series, a musical group, or a sport. What if your loved ones were telling you that your fan favorites were bad for you, but they didn’t know a thing about them? Wouldn’t that cause a lot of unnecessary friction?

Sooooo, it makes sense, doesn’t it, that you should learn about Minecraft? You should talk to your kid about it? And you should try playing it.

Wait! It’s not that hard. Really! Check out the video. Simone is teaching Curtis about Minecraft from the very ground up so that he can understand why his son Sebastian likes it so much.

A blogger named Minecraft Mum has a list of excellent suggestions for how to set limits on Minecraft time.  But she agrees with us: you really need to try playing it yourself to understand Minecraft love.

What Minecraft Is—Magic, Basically

Remember when you were a kid and you got a giant barrel of blocks or Legos or, if you’re really old, Tinker Toys, and you dumped them on your carpet and started building? Well, Minecraft is like that, except the blocks are magical and you make them yourself from an endless magical supply of ingredients. And any time you want, you can magically summon your friends to help you build.  That’s right! They appear in your living room with their own sets of fresh magical blocks and you can work on cool structures together. You can talk and laugh and play make-believe with the things you build. That’s the appeal of Minecraft.

Minecraft is not really a game. It’s more like a toy. And it’s a virtual world where you can make just about anything.  In Minecraft, people make games. And Minecrafters have made castles, villages, cities, ships, spaceships, and even fantasy worlds.

How Minecraft Works

If you watch the video, you’ll see from the beginning how it works. You’ll watch novice Minecraft player Curtis Vredenburg appear in a random landscape and find a tree. He punches the tree to make wood. He makes the wood into planks and makes the planks into a crafting table.  (And once you have a crafting table, you can make anything.)

Curtis started playing in Survival Mode, but there’s another mode called Creative Mode that doesn’t have any monsters.

The Virtual World

Minecraft is its own world.  It has physics just like the real world does. It even has a day and night cycle, and at night hostile creatures spawn. (It is possible to disable the day-night cycle, but most people don’t.)

Online Play

You don’t have to play Minecraft online with other people, also called multiplayer mode. You can play it in single-player mode.

Most kids like to play multiplayer because—friends! Duh, Mom and Dad! They get to chat with their friends and play with them making things or fighting monsters or just goofing around.

There are ways you can play Minecraft on a local-area network—that is, with only the people you want to play with. Novice parents probably shouldn’t get into that.  For now, just get on a server and try it out.

Of course, like any online world, Minecraft has other people (of all ages)  in it who will tease or bully others. This is not a Minecraft problem; it’s not even an Internet problem exclusively; it’s a human problem. Most everyone needs to learn to deal with bad behavior from others whether it’s online or in real life.  Here are some tips.

The Benefits of Learning About Minecraft

It’s pretty simple: When you know about Minecraft, you can make rules that make sense to you and your child. It’s not good for kids to play Minecraft too much, but there’s probably a play schedule that makes sense for your kids and your family.

 

Linda Breneman

About Linda Breneman

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.