by John Biggs
Zombies, creepers, and spiders, oh my! If your kids are like mine, you've probably suddenly become a Minecraft family. However, if you're like I was, you probably have no idea what the heck the kids are doing in their virtual world. Never fear: The Minecraft FAQ is here.
Minecraft isn't new, but it's now reached the mainstream and is probably popular in many houses around the world. As kids grow out of Flash games and pounding the remote control against the TV, they will quickly discover the magic and addictive properties of Minecraft. I'm here to help you understand this new threat.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a construction game. You run around a huge world -- sometimes with other users -- and "mine" for dirt, gold, iron ore, and other metals. Using fairly complex recipes, you can then make various objects like swords, pickaxes, and bows and arrows. More importantly, however, you can stack the stuff you mine into amazingly complex shapes, allowing you to build tall towers, huge castles, and even whole cities.
You can play the game for free but for online play you have to pay about $20. The pocket edition for iOS and Android is equally addictive and allows you to play with other users on the same Wi-Fi network.
Is it scary?
There are monsters, sure, but if you play in Creative mode, they won't bother you. Survival mode is more of a challenge, and slurping zombies and wobbly slime creatures come out at night (did I mention there was a time system?) to grab you.
Minecraft runs on most computers and, more importantly, on iOS and Android devices. Computer users can create and connect to public Minecraft servers around the world, but most of them have no voice-chat capabilities so the worst another player can do is blow up your house. The portable version, called Minecraft PE, allows you to connect with other people playing the same game on your wireless network. This means siblings can play in the same world, something that my kids discovered early. Older kids will teach the younger kids how to play, and it doesn't have to be any scarier than an older kid jumping out of a mine and saying "Boo."
Are they rotting their brains?
Eh, it could be worse. The violence is very tame and the real draw is the creative aspect. That's why it's a hoot to play.
I mean, look at this thing below:
That is a real building a player in the game made with some friends. The best I could ever do was make a tower that went straight up, and even that was a blast. It's really fun and they'll play it for hours. Which leads us to the next question ...
Should I be worried they're playing too much?
Yes and no. Minecraft is pixelated crack. I spent a week playing it a few months ago, fascinated by the concept of endlessly stacking bricks on top of each other. It was really addictive.
My kids have been playing for a few weeks and now they're watching videos about playing the game in an effort to understand the complexities of the system. So they're watching people play the game so they can play the game later, for a longer period of time. It's a weird circle.
Also note that the people who do the videos are usually either kids who rarely curse but are almost always insufferable if you've heard their voices for days on end.
Will I have fun if I play it?
Yes, you will. I'm planning on doing some podcasts with my son, and I think adults will love the gentle gameplay and simple rules. It can put you in a Zen-like state, which I suppose is a good thing. It's honestly an amazing game and, compared to the shoot 'em ups they could be playing or horrible time wasters like Candy Crush, this is virtually a college education.
Just watch out for the Witch. She's a mean one.
Do your kids play Minecraft yet?
How do you feel about that?