A personal journey from reasonable trepidation to sweet love for the video game Minecraft.
It was barely a week after I said to my sister “I don’t let the boys play any games” that my children’s Minecraft obsession began. We had agreed that Fortnite was likely the worst (I’ve never played it but spoke with the smug confidence of someone who had) but Minecraft was definitely probably the second worst.
I’d never played Minecraft, and I still haven’t. But my attitude has definitely changed.
I’ll say first off that my concerns around Minecraft were that you played it with strangers. Immediately my mind went to sexual grooming and my children being at risk. Typical mum hysteria. That’s not to say those fears aren’t warranted, but my kids don’t know how to play it with others, so they play with each other. So I didn’t need to worry about that.
I also assumed the game was surely bad for them, what with its “creepers” and “zombies”. It sounded violent and I don’t like the kids watching violent movies let alone getting wrapped up in violent games. But it turns out Minecraft is just a game where you build villages and worlds. There are infinite possibilities. And yes there are zombies but my kids play on “peaceful mode” so they don’t see them. They also have a “no night-time” mode to make it even more wholesome.
I mean they’re block people, and one of the block people is named Steve.
It started with my son buying a Minecraft book from an op shop. I saw him poring over the pages, and then he started drawing worlds. I asked my husband what he thought; he was desperate to check it out. I came home from work and found them playing Minecraft together.
Usually, I find my husband and the boys building villages in real life out of blocks and train kits so I’ll admit I straight away thought it wasn’t a good idea. But they were all having a great time. “Dad! Watch out for the lava!” “Get to the dungeon!”
After about 40 minutes of play – the two kids and my husband all playing in some world together – we called time on it and agreed a new game could be started at another point based on good behaviour.
That was not the end of it.
My kids talked incessantly about Minecraft. They played Vegetarian Minecraft which involves not hurting or eating animals, and building farms. I tried to focus and be a present parent as my eyes glazed over at the incessant fucking drone of “And my villagers work in the iron factory I made mum, mum, mum, mum you can see zombies but if you’re scared you play peaceful but I play creative but mum mum mum I got a boat to take the villagers but but mum mum you can drive on land mum you can drive on land in mine craft mum mum”.
Because we limited Minecraft playing, they wanted to watch it on YouTube the rest of the time. Their God is Phineas Rage. If his name instils fear I need to let you know that he is a man who films himself playing Minecraft without hurting any animals. He makes comments like “Oh hello villager friend! Oh you’re a butcher? Well uh we don’t have much use for a butcher. But maybe you could work in accounting? Sir? Would you like that?”
Phineas Rage and his Vegetarian Minecraft videos became a soundtrack to my life. At first I hated him. He represented my struggle to control screen time and my failure to stop my children playing online games. But then I couldn’t help but fall for him. My children adore him. His politeness and gentle nature means after watching him the boys are fucking delightful. They say things like “You have to believe in yourself Mum!” when I swear at the coffee machine. Compare this with how they are after watching PJ Masks – bashing the shit out of each other basically – and Phineas is our co-parent. We adore him.
We started letting the kids buy Minecraft books from op shops and they became obsessed, my older reading to my younger. They planned their villages on paper before being allowed to play. They played WITH EACH OTHER. This is huge when you have children of different ages.
It’s not all perfect obviously, sometimes I’ll hear screaming: “MUM HE TOOK MY PUMPKIN PIE” and “MUM HE PUSHED ME IN FRONT OF A POLAR BEAR”.
But on the whole, Minecraft has been a really positive force in our lives. The kids are never more excited than their Family Minecraft time where they sit down with their dad and build together. They problem solve, working together to do what they need to do. They talk things out to try to find the best path forward. It’s taught them the need for safe working conditions (seriously). It’s taught them things I’ve struggled to work out how to teach them. In a world where children and young people have very little control, is it any wonder they’re drawn to online worlds where they can create the kind of peace so many don’t have in the real world?
I love to see the way my kids work to make the villagers and farmers and workers happy; building a collectivist society. They’re gentle dictators – it’s fucked up, but it’s cool. Look, I might be reaching, but honestly I really enjoy hearing the kids talk about what messages they will put on the walls of the homes. “Be happy!” is their most common piece of socialist propaganda (look, Minecraft exists in a world with zombies so they have adapted and you have to protect the workers – but my kids made a union, it’s fine).
independent journalism happen!Find Out More
I can’t say I love hearing about every minute detail of the latest world they’re in, but I love the joy and the passion they have. I love that they feel so proud of what they’ve created.
It’s made me consider what it is to create, and how we create in different ways. I have fears about screen time of course, but I feel like we’re making good choices for us as a family and I love being part of this thing my kids love.
I still don’t quite understand what Minecraft is. But do understand that my kids love it and I want them to love stuff. I want them to have weird hobbies and be obsessed with things like I was when I was a kid. I want them to feel like their dad and I will embrace their interests even if they don’t appeal to us.
All I’m saying is that Minecraft brings peace to many worlds in my world so I’m cool with it.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.