My children are both Minecraft addicts, especially the eldest. His first words in the morning are “Is it an iPad day today?” (we have iPad free days to try and curb his addiction, but it hasn’t worked so far) and when he can’t play Minecraft he wants to watch Minecraft videos on YouTube, play with Minecraft themed Lego, and talk incessantly about Minecraft to anyone who will listen. He has Minecraft clothes, bedding, wall stickers, and a school bag. For this reason, we like to call it “Mindcrack”.
My husband and I have long been avid gamers, so we’re not completely alarmed by his obsession, and in fact my husband has been playing alongside the kids for around a year. In lockdown, for obvious reasons, more time was spent on this game by all three and I started to feel a little left out. Caving into peer pressure I eventually downloaded the game onto my phone a few weeks ago and I’ve discovered that, despite my status as a “total n00b” (that’s a “newbie with no idea what they are doing” for those who aren’t fluent in gamer speak), my kids still expect me to adopt the parental role.
1. The Kids Constantly Badger Me For Food
Your character has to eat regularly in Minecraft to keep up energy and keep playing. Food is fairly easy to find; you can harvest plants or kill innocent looking sheep to get meat. Yet my children will still pester me for food when their characters get hungry. Of course, they’re simultaneously pestering me for food in real life, as well. It gets tiring.
2. The Kids Never Shut Any Doors
In Minecraft, your character has to survive in a world of zombies, exploding monsters, creepy spiders and other nasties that all come out at night. You can improve your chances of survival by building a base and blocking the entrance with a door that the zombies can’t open (despite it not being locked, which makes no sense to me, but anyway). As result, I’ve worked hard on a multi-level base with doors, gates, and more. But of course, all of this is completely pointless because my children are apparently incapable of shutting any door or gate they go through when mooching around my base (uninvited, I may add), allowing all the zombies to stroll right in.
It’s exactly the same in real life. My kids leave every door open, including the car door, which I haven’t always noticed. Thankfully, we live in an area with low crime and the worst thing that has happened so far is that the car has been flooded with rainwater. It’s a good job zombies are not a real world phenomenon.
3. I Can’t Have Any Nice Things
We recently had to plan a new bathroom for our house and when the planner was detailing all the wonderful design elements available we had to discount a lot of them on the basis that the kids would just break them / use them to flood the house / swing off them etc. My cheap, IKEA wooden dining chairs desperately need replacing and I’d love to purchase some comfortable fabric covered chairs, but they would instantly become stained with spaghetti Bolognese or tomato ketchup, so there really is no point.
In Minecraft, I spent ages crafting a farm house with a beautiful wooden fence and a garden, only for my four year old daughter to “help” by adding a tonne of stone blocks on top of the fence and a massive pond in the garden. It looks ridiculous but she is so pleased with her endeavours that I can’t bring myself to change it.
4. There’s No Chance For Peace & Quiet
When I first started playing Minecraft, I had nowhere to live. Thankfully my kind four-year-old let me move in with her, even making me a bed which she put next to hers. Presumably, that was so she could easily creep into my bed in the middle of the night and hog the blankets. However, after a while I decided to branch out on my own. I found a nice spot in some woodland and made a house.
It didn’t take long for my kids to decide that my base was the place to be, and before I knew it, they were hanging out at mine all the time. Later my daughter insisted on moving in right next door. On the one hand, it’s cute, but on the other hand, it’s a painful reminder that I can never experience a moment of peace and quiet, whether in the real world, or the virtual block world.
5. It’s Always Mummy
In the real world, my children will walk out of a room where their Dad is to come and find me to ask for a snack, or to find out if they’re allowed screen time. In the mornings, it’s me that they come and jump on first thing, whilst my husband gets to snore away next to me, oblivious.
In Minecraft, it’s exactly the same. My husband has been playing for longer than me. He has a well established base with loads of gadgets and supplies. But the children largely ignore him and pester me for square shaped watermelons and iron supplies instead.
6. I Have To Intervene In A Lot Of Sibling Squabbles
Just like in real life, on our family Minecraft server, sibling squabbles are a regular occurrence. My daughter, being only four, generally likes to follow either myself or my son, aged seven, around. As a result, when they are playing together and come across resources they both want to collect, things can get a little heated. I spend more time negotiating peace agreements in the virtual world than I do in the real world.
7. On The Other Hand, Some Roles Have Been Reversed
It’s not all similar of course. There are some occasions when our roles are reversed. I often have to ask my son how to create certain items, or for help when I found myself overwhelmed by zombies and other monsters. When I got lost one day it was my daughter who came to my rescue, adopting a tone she’s probably heard from me thousands of times before: “Now come along Mummy, what you have to do is head towards that tower and then cross the stream…”
Furthermore, whilst I might begrudge all effort it takes for me to collect resources only for the kids to use them up, playing Minecraft with them has given me a new insight into their characters. My daughter, on the surface, seems everything you might expect from a four-year-old, focusing on collecting an array of animals, including pandas and chickens, to care for on a large farm with plenty of plants. However, she also has a pile of rotten flesh that she has collected from zombies that she apparently built “to scare the monsters away.” She clearly has a dark streak that I might need to keep an eye on.
My son, despite never showing any interest in creative arts in the real world, has an amazing eye for detail in the virtual world, creating sleek looking buildings with interesting design features. In real life he can be difficult to engage in with family activities, such as board games, but in Minecraft he’s happy to work together to create a new project.
I’m certainly not about to ditch the screen free days, but spending time with my kids in Minecraft has provided us with a new way to bond and as we look towards the return to school we will certainly be keeping some family Minecraft time on the schedule.