I can’t remember exactly when Minecraft entered my house a few years ago, as it was insidious and sneaky, replacing a love for all things Toy Story and the Titanic.
My oldest son started to speak in a jargon that confused the hell out of me and he had me hounded to buy the pocket edition for my old phone. Then there were numerous requests for texture packs and mods (I still don’t know what those are).
Top of his Christmas list that year was PC Minecraft and Santy was clueless but brought a laptop with the game loaded on there (he had spent many nights googling and posting questions on forums regarding steam and all sorts of complicated techy stuff that didn't exist when he was growing up).
Poor Santy is not the best with technology and didn’t realise a high-spec/gaming computer would be needed, nor did he have the funds or inclination to spend a small fortune on a fickle 5 year old. Christmas day involved a devastated 5 year old, a glitchy laptop and one pissed off mother.
Three years later and my middle son has now become immersed in a world of pixelated pick-axes and the youngest at 3 years of age knows all the lingo and will have a good stab at playing (better than me or his Dad).
Things I've learnt as a Minecraft Parent:
I’ve become accustomed to this incomprehensible game and no doubt it will be replaced in the future by something far more menacing like GTA or FIFA so I’ll embrace it’s odd innocence and hope that if as a family we are ever stranded on a pixelated island, my boys could help us all survive.
- It’s damn hard to play… I like games, simple ones like Suduko or even the Lego Xbox ones at a push but I can’t understand the controls or how to move without looking up at the sky or drowning in the sea. My kids get annoyed with me and kick me out of the game which frees me up for other fun tasks like laundry or dinner. What was wrong with the simplicity of the old Commodore 64 games that had to be loaded in a cassette player for 4 hours prior to playing? (lots)
- How to build a portal to the Nether… this took me about an hour of youtubing while my 5 year old son wept in frustration beside me… I can’t remember it now but I think it involved placing gold blocks in a certain order.
- It’s fascinating to watch a child that can’t tie his own shoelaces or cries when asked to do the simplest of jobs create a complete and intricate village. Also fascinating is how brothers who could not be trusted to make Lego side by side in the real world without a charge for GBH can be content to join each others worlds and work in harmony building in cyber space (or at least till one of them blows the other's work up with TNT)
- YouTubers who specialise in narrating Minecraft games have become the new boybands… there’s the nice ones (the westlife-esque guys) like Dan TDM, Stampy and our very own Little Lizards. Then there’s the bad boys (the East 17); Markiplier and Jack Septic Eye. Check out these guys followers on youtube, it's phenomenal... they are making a fortune playing games and talking about how much fun they're having; I was born in the wrong generation. As much as I have blocked unsuitable content online, my wily 8 year old will be drawn to Jack Septic Eye (similar to my desire to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street or Dallas at his age) and has said some things in company that would make your toes curl. He has also taken to greeting people with “top of the mornin to you laddies” and wears a flat cap to school). There are Mineventions organised for kids to meet some of their favourite YouTubers, buy merchandise and learn more about the game; these events can resemble One Direction concerts.
- My kid's vocabularies have benefited from Minecraft and when out for a walk they will often ask if certain rocks are obsidian, granite or sandstone. I will smile at the shocked faces of older people and mutter something about encyclopedias and high IQs rather than disappoint them with the truth.
- When we go to Tayto Park in the Summer, the kids want to free the ocelot so they can tame him with fish and patience. Maybe this is possible but the sign that says this creature may bite on the wire fence makes me a little nervous.
- Every time you think you understand the game, your kids will explain some other complex and possibly existentialist facet to it ie: The End, The Nether and Herobrine.
- It can be dark and frightening; Herobrine woke my kids with nightmares many times. The Endermen scare me and I hate the nighttime noises if playing in survival mode; I’m forever shouting “lower down those zombie noises"... this can be a Plants Vs Zombies situation too.
- I will be ridiculously proud of one of the boys for a structure that I deem worthy of a future career in architecture or engineering. Alternatively I will watch them painstakingly make a village teeming with people and animals only to blow it all up and I feel I may be raising the next Donald Trump.
- My house is filled with Minecraft blind bag toys, ridiculously expensive foam swords (hidden for safety) and books containing facts and cheats. It’s a strange new world, free from the Barbies, Beanos and fancy paper of my own childhood.