Parents Guide to Minecraft

Over the last couple of years Minecraft has become one of the most popular games in the world with children.  Confusingly for many parents the game looks like it was designed in the early 1980’s with its Lego-type block graphics and simplicity, and this goes to show that you don’t need all the artificial intelligence and human-realistic characters to make a popular game; it’s about fun and creativity.

You can download and install the game onto most devices such as your PC/laptop, Android or iOS device, and of course gaming consoles and many more which has further increased the popularity.  Interestingly there is a growing trend of schools using Minecraft in the classroom as it is a brilliant educational tool particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEAM); essentially children are playing a game and learning, without realising they’re learning!

Are there any risks?

Minecraft is hugely popular – millions of users – as with anything so popular you’re going to get others who exhibit inappropriate behaviour such as swearing and bullying.  For example Minecraft has different modes of play, and it’s important you understand what these are as these will have a direct implication on the way in which your child plays the game:

  • Creative mode is the perfect starting point.  Players can’t be injured by things such as flowing lava, or drown, and won’t face aggressive mobs (such as zombies and spiders) who want to ruin their gameplay.
  • Survival mode is the traditional way of playing games, where you have health which can be lost, and also aggressive mobs that attack the player.  Now bear in mind, when I say ‘aggressive mobs’ treat that with a pinch of salt, it isn’t any more scary than watching a cartoon.  You can also die in survival mode, but you then re-spawn back to your original spawn point.
  • Hardcore mode is the ultimate; you have one life to live and if you die you can’t re-spawn, you lose everything.  This can be really frustrating for anybody, particularly children.  If you’ve spent a long time building stuff and then die you can understand the frustration.

There is some violence in the game, but this is really low-level stuff, and wouldn’t concern most parents of very young children let alone older children.  Usually one of the biggest concerns is about players attacking other players, particularly if this is persistent and starts leading to cyberbullying.

Probably the biggest risk of all is the amount of times spent on the game.  Because it is creative and totally immersing children will want to spend hours and hours on there but that really needs to be balanced out with real-life activities.  I wouldn’t recommend more than a couple of hours at weekends and 30 minutes to an hour on school nights.  And definitely no game play for a couple of hours before bed.

Further information

There is a fantastic, detailed guide to Minecraft for parents HERE and there is also a detailed collection of YouTube videos taking you through the various elements of gameplay HERE, but I would recommend playing the game with your child a few times so that you see what it’s all about, get the hang of it, and it will also give you a great insight into the game so that you can talk with your children about it and share in their excitement.