Minecraft – a Top Ten Tips for Parents
Minecraft – if your child is not already playing it, they’ll have a membership near the top of their Christmas list, I’m guessing. But do you actually understand what it is? How it works? The risks and pitfalls of letting your child loose online within its confines? No, I didn’t either, to begin with. Thankfully I have a young teen who has been a Minecraft fanatic since the very first Beta version wa-a-a-y back in 2009, when he was chronically ill and spent almost two years stuck in his bedroom. With his computer. Now he’s a bit of a Grand Master, and WAY more qualified than me to write this…
So, this Christmas your child may have put Minecraft on their Christmas list. Well that would be unsuprising as Minecraft (as of writing this post) has over 8,219,197 players worldwide! And this figure rises by the day – which, of course, means lots of new players. For a start let’s explain what exactly Minecraft really is. In essence, it’s a digital, interactive LEGO set – it’s what your child WANTS to be able to do with their box of LEGO bricks.
Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. It has a completely randomly generated terrain so no two worlds are alike, and the best thing is – the sky is the limits. You can do anything in Minecraft, whether it is creating huge towers or mansions, mining for diamonds way down deep into the earth, farm your crops, cows, pigs and chickens or simply explore the vast jungles and oceans. There is also a survival element – to stay alive, your character must eat food and sleep. Oh, and there are also hostile creatures including Skeletons with bows and arrows, giant spiders, and zombies. But don’t worry; they aren’t at all scary and you can simply turn them off if you wish.
The best thing about Minecraft is that you can connect with people from all around the world and play or build together. But of course, especially when you have young children playing, there may be some things you want to avoid or be cautious with. This is the top 10 list of advice for parents with Minecraft:
A server is a big public world where lots of people may play at once. This is one of the best things about Minecraft, as you gain a community – eager to help each other out. BUT! Do check any server your child wishes to play on before hand. Make sure that this server is family friendly – most servers have websites which will explain a lot. If your child is quite young (under the age of 12) you will want to avoid *hardcore* or *extreme* servers, as this usually means there are not many rules – other players will try to attack you and destroy what you have built. They may also use adult language as Minecraft players age range from 4 to 100 (yes, believe it or not there is a century old Minecraft player! ).
A “texture pack ” is something you can download to change how your game looks – literally changing the ‘texture’ or appearance of your blocks). As these are user-generated they may contain adult content or viruses, so always take the usual download precautions.
Mods (modifications) are things that change the game (anything from adding a new block to adding elephants to the game) and really enhance and deepen the gaming fun. However, if installed incorrectly these can break your game, and potentially remove your childs creations. So make sure to back up all of your minecraft worlds ( a nice way of doing it can be found here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yit9n2CMmhQ) and do this BEFORE installing your mod. Then if you log on and your minecraft goes black, or you get an error message Restart minecraft, click options and select Force Update – this will refresh your game and then if needed to, you can restore your minecraft worlds! This is probbaly one of the most common issues that enthusiastic Newbies have!
- Taking breaks
Minecraft is probably one of the most fun games I know, and it IS addictive. There’s always just-one-more-block. So enforce some rules with your child! For example do not allow them on after a certain time at night, and make them take regular breaks – no matter how much they kick and scream that the Creeper’s are going to get them…
This is what we call people who go around destroying other peoples things. This can be heartbreaking to a child who has spent hours building something amazing, just to have it broken – and it has happened to most of us at some point on a public server. Griefers can happen anywhere, but thankfully are not very common. If anything ever happens while on a server, do contact the servers admin either in game or on the website. It is their job to help.XXX
Minecraft has an inbuilt chat box on servers. This is great for talking to fellow players, and a brilliant way to give and receive help and advice, and to make the game a wide-reaching and sociable experience. However some people may use unsavoury language. As always – common sense should apply, and parental monitoring is recommended.
This advice also works in reverse; monitor your child as they may (even unwittingly) use language other parents might not want their children exposed to, or as an unthinking ‘joke’ break other peoples things. It is all about manners. Some base rules of engagement are: dont enter other peoples property without permission, don’t go through other peoples items, no unsavoury language, no griefing, no random placement of blocks on other peoples property and don’t harm any of their pets (e.g. dogs, cats, cows, sheep… you get the picture).
- Join in!
As a parent the best thing you can do is join in! Minecraft is played by families all over the world. There is something for everybody. It is also the best way to monitor your children as you will be on the same server as them playing with them. (Note form Laura – This is totally true. Katy is a keen player but prefers the simiplicity of the Xbox version…)
- Play offline!
Still not comfortable with your child playing on a server with lots of people? Well that is fine, as Minecraft has a brilliant single player mode! You can do all of the same things – just alone, which for some parents is the best option of all, especially for younger children. If you have more than one computer in the house, you can also easily create a LAN (local network) so that you can play with your child, or your children can play together, without being on a public space.
- Have fun!
Although it’s sensible to be cautious with all online games, make sure not to restrict your child too much. Minecraft is about creativity and freedom, and kids need to experiment. Minecraft has one of the best, most active and supportive online communities in the world. It is educational, non-violent and sociable. What’s not to love? Have fun!
To gain a quick insight into just how much more than ‘building blocks’ Minecraft can be, take a look at some of these creations. Remember when you’re looking that each of those creations were built one block at a time. Amazing.
No.1 is more than happy to answer any questions anyone has – and there’ll be another post soon with a step-by-step How To Get Started guide.