This is what I usually say: “Kids, you’ve had your twenty minutes on Minecraft; that’s enough.” I tend to be a bit of a minimalist when it comes to technology. Use what we need; consider it a helpful tool that is constantly changing, faster than we can keep up with it. Don’t let it dominate our lives as we allowed the television screen to dominate the family room above the fireplace. Armed with this insight, I will suggest to my children, Anastasia (5th grade) and Nate (3rd grade), “Get some fresh air, sunlight, and exercise. Why don’t you jump on the trampoline or swing under the tree?”
Nate and Anastasia generally play well together; however, they play more independently now, less side-by-side as they did as toddlers. Admittedly, I become nostalgic when I recall my daughter holding her little brother’s hand and walking him to his kindergarten class on the first day of school. So I was pleased to see this fast friendship rekindled, but I didn’t expect that it would be through Minecraft.
I have tried to watch the kids play Minecraft before, but, honestly, it looks like a dizzying maze that they are “driving” too quickly. Its tone seems cold, with all of its geometric forms and seemingly repetitive actions that suck in my children so they don’t hear me calling for them to come set the table for dinner. Nevertheless, I read about what our Middle School is doing with Minecraft in the classroom and brought it up with my kids during our dinner conversation. I recounted how the story I’d read talked about how Minecraft builds teamwork, creativity, and perseverance. My kids immediately chimed in and proceeded to expound on the merits of the game.
Here’s what happens. Playing Minecraft, they enter a virtual room together, willingly, and work to achieve a common goal. Their most recent goal is to make it to the Nether World, which, they explained, required a portal created from various elements. It is a dark world. “Why would you want to go there then and leave the house you built?”
After looking at me with incredulity, they explain they you must first go there to get to this final level of bliss, Ender World.
Ah, I think, so this is like Virgil leading Dante through nine circles of the inferno to get to paradise.
The teamwork extends among their friends. My son tells me that if he gets Minecraft on the main computer for Christmas, he can exchange energy from his solar panels in his virtual world for shares in his friend’s virtual factory. In the meantime, his buddy has done his research and has sent Nate a kid-appropriate Youtube Minecraft video by British gamer Stampylongnose, to provide guidance and inspiration.
Research, creativity, networking, troubleshooting and playing “store,” not by selling lemonade and painted rocks, but “mining” moments of interactive play in a virtual world this generation navigates with ease. I still advocate fresh air, sunlight and exercise, but, at the same time, I am beginning to see the benefits of time spent exploring this digital landscape.