You may have seen a video bouncing around YouTube and Facebook this week when a lot of TV “news” shows picked up on a quote about the sandbox game Minecraft being addictive. If you missed it the link is here and it basically shows people scrambling for a story and talking about an evil addictive computer game without having any idea what it is.
If you’ve never heard of it Minecraft is a PC based game (though you can also play it on the Xbox 360) which is a world where you can build things. That’s pretty much it. You mine for materials like stone or cut down trees for wood then build houses, or in our case Thomas the tank engine. Yes there is a mode where monsters come to attack you and you have to kill them but you can turn that off so it is simply a peaceful world where you can teach your child to build things. This is what their website says:
“Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things.
It can also be about adventuring with friends or watching the sun rise over a blocky ocean. It’s pretty. Brave players battle terrible things in The Nether, which is more scary than pretty. You can also visit a land of mushrooms if it sounds more like your cup of tea.”
My husband works in the games industry and although we don’t allow unsuitable or unsupervised play we do allow our children to use consoles and PCs. The world is changing we feel that children who grow up with a working knowledge of technology will have an advantage over those who come to it later on. Games like Minecraft, when used responsibly for reasonable periods of time encourage creativity and co-ordination.
Just to re-iterate: you can turn off the monsters. The most dangerous thing that my son sees when he’s playing the game is a Pig that’s wandered into the house he is building with his Daddy.
As with everything I’m sure you can over do it. Teenagers probably do shut themselves in their bedrooms for hours to play it. There is a community who have spent thousands of hours recreating Middle Earth – the land where Lord of the rings is set – the picture on the left is Minas Tirrith built in Minecraft, however, ask yourself if you would rather have your child building amazing structures or blowing off peoples heads playing games like Call of Duty and Gears of War. If you don’t want your children shutting themselves away in their bedrooms set up the computer in a social area like the living room. That way you are aware of what they are doing. There are also restrictions which you can activate on most platforms to control which games can be played.
These are my personal opinions. Obviously it is everyone’s own choice whether they allow their children to play computer games and you know best what is right for your family. This works for us, if it doesn’t work for you that’s fair enough too 🙂