The Mom’s Guide to Minecraft


Minecraft Guide for Moms

In your house, every other sentence starts with “In Minecraft…” and the kids throw out strange words like ‘Enderman’ and ‘The Nether’. It spreads to other areas of their life, and soon you are swimming in Minecraft branded T-shirts, player guidebooks, and Minecraft LEGOs (the most ridiculous redundancy I’ve ever heard). The voice of Stampy Cat haunts you when you try to sleep, and your three-year-old sings the “Don’t Mine At Night” parody song.
Don’t worry, fellow mom. Many of us have been here, or ARE here. You are not alone. I’ve been here for at least the last 18 months. You and your kids are going to be alright.
While most of us would be happy if our kids became obsessed with something like chemistry or great American literature, Minecraft isn’t a bad alternative. It’s a game all about resource management, strategy, and creativity, plus it has no sexual content (unless you count animal husbandry), and the main focus isn’t on fighting or violence. 
Through Minecraft, my kids have learned a few life lessons, including that they need to take care of themselves by protecting and feeding themselves; that if they want something, they have to work to get it (harvesting, mining, etc.); that their resources are limited, so they need to use them wisely; that tools need to be created from rough materials; and that it takes time, effort, and planning to create really big things–Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Furthermore, there have been studies that show playing video games can help with problem-solving skills and provides a social catalyst–in other words, it gives the kids something in common to talk about.
So, now your kids play Minecraft, and it’s getting a little crazy. Just remember, it’s always just a phase. It might be awhile, but someday that Minecraft obsession will end. Until then, their love of playing Minecraft can be used to help motivate them to, say, do their chores and their homework. In our house, we also limit their playing time to 30-60 minutes a day, and if there was any bad behavior at school, it’s taken away entirely.
And if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. My husband and I enjoy playing video games ourselves, so we make it a family activity. Our kids love to talk Minecraft strategy with us and we problem-solve together, which has been an unexpected but really awesome way to bridge the generation gap and bond with our kids.

If you are still feeling a little lost and can’t tell the difference between the Nether and the End, or what edition to buy, here’s a quick Minecraft guide for the uninitiated.

What is Minecraft?

It’s a game, which can be played on the computer, Xbox, Playstation, WiiU, tablets and some smartphones, where players manipulate a generated world. Common in-game activities include mining resources and crafting items (hence Minecraft), building dwellings, and exploring the world. 
It has two main playing modes: creative and survival. In creative mode, the player has unlimited resources with which they can build anything they want in their virtual world, and the player is invincible. In survival mode, resources must be gathered from the environment by the player, and there are usually “bad guys” that can hurt or kill the player’s character (although you can turn this off in the settings). 
There are three main editions of Minecraft. The computer version has all of the features, including the ability to use command prompts, which sort of introduces kids to the world of computer programming. For this reason, I recommend this version if your kids can read. The console editions (for Xbox, etc.) has most but not all features, and the pocket edition for tablets and smartphones has the fewest (but is still fun, especially for younger kids).
One caution: some versions of Minecraft have the option of playing on online multiplayer servers, where a lot of other people play and can interact with your child. We don’t allow our kids (ages 6 and almost 9) to play on these servers.

The Minecraft Worlds

There are three worlds in Minecraft. The Overworld is the default, Earth-like world. From the Overworld, a player can build a Nether Portal to enter the Nether, which is a dark, hostile, fire-filled world often compared to hell. (How lovely, huh?) The Nether is made up of different materials and has different characters than those found in the Overworld. Also, a player can activate a End Portal to enter the End. In the End, there is a single floating island upon which a flying Ender Dragon lives. You can kill it to “complete” the game and have the credits roll, although the player can keep playing in the same world.

The Main Characters

Playable characters: Steve and Alex. You can choose which one and alter their appearance in the settings.
Common bad guys: Creepers (green guys that explode to cause damage/injury), Slime, Skeletons, Zombies, Spiders, and Witches, which are all found in the Overworld; Zombie Pigmen, Ghasts, Wither Skeletons, Magma Cubes, and Blazes, which are found in the Nether; and Endermans (Endermen?) and the Ender Dragon are found in the End. Sometimes you’ll find the occasional Enderman in the Overworld.

Other creatures: Animals you can farm to gather the resources they produce include cows, chickens, sheep, rabbits, squid, pigs, and mooshroom (an unusual mix of cow and mushroom, which looks like a red and white cow with mushrooms growing out of its back). Animals that you can tame to use as companions are dogs (tamed wolf), cat (tamed ocelot), and horses, donkeys, and mules.

Minecraft Tools 

Tools a player can wield include a sword, pickaxe, shovel, axe, hoe, fishing rod, map, and clock. Sometimes these can be made from different materials (i.e., “diamond sword”). Other tools a player can use include a crafting table, furnace, chests, beds, TNT, buckets, enchantment table, brewing stand, and an anvil. The game also includes all the parts for a mine cart system, which can get quite elaborate–it’ll definitely challenge you kid’s problem-solving skills.

Unofficial Minecraft 

There are a lot of different creations, online and in the real world, that have been inspired by Minecraft. There are, of course toys (including LEGO sets), clothes, bedding, school supplies, Halloween costumes, birthday party supplies, etc. This spring we are even planning on redoing our son’s room with a Minecraft theme. My kids have also read many Minecraft-themed books: crafting recipe collections, guidebooks, encyclopedias, and unofficial fiction.
Online, you can find a lot of Minecraft resources, including several different Minecraft wiki’s and many Minecraft-centered channels on YouTube. One of the most popular is Stampy Cat (stampylonghead/stampylongnose), and my kids love watching his videos. There are also a lot of entertaining song parodies on YouTube, like “Don’t Mine At Night” and “Never Ever Going to the Nether.” As a precaution we have our kids view YouTube in the same room as us so we can monitor what they’re watching.

What is your family’s experience with Minecraft Mania? I would love to hear from you in the comments!