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Minecraft: What's the Big Deal?

This lesson is a part of an audio course A Parent's Guide To Talking About Minecraft by Nathan Nance

Hi, I’m Nathan Nance. Welcome to the course A Parent’s Guide To Talking About Minecraft on Listenable! The goal of this course is to help parents have authentic, engaging conversations about Minecraft with their children.

For many parents, a conversation about Minecraft feels like speaking in a foreign language, but without the benefit of an extensive vocabulary. In this course, we will demystify the core components of Minecraft and start building a Minecraft vocabulary so that you can better communicate with your children.

As a parent of six children, I know how important communication is with my kiddos. My goal is to help you add Minecraft as a new tool to your communication tool belt.

In future lessons, we will cover topics like basic game setup, blocks, biomes, mobs, as well as tools and weapons.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s answer the following question, “What’s the big deal about Minecraft?”

Creativity and Control

Minecraft is a big deal because it allows children to create and control. As adults, we have the ability to make decisions about our lives. On one hand, we enjoy opportunities to be creative and spontaneous. On the other hand, we like structure and exercising control over our circumstances and surroundings.

For children, Minecraft provides an opportunity to both create and take control. Imagine Minecraft as a digital set of Legos, nicely packaged in a self-contained world. Each block helps build that world.

When I ask my children why they like Minecraft, their responses almost always gravitate around the idea of creativity. They say things like:

  • I like to build stuff
  • I enjoy finding something that already exists and making it better.
  • With unlimited resources, I can make whatever I want.
  • In Survival Mode, I am really proud of what I have created because it is more challenging to gather and build.

Notice the action words they use – making, building, and creating.

When I talk about Minecraft with my children (and we talk about Minecraft a lot), they often reference ideas of being in control. They say things like:

  • I need to gather more food because my player is getting hungry.
  • My player is tired. I need to get some sleep.
  • I don’t like that world anymore. I am going to create a new one.
  • How do I protect my player against enemy attack?

Notice the emphasis on provision and controlling outside forces.

Minecraft provides children with an opportunity to freely express their creativity and control their environment. Compared to the real world (that often seems out of control), your child’s Minecraft world is a blessing. Your child is the creative king or queen of their land.

Besides creativity and control, what’s the big deal?

A Worldwide Phenomenon

If you are listening to this course, then Minecraft has already invaded your home (or at least you are contemplating the consequences of such an invasion).

It is important that you understand the world-wide phenomenon that Minecraft has become. Moe-jang Studios, the software company that develops Minecraft, quickly followed its 2009 alpha testing release with an official release in 2011. Since that time, the accolades and staggering statistics have been piling up.

According to Wikipedia,…

  • In 2014, Microsoft (yes, the company that Bill Gates ran) purchased Mojang Studios and the Minecraft brand for 2.5 billion dollars. Let me say that one more time, 2.5 billion dollars. And that is billion with a b.
  • Over 200 million copies of Minecraft have been sold across all of its platforms, making it the most downloaded video game of all time.
  • Minecraft was inducted into the World Video Game - Hall of Fame in June 2020.
  • Over 126 million active players have played Minecraft each month in 2020.

The numbers are astounding!

One reason why your children are so intrigued with Minecraft is because they understand that it is a movement and a community, not just a game. They might not understand the worldwide impact the game has made, but they definitely know the impact it makes on their circle of friends (both in-person and online).

Popular YouTube content is a barometer of success for brands and products. On YouTube, Minecraft videos are booming business for many content creators.

If the staggering facts did not impress you, I have one more reason (actually a list of reasons) that explain why I believe Minecraft is a big deal.

Life Lessons and Life Skills

Up to this point, we have discussed a couple of reasons why your children might want to play Minecraft and we have talked about Minecraft as a global movement.

For the remainder of our time, I want to provide some reasons why I believe parents should not only allow, but even encourage their children to play Minecraft. As a Dad, I am always looking for new ways to teach my children life lessons and life skills. Life lessons can be found almost anywhere, including in a game like Minecraft.

Consider the following 4 lessons and skills that can be learned while playing Minecraft:

  1. The first life lesson is Causation.

    Understanding the relationship between cause and effect is very important.

    In Minecraft, there is a rare block called obsidian. Obsidian can be found in a world, but a player can also force it to be created. If you take an iron bucket full of water and pour it on lava (the cause), one or more obsidian blocks form (the effect).

    A Minecraft world is not only filled with numerous examples of causation, it is also a playground where a child can initiate cause and effect sequences.

  2. The second life lesson is Analytical Thinking and Problem solving.

    Do you remember the iron bucket I just mentioned? Your child might find a bucket in a nearby village, but more likely than not, your child will have to craft the iron bucket.

    Consider the following steps that are required. Cut down some trees with your hand. Turn the trees into the wood. Turn some of the wood into sticks. Take the wood and sticks then create a crafting table and a wooden pickax. Start gathering stone. Take some sticks and stone to make a stronger pickax. Systematically dig down into the ground until you reach iron ore. Turn the iron ore into a bucket.

    Let’s pause for a moment. Yes! Your child just analyzed a rather complex problem and determined an appropriate solution to meet the need.

  3. The third life lesson is the Scarcity of Resources.

    In the real world some resources are hard to find. Supply is low and demand is high.

  4. In Survival Mode, the same principle applies. Wood and stone are readily available in most Minecraft worlds. Iron ore and coal, for example, are harder to find. And resources like diamonds, gold, and red dust are even more challenging to find.

    These are economical principles that your child can and will learn!

  5. The fourth life lesson is Spatial Intelligence

  6. Since Minecraft is a block-based game set in a three-dimensional world, your children will practice spatial intelligence as they build and create. The concepts your children apply in game will help them perform visualization and spatial thinking in their minds outside of the game.

    The four examples mentioned above are just a few of the life lessons and life skills your child might learn. But remember, in the same way Minecraft is one tool in your communication tool belt, it is just one tool in your child’s education tool belt.

I am a proponent of responsible video game playing. As the parent, you need to establish boundaries about the amount of time played on video games and the types of video games that you allow your children to play.

As parents, we must actively engage our children. We are not farming out our parental responsibilities to Minecraft. Instead, we can use Minecraft (as a tool) to connect and communicate with our children.

Today’s Takeaway: Start Communicating With Your Children through Minecraft right now

Use Minecraft as a tool in your communication tool belt. Ask you children the following questions:

Question #1 - Why do you like to play Minecraft?

Question #2 - Do you prefer to play in Creative Mode or Survival Mode?

(We will talk more about game modes in the next lesson)

Question #3 - Can I see the Minecraft world you are working on sometime?

(Be prepared for your child to say, “You wanna see it right now?”)

In our next lesson, we will talk about basic Minecraft game settings including Game Modes, Difficulty Levels, and Online Play.

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Written by

Nathan Nance