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A Parent's Guide To Talking About Minecraft: Minecraft Blocks

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

In our last lesson, we discussed basic Minecraft settings including:

  • Single Player Games Versus Multi-Player Games
  • Creative Mode versus Survival Mode
  • User Experience Settings that impact game control, video, and audio

In this lesson will we talk about Minecraft blocks – what they are, where they come from, how to use them, and how they behave.

Blocks are the basic building unit of a Minecraft world. It is important to have

a solid understanding of blocks if you what to have engaging conversations with your children about Minecraft.

Don’t forget the goal of this course. We are building a Minecraft vocabulary so that we can better communicate with our children.

Minecraft blocks can be destroyed, stored, and placed. These actions are an important part of gameplay due to the building nature of Minecraft. Blocks can also be used as resources to create new types of blocks and used in a variety of other game mechanics. Blocks are meaningful to your child because they can be controlled and be used to create and build.

A Minecraft world is a three-dimension grid. Unlike two-dimensional pictures that only incorporate height and length, Minecraft adds the third dimension of depth. With the addition of depth, a Minecraft player is able to travel through a dense forest, row a boat across a wide ocean, and dig into a tall mountain with a pickax.

To be fair, Minecraft is not the only game that operates in three dimensions but the scope to which it does operate is rather impressive compared to many games.

As a three dimensional grid, a Minecraft world consists of a variety of individual three-dimensional blocks. Each block is proportional to 1 cubic meter in the real world. When players travel across 1 block in Minecraft, they are simulating travel of 1 meter (a little over 3 feet in distance).

This 1 block to 1-meter correlation plays an important role in digging for resources, gathering out-of-reach items, and the mitigating damage that results from a fall.

Before we can fully appreciate what can be done with a Minecraft block, it is important to understand how they are formed.

Minecraft blocks are formed in the following three ways:

Some blocks are formed naturally. Natural Blocks are all of the blocks that are available when a Minecraft world is created at the beginning of the game.

Examples include, but are not limited to dirt, stone, water, and various types of trees. Precious resources like gold and diamonds are also considered to be Natural Blocks.

Other blocks are generated. In addition to Natural Blocks, there are generated blocks that grow overtime. A generated block can either exist naturally (meaning that it is available at the beginning of the game) or be planted by a player.

For example, saplings grow into trees. Seeds (such as wheat and pumpkin) are planted, grow over time, and can be harvested. Other plants, such as sugar cane and kelp, grow when the plant block is placed on a suitable soil block.

The final type of block is Engineered blocks. Engineered blocks are created when a natural or generated block is used to make a new type of block.

For example,…

  • a tree block can be cut down and turned into a wood plank, which then can be used to make a door or turned into sticks to make a ladder.
  • a stone block can be turned into a stone stair block or stone slab block.
  • a sand block can be placed into a furnace to make a glass block.

Human players generally create engineered blocks, but they can also be found when a player stumbles upon a Minecraft village.

With just the few Minecraft block examples we have discussed in this lesson, you can already imagine all of creative solutions your child will come up with. Now it is time to turn our attention to how to use blocks.

There are three Minecraft actions related to blocks.

  • The first action is Destroying blocks. Destroy is a strong word but it is the word used by Minecraft so I will use it in this lesson as well. In this case, Destroy does not mean to completely destroy or obliterate, but rather to displace a block from it current location so that it can be gathered and used at a later time and in another location.

    While some blocks can be destroyed by a Minecraft character’s hands, this process can be time-consuming and sometimes will not deliver any resources from a destroyed block.

    For example, in order to mine diamonds (destroy a diamond block) a player must use a pickax made from iron (or an even stronger material). Attempting to destroy a diamond block with your hand or a wooden pickax will take a considerable amount of time and will not yield any diamonds.

  • The second action is Selecting Blocks. Inventory is a limited storage area that is present with a Minecraft player at all times. In creative mode, inventory will hold all of the available blocks. In Survival, inventory will hold all of blocks the player has personally gathered.

  • The third action is Placing blocks. Players place blocks in order to build Minecraft structures or force two types of blocks in close proximity to create the desired result.

    Since most Minecraft blocks ignore gravity, they adhere to most faces of another placed block. Blocks that are impacted by gravity, such as sand and gravel, will fall through air blocks until they land on top of a securely placed block.

There are a variety of characteristics that impact how blocks behave in a Minecraft world.

While most Minecraft blocks are solid, there are also liquid blocks and air blocks.

Liquid blocks, like water and lava, can flow and fall in a Minecraft world. Although liquid blocks can be placed like solid blocks, they cannot be collected without an item such as a bucket or bottle. When completely surrounded by solid blocks, liquid blocks rest in a still state. When in open terrain or partially open terrain, liquid blocks flow.

Air blocks occupy the empty spaces that do not contain solid or liquid blocks

Transparency is another important characteristic of Minecraft blocks. For example, plants cannot grow unless there is enough light and hostile mobs can only spawn in the absence of light.

As a result, a player needs to be mindful of lighting when building a structure. One solution could be transparent glass blocks that allow the sun to shine through. Another solution is adding torches or other lighting systems.

Another important characteristic is the amount of time required to destroy specific types of blocks. Rare resources are harder and more time consuming to destroy. On one end of the spectrum dirt is easy to destroy. On the other end, diamonds are both time-consuming to destroy and require special tools.

Today’s Takeaway: Talk To Your Child About Minecraft Blocks.

Ask your children the following questions to determine their experience using Minecraft blocks. If your child only plays in creative mode, some of these questions may not be relevant.

Question #1 – Have you ever gathered water or lava in a bucket?

Question #2 – Have you ever destroy an obsidian block? What tool did you use?

Question #3 – What is your favorite Minecraft block and why?

In our next lesson, we will discuss the different types of Minecraft biomes and how these different biomes impact a player’s game experience.

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Written by

Nathan Nance