At 12 years-old, I was sitting in front of our black and white television trying to keep a little white blip from getting past a little white line. If I turned the knob to the right, my line went up; if I turned it to the left, my line went down. Every time the blip bounced off my line or hit the side of the screen it made a cool electronic bleep, and if it got past my line, it made a rather sad electronic bloop.
At 12 years-old, son, you’re dressed in what appears to be a tuxedo, battling a skeleton who’s riding atop a giant spider, outside a massive house that bears a remarkable resemblance to our dog. It’s a game called Minecraft and you’re really into it.
This is not going to be one of those, “When I was a kid, we had real video games that developed and tested your knob-turning skills,” kind of posts (Although, kids these days can’t turn an Atari knob to save their lives). I’m not going to act all amazed at how far things have come, either; after all, I’ve lived through all these changes, so your new-fangled, hoy paloy, high-falutin’ digitable modern technologies aren’t some weird mystery to me.
Nor will this be one of those, “My pastimes were healthier than your pastimes,” posts either. They probably were, but I’m pretty sure I was addicted to Pong and I spent a hell of a lot of lawn mowing money in the arcade playing Centipede and Frogger. While parenting would, at times, appear to accept hypocrisy as standard operating practice, that’s not where I’m going here.
One thing I’ve been realizing as you become an independent, self-actualizing pre-teen human, is that if I don’t try to understand the things you find important, we’re going to have less and less to talk about. You spend more time on Minecraft than I’d prefer, but if I’m going to have any hope in hell of influencing that, aside from heavy-handed restrictions enforced under threat of punishment, I’ve got to get to know Minecraft as you see it.
So, it’s time you took me to your world, showed me around, and helped me understand this game. I suspect I’m not the only parent out there who’s trying to understand what this whole Minecraft thing is about, how it’s played, why it’s appealing to you, and what you may or may not be learning from it.
What follows is a public service to parents everywhere. On Father’s day, guided by my son, an expert Minecraft addict, I journeyed to a place few grown-ups have gone.* We documented our journey on YouTube so others could benefit as well. This is your chance to hear from an actual 12 year-old Minecraft player as he explains to an actual grown-up what the game is all about.
*Okay, okay, I know, there are adults who play Minecraft. Of course there are; I just don’t know any of them and I suspect many readers don’t either. So, if you’re a grown-up Minecraft junkie, don’t give me hard time.