Monday, October 13, 2014

Ask a Minecraft player.

(Originally a forum post, but people wanted to share it so I turned it into a blog post too.)

Pretty much on a daily basis in homeschool groups I see topics about what Minecraft is or if people think it's okay for children to play. There seems to be a lot of misinformation and confusion about what it I figured I'd take the time to address stuff of the comments and questions I see most often.

I've tried to touch on a lot of stuff....but if you have a question feel free to ask me!

I have been playing Minecraft for about a year and a half. My husband also plays as well as our 6-year-old daughter.

"What IS Minecraft really? I don't understand it!"

Minecraft is basically a massive set of digital Legos. You have a bunch of mostly square blocks of various types and you can build whatever you want with them. Minecraft is a "sandbox" type of game where you can go anywhere you want in the randomly generated world in game.

"What's so FUN about it then?"

Minecraft is fun in the same way Legos are fun.
It's fun like a set of wooden blocks is fun.
Ever made something out of something else? Yep, that's it. That's why it's fun! Creativity is fun!

"But what do you DO in Minecraft?"

That depends entirely on the player. First off you have 2 choices in gameplay. You can play in either Creative Mode or Survival Mode.

In Survival Mode you have to collect all your own resources in the game. You do this by chopping down trees, digging into hillsides, exploring caves, building tools to make those tasks easier/possible, raising food, and building a shelter to protect yourself from the "mobs" that come out at night. You can change the difficulty of survival mode from easy, normal, and hard.....or turn it to peaceful mode where you don't have to worry about mobs or about eating.

In Creative Mode you have access to every sort of block and item in the game in unlimited quantity. This is the easiest mode to just build cool stuff in because you don't have to search for resources before you have them available to use. You also don't have to worry about eating or mobs in this you can fly which makes building large/tall things easier.

"Are there monsters in this game?!/What are "mobs"?"

Yes, there are monsters and other creatures in the game in the game which are referred to as "mobs".
Hostile mobs include zombies, skeletons, spiders, Endermen, wolves, slimes etc.
Peaceful mobs include cows, sheep, pigs, squid, chickens, bunnies, and dogs (which are tamed wolves), etc.

"What is an Enderman/"Slenderman"???"

Slenderman is an internet meme with no relation to this game at all. An ENDERMAN is a hostile mob in the game. Endermen are tall black creatures with purple eyes. They appear at random and move around blocks....they only bother you if you look straight at them and then they make a funny noise and attack you. They sound freaky, but aren't a big deal.

"Is this game violent??"

I don't think it is. Yes, in survival mode hostile mobs come out at night...and yes you can fight them off, but it isn't bloody or gory. You hit attacking mobs with a sword, they flash red, and then fall over and disappear when you defeat them. If you "die" in game you just restart at the first point you started at and have to recollect your stuff.

The only other violence in game is when you kill animals for the items they drop. Cows, pigs, sheep, bunnies, and chickens give meat that can be cooked, for example. If you object to eating meat you can always live off growing vegetables. Again, when you kill an animal they flash red, fall over, and disappear. I personally don't consider that's just part of being a farmer. lol

"What about playing online with people you don't know?"

Playing online on a server is TOTALLY OPTIONAL!!! I cannot stress that enough!!! OPTIONAL!!! You never have to interact with another person on Minecraft if you don't want to. Single-player is the default mode and can be played without even having an internet connection.
If you CHOOSE to play on a server there are several can play on a public server, but you will likely have to deal with people who aren't exactly nice....OR you can play on a private server that requires users be "white-listed". That means you have to ask to join and the admins have to add your username to the list of people who have access. There are plenty of private servers out there that are heavily moderated and only for kids...often "griefing" (basically messing with or destroying other people's stuff) is not allowed and swearing is prohibited.

Another option is playing with people on your own local network. This means that only people on your wi-fi connection can play together.

"What system is this game on anyway?

Minecraft is currently available on PC, Xbox, and PS3. There is also an app version called "Minecraft Pocket Edition" that is only $7, but has less features as the full game. If you're looking for a demo you can play for free on the Minecraft website.

"What are "mods"?"

One thing people enjoy about Minecraft is that you can customize the game. Players have written other programs and code that can alter the normal gameplay. I've played on servers that was "modded" so that we could use portals to get from place to place quickly. That was not "standard" to minecraft, someone had to write the code themselves.

"What is a "skin"? Or a "texture pack?"

A skin is something you can download to change the way your player in the game looks.
A texture pack is a set of files you can download that changes the way the blocks in your game look.
Both are generated by users and can be found for free online....or you can create them yourself.

"So is this game even educational?"

I think it is, yes.

Math skills: You can end up using a TON of math when you play this game! Say you want to build a house....the perimeter of your house is X amount of want to make it 4 blocks many blocks do you need? There are 64 blocks in a stack, if you need X amount of blocks how many stacks will you need for a project? Specific items and blocks require other items and blocks to make...if you want stone you have to smelt cobblestone and have to figure out how much coal you need to do that, etc. Lots of multiplication, division, and geometry!

Reading: Kids are motivated to read and write in order to participate in the Minecraft community. You want to know how to craft a certain tool? You go online and look at the Minecraft Wiki...or perhaps read a Minecraft book. Kids are writing minecraft stories and posting them online for others to read. If you play on a server you can chat with other players and have to be able to read, write, and type to do that. Even my daughter while playing solo was learning to spell complicated words because she wanted to put signs up labeling things on her "farm".

Programming: Lots of kids are getting into programming in order to modify the game.....either to add mods that other people made, or to actually code the mods themselves.

Circuitry and wiring: In game you can use something called "redstone" to basically build electrical circuits. It can be very complicated and there are a lot of complex rules and logic involved. People have build all manner of impressive things using redstone!

There are groups out there that use minecraft to teach about science and history as well...Minecraft Homeschool is a particularly well known one.

"This game looks like it would get old/boring..."

You would think that....but it really isn't. The thing is, you can do SO MANY different things in game. Even if you get tired of one thing, there is other stuff to do. There are also a lot of different ways to play depending on what you like.

I like to build complicated art installations. I like to use dyed sheep's wool and stained glass in game to make really neat and colorful stuff.

My husband likes to collect resources, build complex railway systems using minecarts, and large farming and sorting machines using redstone.

We play on a sever with friends were we cooperate and have built a large town for all the users to enjoy. Some of the users are young children so we keep it clean.

My daughter likes to build tall towers, farm, and explore. She plays solo or on our home network with one of us.

(Pardon any typos...I'm being climbed on my a toddler as I write. lol)

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