The Minefield of Minecraft

My 8-year-old son, is like any other boy his age, he has a mop of hair, which he insists he doesn’t ever need to brush, he loves Lego and will drop my hand instantly when he sees an older boy from his school and I am fine with all of that. The one thing he has never really been into is computer games especially Minecraft – often referred to as Kiddie Cocaine.

When I heard one mum telling me that now her son is “addicted” to Minecraft, she was ok with it, because she uses the game like a bartering system. So, it goes like this: “If you finish all of your homework, you can have 30 minutes of Minecraft” and like magic this usually works. I remember, almost complaining that although my son had Minecraft on his Kindle, he just wasn’t interested, for that matter, he wasn’t interested in doing his homework either, so I  could not use the carrot and stick method. Well, be careful what you wish for…

After two years of the game being left dormant on the kindle, my son had a friend who tapped on the icon and released a whole new world, a little bit like a dealer, he gave my son his first taster of this magical, adventure game and he became an instant addict. On the sofa, there it was, the mop of un-brushed hair bent down stooped over the Kindle and he was  building, creating a fantastical kingdom where everything and anything is possible.

I asked my son a question and his eyes were transfixed on the screen “Um, hello, mum here…! No answer, then you always do the test to see if they are listening. “Would you like an ice cream.” The reply: “Um, no thanks” and no eye contact.  No thanks to an ice cream! This was serious.

So, I decided, like the other “responsible” parents I know, I was going to monitor the Minecraft addiction and I would create a reward system, so, if you do this…you can have 30 mins of Minecraft.

I had to laugh after one hour of play, my son looked exhausted and I wanted to find out why. This is what he told me:” Well, I created an amazing castle, with a fantastic garden and a roller coaster I had made –  which broke, I made into a bridge. This morning, unfortunately, lots of villagers were creeping in to my castle and  stealing my  food. There was a creeper behind them and I had to kill the creeper and killed the villagers by a mistake. I felt really bad about it and so I built a big orphanage for the villager’s children!”

He has also had a problem with a herd of kittens, adorable as can be, but they took a wrong turn and fell of a high rise block, there were no survivors. I was exhausted just listening. I live in the real world and this is way beyond my imagination. I told him I was not happy about him killing villagers, but I was pleased he felt guilty and made amends by building the orphanage – to meet the needs of the children, whose parents were sadly killed. I also posed a question, as someone in power, did he feel bad that the villagers had to steal food because they were so hungry? He told me, not to worry as the problem was now resolved. He now leaves a slab of meet outside his castle and even ties string on it so that his villagers can carry it home. I note, there is no 5p bag charge in the Minecraft world.

I appreciate the fact, my son likes the escapism, but it also intrigues me that he has a real social conscience in unreal world. He feels guilty for decimating some villagers and makes amends. When I watch him building walls so easily and creating amazing gardens, I actually wish this was real. Our garden could do with a make-over and I would love the Minecraft team to come in and create an instant garden to my specification free of charge. I still don’t really understand it, but I feel – like it or love it, it’s here to stay. I must go now because I need to remind my son to feed his villagers and to take the orphans out to the cinema.

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