Minecraft. That one word can evoke a wide range of reactions. For some, that reaction borders on hostile. Many react by ridiculing those who love the game. For me, it is an ever-changing reaction.
My daughter first started playing Minecraft about three years ago, more or less. When she started, it was very basic. We all played together, building grand houses and that was about it. She stuck with it, though her love of the game went through it’s own sort of metamorphosis. Now, she has exceeded the practical abilities of her tools.
She started out playing on the Xbox. Yes, I know, a console game, for you console haters. She slowly got to where she would attempt new things. She discovered StampyLongNose and ibalisticsquid on YouTube… from there, the rest, shall we say is history. To Stampy and Squid, I offer you thanks. You have inspired a generation of kids today to create. A task that many parents and teacher alike find daunting.
What she discovered with Stampy and Squid was a means of storytelling through Minecraft. My daughter has always been an extremely heavy reader and story teller. At first, this avenue of storytelling was seen as a bit different, odd even… until I really got in and looked at it. Many parents instantly limit their kids time on Minecraft, thinking there is nothing educational about it. I am glad I did not do the same, as what my daughter is doing is going to be pretty cool to watch.
As far as her hardware goes, she is on an ancient Toshiba laptop. Sure, it runs, but it’s certainly not the best tool anymore. After moving from console Minecraft to PC based Minecraft, her first tool was a Chromebook. She came to me and asked if we could put it on the Chromebook. I told her that it might be possible, but it would take some figuring out. I left it at that, waiting to see if she took the bait. Later, she came back with instructions on how to “hack” her Chromebook and install Linux on it. That would allow her to install Minecraft.
That, my friends, was the Aha! moment. Picture it.. lights shining down from above, the intensity of the music grows… success! My then 10 year old daughter started figuring out how to solve problems, and rather technical ones at that, to play a game.
Now, she want’s to create screen recordings and play on online servers. Again, I told her to do the research, see if she could figure it out. She spent some time Googling, and has started playing on online worlds. She has started using Screencast o matic. Initially, she tried using Snagit, like I do, but decided it didn’t work so well because “there is something wrong about the frame rates”. While she couldn’t go into detail about what the problem was, she knew it was a problem, and found an alternative.
So, now, we are discussing the possibility of buying her a new laptop. Sure, we know the vast majority of what she does on it would be Minecraft… but what’s so wrong with that? She has written stories she wants to tell in worlds she wants to build so that she can broadcast her stories to the world. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems she is seeking that authentic audience that compels us to do our best.
So how much tech is too much tech? We are a very tech heavy family. She has an iPad mini that she uses for various tasks, she has a Chromebook, which is what she carries to school, she has an iPhone (a hand me down from Mrs. G.), she is very blessed in the tech she does have. As parents, however, I think we need to get her to the next step. She gets frustrated with the load times on the old Toshiba. She wants to keep learning to code. She wants to do so many things, but fears that computer won’t handle it. She has gotten bolder, she tries it out, if it crashes, she figures something out. But, as a parent watching her, it has gotten to where I feel like I am letting her run with weights attached.
I think that tech is a necessary part of kids lives. I don’t have a problem with her reading, playing, and doing other things. She generally balances her time pretty well. For the jobs and tasks that are ahead of her in her life, I think she needs to stay up to date on tech… so I am not sure where the limit of how much is too much sits, I only know that as of now, we have not hit that limit. I find the same with playing Minecraft. She is involved in actively learning, researching, reading, writing, and creating… all inside of a game, or because of a game. Maybe the question I should ask the skeptics is, “How much learning is too much learning?” As long as a kid is learning what is needed in an appropriate venue, and there is a balance, I don’t see the problem. In our house, we have a sort of deal. As long as grades stay where they need to be, chores are done, and it’s not an obsession, we tend to give a lot of Minecraft time.
For those of you reading, feeling that your kids spend too much time playing video games… I beg you, spend a little time figuring out what it is they are playing. Not everything is as it seems. If your young ones constantly talk Minecraft, find out what they are doing, what they are building, and find a way to help them learn from what they are doing. Games can be a powerful avenue to learning and expressing oneself.