Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Minecraft? Yes, Minecraft!

Why should you play Minecraft?

Well, maybe you shouldn't, but your kids certainly should.  Why?  Because it is all that is good in the world when it comes to video games.

"There's good in the world of video games?" you say.....  yes, yes there is.  It's not all guns and gore.  Well, a lot of it is, but not all of it.

If you don't already know about Minecraft, then you'll probably look at the above screenshot and wonder what 1980's 8bit console that comes from.  That screenshot is some of the high end graphics tastiness that you can expect to get from your 64bit Ivybridge i7 high end PC when playing Minecraft.

Yes, it looks like your 3 year old drew that with their fat crayons.

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw those huge pixels, was the epic blockiness of the Atari 2600 Adventure game... now there's a game that took some imagination.  That green 'duck' on the screen is the 'dragon'.  And as for you're character... you're that red square holding the giant white key.  Ahhhh, the good ole days.  A world apart, except for what makes each of these games great, the heavy reliance on your imagination.

While Minecraft doesn't require you to make quite the leap if imagination that Atari Adventure did.  It does open up a world within which your imagination can run wild.

Minecraft is what is called a 'sandbox' game.  The developers have created a world, your sandbox, full of sand in the form of materials, resources, landscapes, and yes a few creatures.  It's up to you to make of it what you'd like.  A good history of general explanation of the game is worth watching in this you tube video.

I talked a couple of engineer friends of mine into giving it a try about the time I started, and we all found it insanely addictive.  How could such simple looking, plain graphics game be so compelling.  It was surely game play and imagination.  We found ourselves staying up all hours of the night to mine & build just "one more block".  It was like having the worlds largest Lego set, an infinite space to build within, and a never ending supply of bricks!  Wood, stone, water, lava, trees, fences, doors, levers, wiring, mine carts, tracks....... Design, build, refine, rebuild, on and on.  Limited by only your imagination.

Exactly the kind of game I wanted to see my kids dive into and see what they could construct.  No guns, no gore, just the coolest building block set you could ever want.  Even in 'survival' mode, where you do have to concern yourself with dangerous creatures.  The level of intensity is kept very low.  It's hard to imagine the kids having nightmares over monsters like these

And as for your character.... well his name is Steve... and he has a wallet.....of course:

The game can be played in a couple of modes.  There's a great Wiki built specifically for Minecraft that explains everything.  From the various modes, to what each material is, what it can be used for, etc.  Basically, creative mode is for when you want the freedom to build uninhibited by supplies, creatures, and even gravity.  You can build just as ambitiously in Survival mode, it's just more challenging.  In fact, you'll likely die if you just wander around and night falls.  There's a good step by step guide on how to survive your first night in Minecraft here.  It's very basic, but presents much of what the survival game is about in a very short space.

One word of warning for the kids stamp of approval.  While the game play and content itself is certainly kid friendly.  There is the ability to play in either single or multli-player modes.  In multi-player mode you're playing on other 'servers'.  Because of this, text chat could contain anything.  Unfortunately there are no built in parental controls to filter any of this out.  Now, there's nothing you can't do in single player mode, that can be done in multi-player.  However, you can be assured you kids are going to want to play with their friends.  For this I went ahead and setup my own servers, limiting access to only the player names of my kids friends. Setting up a server isn't too involved, but does require having a pc that can handle it, that's always on, and some router port forwarding work.  There's a couple of good write ups on how to setup your own.  The one from the Minecraft Wiki site is here.

One of the best parts, you can try out the original version on the website for free and play it directly in your browser.  What do you have to lose..... besides sleep...


  1. What? No minecraft Pics from our server? Ripoff. Yeah good stuff definitely additive. This is coming from a person who normally can not play a game for more than a few hours at a time. I can't get enough of this. Also FYI there are plans to be able to host local servers within a LAN much like how the mobile apps work for iOS and Android. So setting up just a local game between family members will be much easier.

  2. I've got stuck with three games during my life and these were the most basic you could play, yet very fun. Minecraft is one of them. Minecraft is so amazing because you can create just what you like. Very fun to play along with a couple of friends. :)

  3. This is a great game, I approve!

  4. Thank you for this! All three of my kids are hooked and I could never figure out what the draw was. I've asked them to explain the game to me several times, but could never really understand what they were trying to describe. I was a little wary of the "Creepers", so I wouldn't allow them to play in Survival Mode, but now that I've read this, I don't have a problem with it. Again, thanks for this! It was awesome!

    1. Glad it helped! I grew up playing video games in the 80's and hate to see the constant stream of bad press about them. One word of warning, we have strict time limits setup for our kids, particularly with Minecraft. There's no real 'end' to the game, so you can burn the hours away pretty fast without realizing it.