[Another Sidelines re-post of my writing. Enjoy! UPDATE: If you want to see the original, which is taking on a very interesting life of its own with commenters and insights going deep into this. You can find it at http://sidelinesapp.com/item/minecraft-a-mothers-plea-and-threat/?etk=6cd7c31344b546310f35b68f9bf52eab1fd4439e&utm_medium=email&utm_source=transactional&utm_campaign=notification ]
Come speak to me. Come skinny-dip for me into the beautiful worlds of Minecraft, an international phenomenon that blows away most competition when it comes to addictiveness – and some say inventiveness. Then, get out of the water and let’s talk. I’ll be waiting up on shore.
In case you have not yet been inducted into Minecraft’s allure – either as a player, a parent, a teacher, or a spouse:
Welcome to cubist floral agriculture, block-headed monsters named Enderman and Creeper, rectangular cows, sheep, pigs and wolves, semi-final tournaments, and scrolling chats that go on for hours. The graphics are not amazing, but Minecraft can steal your child away for days if you let it.
Oh, homework will get done, food somewhat eaten (albeit too close to keyboards if you’re not watching), and intellectual development will continue on a completely different spectral plane, but that’s about it. Bath time, laundry, grocery-shopping, forget it. The game takes debates about screen-time, the overuse of technology, and parenting and negotiation skills to a whole new level.
I get it that Minecraft is like, as some say, a more adventurous version of Legos, a constructible world with connections to engineering and architecture to the point that there is even a Minecraft version customized for Educational use. But I don’t know if we want that. Someone needs to enlighten me further. That should surprise some: An advocate for digital innovation, a champion for the Hour of Code, and a former old-school gamer, I am the mother of a Minecraft moderator who’s about to study computer science in college. None of that matters right now: My mothering perspective is trumping my gamer perspective Big Time when it comes to this game. I am on the verge of pulling the plug, and need someone to tell me why I shouldn’t.
Minecraft, a siren call that can shipwreck a routine, has a pull that can be likened to the Pied Piper’s fatal music. Your job as a parent might be to allow some music appreciation without the end result of drowning, but some parents will say we’re all better off without that kind of music. I’m wondering.
I am for adventure, and for building new worlds, and for collaborating with online teammates to heighten levels of creativity (as long as the real-world creepers can be screened out of the chat room).
I am not, however, for substituting enormous chunks of real-world time for digital world time, not when beautiful snow drifts beckon outside my door, when flour and sugar and vanilla should be calling from the pantry enticing my child to make a new batch of cookies, or when even couch potato status with siblings should be calling (that one works only when “Shingeki no Kyoujin: Attack of the Titans” or “Hunter X Hunter” is on).
So, then, somebody please take us a little deeper into the Minecraft world and give parents on my side of the fence a reason why we shouldn’t give our kids an inevitably protest-inducing 45 minutes-a-day time limit – or pull the plug altogether. Chores do get done quickly, though, when a Minecraft tournament is about to start, but that’s not enough to make me incentivize everything that needs to be done in real life. I don’t have the least bit of time to jump into Minecraft myself – because, if I do and find out for myself why it’s so attractive, my family life will crumble to the ground. Not happening.