What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a popular online "survival" or "sandbox" game that puts players in a randomly-generated world where they can create their own structures and contraptions. During the day, players are safe; at night or while underground, zombies, skeletons, and other hostile monsters attack, emphasizing the need for shelter and protection. Created by Mojang AB, a small game studio based in Sweden, the game has grown in popularity since its first release in 2009 and currently has over 4 million players 1. Minecraft includes two modes: Survival (described above) and Creative (grants the player invincibility, flight, and unlimited resources). Players can join an online server with other people or play alone.
Minecraft worlds consist of resources in the form of blocks. Often compared to a giant world of Legos 2, the nature of the game motivates players to create and build original things or reproduce real-world structures. Circuits, switches, pistons, and other elements allow players to design technical creations as well.
There are a number of online communities for Minecraft fans. Players often share creations, discuss game mechanics and talk about upcoming changes to the game. Members of these communities can range from children to grown adults. Players belonging to a specific server often have their own website where members can discuss rules and plan future projects.
Concerns for Parents
- While the graphics of the game consist of blocks and low-resolution textures, some of the monster graphics and sounds may scare children.
- Minecraft allows players to connect to online multiplayer servers via an IP address or DNS hostname. While the ability to search for servers doesn't exist in-game, there are a number of websites that list Minecraft servers and their corresponding IP addresses and/or hostnames.
- While on a server, players can chat with one another, view creations of other players, and may be subject to griefing (a form of cyberbullying). There currently is no way to disable multiplayer within the game.
- Like most video games, Minecraft can become addictive. Because of the the creative and open nature of the game, players can spend hours working on different creations in their world.
- Due to the immense popularity of Minecraft, pirated copies of the game are easy to find online. Besides being illegal, pirated software can often be a disguise for malware.
- Minecraft can have mods. Some of these may not be appropriate for children.
How can I keep my child safe?
- Decide if this game is appropriate for your children. If the graphics are scary for them, consider installing a kid-friendly texture pack. If you’d like to disable monsters all together, set the difficulty to "Peaceful" in the options menu.
- Be aware if your child is playing online. From the main menu, you can click on Multiplayer and view a recent history of servers. If you need to block access to a server, block the server IP using a firewall or router.
- Family-friendly server options exist, such as Blocklandia, Sandlot, and Mindsquish. Not every server that calls itself family-friendly actually is: Look for a server that outlines its rules on their website, offers whitelisting and uses a strong chat filter. Read reviews about the server and look for servers that encourage parents to play with their children.
- If you notice your child spending too much time playing, establish time limits and talk to them about their own goals, both in the game and off the game.
- Note that user-constructed "Resource Packs" and game mods might contain malware and teach your children not to download anything without your permission.
Where Can I Learn More?
- The following links show architectural (Penn Station, Lakeside City) and technical (Simple LCD, Simple Calculator) examples of Minecraft.
- Parents can view what each monster looks like here, to determine if they will be inappropriate for their child.
- Here is a complilation of articles about Minecraft and children