Minecraft – why I stopped playing it with my kids

Tuesday, 7 August 2012 10:22 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Minecraft is an amazing game of endless possibilities. Which is one of the reasons Patrick Garratt’s stopped allowing his children to play along.

Minecraft evidenced what I already knew about my children: that their capacity for fearless exploration and imaginative construction is off the chart. I’m wary of them using that power on a computer screen.

“Can we play a bit of Minecraft, daddy?”

I was too used to saying yes. My twin boys – they’re coming up to four years old – love Minecraft, and it’s obvious to see why. You can build anything, go anywhere. We explored together, put up a large house on a hill with a glass roof, visited snowscapes and deserts. We dug tunnels, had little tantrums over whether to dig for coal or go look at the lava pool for the fiftieth time, and we’ve planted special trees in our garden. We even learnt about smelting and metal ore.

Minecraft truly is an amazing feat, but I’ve cut it short, for the same reason we only let them watch TV at the weekend. They were asking for it all the time.

The reason I let them “play” Minecraft at all – they stood next to the PC in my office and shouted instructions at me – is because it’s essentially a toy. They marvelled at the discovery of it all and it clearly fired their imaginations (as it did mine, I hasten to add: I’ve put in plenty of hours myself). But it started to become a “thing”. If I ever refused to let them play it, and told them to go into the garden or look at some books, they’d start crying. I could see them getting sucked in, and I didn’t want to allow it. When Minecraft 360 came out, I loaded it up and they sat watching. Then they started asking if they could play it on the TV every day. It didn’t make me feel comfortable.

There’s plenty of time for gaming when they’re older. Minecraft, as with all successfully addictive games, is endless. My kids’ childhood isn’t, and I want them to spend it learning about the real world, not a virtual one. The Minecraft community is hellishly inventive and consuming to the point of oblivion, and so we have mods, texture packs, giant updates – such as the recent version 1.31 – and all the rest of it. It won’t stop. Instead of teaching my boys to read, I was showing them how to make a pretend house. I wasn’t sure why I was doing that. So I stopped.

I will let them use it again, but only on rare occasions when they’re a little older. It’s not just Minecraft; it’s good games in general. They started watching me play on 3DS – with the slider all the way down, of course – and they think Freaky Forms Deluxe is funny. But, again, give them too much and they come back every day wanted to make another creature, to do another dungeon. If I let them, they’d play it for hours instead of interacting with each other and getting outside. It’s quality software – just as Minecraft is – and it does its job of holding attention. I just can’t help believing my children’s focus should be elsewhere.

Minecraft evidenced what I already knew about my children: that their capacity for fearless exploration and imaginative construction is off the chart. I’m wary of them using that power on a computer screen.

Sorry, boys. You’ll have to wait.

[Minecraft skins wallpaper by Dan.]

Latest