[Click here to watch the Minecraft Trailer.]
Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+) *Excludes online interaction
Consoles: PC, X-Box 360 *Also has “pocket editions” for iOS and Android
Minecraft is essentially a free-play game in which you appear in a blocky world that expands indefinitely (or so it seems, anyway). You use your hands to harvest the land, from its soil and stone to its plants and animals. Using these resources, you can craft tools, weapons, furniture, and other objects to protect yourself and build whatever you can imagine.
You can use the Minecraft Wiki if you want to learn how to craft particular objects, or verify anything about the game, whether you want to know how to tame wolves or learn where the best place to find diamonds is. There are no rules, no levels, and no solid structure to the game. You simply appear, harvest resources (or in the case of creative mode, choose resources), and let your imagination take you from there.
The game has two main single-player modes. The first is survival, which is strategic, and gives you a health meter, a hunger meter, an experience meter, and an empty inventory that you have to fill yourself. This mode is best for those who like a challenge. The second is creative, which is, as it suggests, creative, and gives you an inventory with all existing items. You cannot die and have the ability to fly in creative mode. This mode is best for letting off creative steam.
There is also a multi-player mode, but you must join a server in order to play on multi-player mode. Be warned that most free servers host players of all ages from around the world and give them the ability to type whatever they want to each other in the “chat.” Some servers are free, some servers are not, some servers have rules, some servers have rules that are not strictly enforced, and so on. It is better not to connect a child to a multi-player server unless you run a server yourself.
Skills Required and Recommended:
- Basic understanding of a keyboard and mouse, or other controller – REQUIRED
- Ability to use somewhat complex controls – REQUIRED
- Ability to navigate an inventory – REQUIRED
- Ability to read – RECOMMENDED
- Ability to write – RECOMMENDED
- Problem-solving skills – RECOMMENDED
Minecraft is complicated, when used to its fullest extent, but kids are able to have fun with it without diving into the less simple aspects of the game (such as enchanting items, planning expeditions, creating portals to the Nether or the End, and so on). When using creative mode, the game is easier. All you have to do is choose what items you want to use and then build whatever your heart desires.
Level of Violence:
I would not consider Minecraft a violent game. It does have monsters that come out at night, and weapons to fight these monsters, but there is no blood, gore, or graphic scenes (there is literally nothing graphic about this game – the game is advanced, but the graphics are primitive). Fighting is a simple manner of whacking the enemy until they fall down and disappear. Some of the monsters may be scary to young children, however. For example, the tall, dark Endermen appear harmless, until you stare at them, and the little green creepers hiss right before they blow you and everything you’ve built up.
Use of Language:
Since the game has no dialogue, there is no bad language. However, if you use multi-player mode, you run the risk of encountering people who will curse in the chat.
Presence of a Story:
Minecraft does not have a story. It is a sandbox game, which means it is a virtual sandbox – you put your kid in it and your kid plays with what he or she finds in the sandbox. No story, no rules, and no limits besides your imagination.
Presence of a Message:
Again, with no story, there is no real message in Minecraft. Playing it can encourage creativity, architectural planning, and even strategic planning, if you play on survival mode. Otherwise, it teaches lessons through experiences – after falling into lava and losing all the valuables you just mined you start to learn to be patient, move on, and accept that sometimes you lose what you’ve worked for and simply have to try again. Among other things, you may learn a thing or two about geology and the responsibility of keeping pets safe.
Though it may not look like an appealing game (especially due to the intentionally poor graphics), it truly is, and kids usually get sucked into it quite quickly (as long as they are able to understand the controls). I was skeptical of the game for a long time, being someone who is snobbish about game graphics, but I’m very glad I tried it. It’s fun, but as a result, it is easily addictive. If you don’t keep an eye on them, your kids may play it for hours. This means hours of creative exercise, but it also means hours of staring at a computer screen.
Age Range Recommendation:
With all of the above in mind, I’d say anyone 6 or above will probably be able to play this game. This depends on how experienced your child is with games – kids who already know how to use controllers and/or computers will be able to grasp the controls quickly, especially if they can read, but kids who are not “fluent” with technology may have more trouble adjusting to the controls.
Also make sure he or she is aware that there are monsters in the game. These monsters are made of blocks, but they can still sneak up on you and give you a scare. If you think your child won’t handle this well, they can set their game to “peaceful.” To do this, you must first create a world (survival or creative) in single-player. Then go to options, and where it says “difficulty,” click until it says “peaceful” (in which there are no monsters in the world) or “easy” (in which there are still monsters, but they are easier to fight).
At the moment (March of 2013), you can purchase Minecraft for your computer (by downloading it from minecraft.net, which is a safe site) for around $26 to $28, or you can get it for $20 on the X-Box 360. This is a good deal for a good game that will keep your kids entertained. There are free demo versions of the game for iOS and Android, but they are very limited compared to the full game. There have been improvements (such as adding survival mode to these pocket editions), but I would not recommend the pocket editions of Minecraft except to see whether your child likes the game.