There's a big weird stupid thing going on when you have kids. A thing where you want them to live their best lives, follow their dreams, grow and develop into their own little person independent of you.
But you also want them to like the stuff you like.
Me? I like video games.
Well, I sorta like video games. Despite spending the vast majority of my working life writing about video games, I'd call it a love/hate relationship. Video games are an art form unlike any other. They dazzle us, inspire us, empower us.
But video games are also kinda super annoying.
Entertain your brain with the coolest news from space to superheroes, memes to robots.
They're derivative. Desperate for mainstream critical attention, but burdened with the kind of juvenile writing that makes it mostly impossible to take them seriously. Worse, decades of being marketed solely towards young boys has left games and games culture with a misogyny hangover that can only be described as "problematic".
Do I want to share my love of video games with my children? Yes. Do I want them to become stereotypical hermit crabs, locked inside their room as their bodies decay towards puberty and incel subreddits? Ideally no.
Apologies in advance for the hyperbole, but right now I've got problems. Minecraft problems.
In recent years the concept of "games as services" has exploded. Nowadays we don't play games for a month or two, finish them and move on to the next like the "good old days". No, now we're picking one single game and playing it for years. League of Legends, Fortnite, World of Warcraft… Minecraft.
That's the dark path my oldest son has decided to take. I regret to inform you my 7YO has become a "Minecraft guy".
He. Won't. Stop. Playing. Minecraft.
He won't stop talking about Minecraft, either. He'll wake me up at 6am, Nintendo Switch in hand, to show me the armour he's carefully crafted, or the house he's just built. In the car, driving home from school he'll regale me with blow-by-blow accounts of his graduation from Creative to Survival mode. Questions. Endless questions.
The art of Minecraft: Building beauty, block by block
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"Do you know how to craft a pickaxe?" Sure.
"Do you know what a 'biome' is" I think so?
"Do you know how to create an autonomously operated structure using Redstone circuits?" Uh…
For me, Minecraft is one of those "I don't understand and at this point I'm too afraid to ask" situations. Despite having written a fair amount of words about Minecraft and quietly respecting it as a platform for education and creativity, I don't get Minecraft. I don't like 'mining' and I don't like 'crafting'. It was never meant to be.
My son enjoying video games, but getting into Minecraft, is some Monkey's Paw shit. I wished for a real boy who would share my love of video games, but somehow got a son obsessed with the type of video game I — an adult man in possession of a busted brain teetering on the bleeding edge of middle age — have no possible hope of understanding.
Should I try? I guess so. At least that's what my wife thinks…
Me: "I'd do anything for my kids. ANYTHING."
My wife: "Play Minecraft?"
Me: "No. Not that."
But most likely I will force myself to understand Minecraft. Chances are I will eventually teach myself to enjoy it, grudgingly. Perhaps at some point my son and I will share heartwarming adventures together, maybe a cinematic role reversal where he becomes the teacher and I the student. What an ironic turn of events. The soundtrack to our lives will soar, I'll craft my first piece of diamond armour and we'll fight off the hordes of… what do you call those green dudes? Creepers? Yeah. Creepers.
"I love you son."
"I love you Dad."
Or maybe I'll just leave him to it. Why do I need to be involved anyway? Typical dumb Dad shit, trying to shoehorn my way into his kids independently acquired hobbies.
The truth is, for all my whinging, Minecraft has already had a positive impact on my son's life. I've watched him go from a seven-year-old who loathed reading, to a boy content to chew through increasingly complex Minecraft guides 'borrowed' from the school library. He's figured out some difficult processes and learned some real lessons about the benefits of self-study.
So I could complain, but I know I shouldn't. It could be worse. Way worse.
He could be playing Fortnite.
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