My son loves Minecraft. He, like most of his first grade classmates, have an affinity for a game with otherwise terrible graphics, weak story (if there even is one), and appears insanely repetitive. And they love it.
I’ve been to two or three Minecraft themed birthday parties, including my son’s, there are countless collectibles and stuffed animals being marketed for the game, my personal favorite foam swords and pick axes, and now a story-mode version of the game. It is a big deal.
The academic and positive benefits of the game are very apparent. This morning, my wife sent me a great article, 9 Reasons Your Child Should Be Playing Minecraft, and I wasn’t surprised by a single item in the list. The list included common desires for all parents: it improves academics and math, encourages creativity, and teaches kids confidence, to name a few.
I would add one more to round the list off at ten, and perhaps the most important of that list:
10) It builds a bond between a father and his child.
My son asked about a year ago if I would play Minecraft with him. Absolutely. Though, admittedly, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to tolerate this game. He created our world, a place just for our time together, and we jumped right in to a world with islands and mountains, large oceans and caves.
He quickly advised that we need to build shelter and beds so we can ride the night out safely from the zombies. And there it began. First, a little cave carved into the mountainside with a door and a couple of beds. Then we decided to build an actual house, then a fort on the perimeter of our land to be used as a look out, or rather, a proof of concept for the castle we were imagining next.
But we needed resources and roles. My son took the job of manufacturer of swords, pick axes, torches, and whatever else he could think up. I would do the digging. We created a massive cave under our humble little house, slowly digging out the resources for our planned castles (yes, one castle was not enough).
Then we began exploring the world together – getting lost and struggling to find our way home. I developed an idea, mainly out of survival, to teach my son to watch the sky to become cognizant of the moving sun to use a guide to where the house was located. We established a network of cookie crumbs to find our way home and a system for identifying landmarks as we went out exploring the entire, massive map. It was a mini SERE course (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape military training) with a strong emphasis on survival and escape portions. Now we are having fun!
We were fully immersed in this world. Together. We built something incredible, an hour at a time, a day or two a week, over the course of months. We built a world together. We became attached to our world and talked about new ideas and what we were going to create the next time we played. We ended up creating castles on top of castles, castles in the sky, mountains of lava, mountains of water, pathways in the sky across the map, gardens for food, and massive monuments that looked like swords. Anything we could imagine that would add to our creation.
Most importantly, we created a bond between each other.
We have always been close, but this game allowed us to work together as a father and son team, to have something special between each other, and to enjoy time together that I will cherish forever. I even had the opportunity to work with him on real life lessons, from tragedy and perseverance to hard work, communication, and compromise. This game is so much deeper than a creative outlet that gets the brain working and improving math skills. This game can teach life skills, enhance relationships, and create memories I will have for a lifetime of my 7 year-old boy.