Minecraft 101

Are you confused by Minecraft? Now parents can learn the way of the pixel with this comprehensive guide.

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

Minecraft has taken the world by storm—chances are, your kid either already obsessively plays the game or really wants to start. If it’s the latter, don’t panic! The game is actually quite easy to understand (and enjoy!) once you get the hang of it. Here are the basics you need to know before diving headfirst into the world of Minecraft.

What is it?

Minecraft’s all about building entire worlds with blocks, and there are two game modes to choose from. In Creative Mode, kids can create entire structures and villages—even little individual tools—completely from scratch. Alternatively, Survival Mode offers up a bit more adventure as you use the blocks to fend off monster gangs referred to as “hostile mobiles” (“mobs,” for short). Players can pick between the two modes, depending on the type of entertainment they want. Regardless of which mode your kid selects, Minecraft is all about imagination and strategy.

Where do I start?

First things first: Decide which platform your family is going to play on. Minecraft can be played on videogame consoles, mobile devices and computers (Windows, Mac, Linux).

On a computer This version has the most variety of user-made servers where strangers can meet and play together online. If you’re hesitant to let your kids play with strangers, you can set up a private server which would still allow you to invite other people into the game at your own discretion. However, setting up the private server on a computer is not as simple as it is on a gaming console.

On a mobile device The mobile version of Minecraft is available on both iOS Apple and Android devices. The difference in playing on a phone or tablet is that the online community is much smaller and the game doesn’t have as many features as the computer or console versions.

On a console This version is available on Xbox, PlayStation and WiiU (available on eShop only). It has the same features as the computer version, but it’s easier to set up private servers for your kids.

Minecraft is available for purchase at the Minecraft store, app stores and retailers like Amazon.ca. The cost can range anywhere between $10 to $40.

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

Is my kid old enough to play?

There are different ratings for each game platform. The console version and the Pocket Edition for phones and tablets are rated ages 10 and up. The computer version, however, is unrated. This is likely because the original game was on PC and not originally intended for kids. That being said, there’s no “adult only” content in any of the versions.

How many people can play at once?

Minecraft can either be played solo or with others. If your kid chooses single-player mode, he’ll be playing in the same Minecraft world that stays on his console or computer. Playing multiplayer, however, means he’ll be in an Minecraft world that anyone can access at any given time.

Are there rules?

Since Minecraft is meant for imaginative play, there’s no set of rules players must follow. Gamers call this a “sandbox game,” meaning the game has no specific end goal. Kids can create as many worlds as they want (so long as there’s enough space on your device. Each world takes up less than 100 MB).

What are the differences between each mode and which ones should my kids play?

The mode selection really depends on what kind of game your kid is looking to play.

Creative mode This one is best for younger kids who are getting a feel for the game. In Creative, players can easily find all the materials and supplies they need for building. There aren’t any enemies lurking, making the experience peaceful and scare-free. Creative mode is also great for older kids who just want to improve on building structures.

Survival mode Both little kids and older kids will find enjoyment in Survival mode, as they gather resources and make tools in order to defend themselves and stay alive. You can adjust the difficulty levels in this mode and enjoy a monster-free experience; however, players can still die from starvation, falling, drowning, etc.

These additions to the Survival mode will challenge kids dealing with incoming attackers:

  • Adventure mode This mode is ideal for multiplayer servers. In this mode, players can’t break any blocks, but they can kill monsters and animals. In turn, the monsters can also attack them. It’s best suited for older kids who can handle the stress that comes with playing at this level.
  • Hardcore mode This level is ideal for the seasoned player. For example, if the player is killed, they are forced to start the game over. At this level, there aren’t options to retrieve the items you’ve already built. Tough luck!

There are also different degrees of difficulty:

Peaceful This mode doesn’t have any bad guys running around trying to kill players and attack villages. Players also don’t go hungry and it’s much harder to be defeated.

Easy/Normal/Hard Bad guys will come after you—and they’ll cause the most damage at the “hard” level. So beware! 

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

How do you win?

Although you do get the chance to defeat the final enemy (known as the Ender Dragon) while playing “The End Game,” Minecraft is primarily about creation, not winning.

What are Minecraft maps?

A map is the land you build on. It’ll already be created when you start the game. However, you can also download maps you’ve saved from previous games and continue playing. Minecraft worlds are also self-generated, too–the more you keep walking and exploring, the more the world expands.

What is a mod?

“Mod” stands for modification. It’s basically coding that changes the standards of the game, so players can carry more resources or add new animals, just to name a couple. You can get free downloadable mods from websites like Minecraft mods.

So, what’s the easiest way to learn?

There are a lot of great resources online for both parents and kids who want to get started on Minecraft. You can watch walk-through videos on YouTube like this one, or go on the official Minecraft website or online forum to access step-by-step videos on how to set up your game. 

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

Safety features to keep in mind:

1. Servers
As previously mentioned, Minecraft can be played with multiple players online. If you don’t want your kid interacting with strangers, you can make your server completely private and have your kid play alone. But if she really wants to play with other people, invite players to your server (at your discretion) or join someone else’s (which is a distinct world on its own and none of your structures or supplies will carry over). There are also invite-only, kid-friendly servers out there like Sandlot Minecraft, MineSquish and Intercraften.

2. Malware
Malware has nothing to do with the actual game itself, and more so with Minecraft skins (“skins” are the image files that customize your character), maps and mods that might carry viruses depending on where you download it from. And believe us when we say that your kid will want to go in search of these game modifications. The safest thing you can do is have an antivirus system running on your computer and only download mods from trustworthy sources. You can also give your kid a non-administrative account so they won’t be able to make changes or run downloads without your say-so.

3. YouTube Minecraft channels
Nowadays, kids like watching other kids play video games online. And YouTube is a huge hub for gamers. There’s no lack of content for anything you’re searching for. But beware: There are walkthroughs and game-play videos that contain swearing. The best thing to do is monitor the videos before letting your kids watch them. Some kid-friendly options include YouTubers like Captain Sparklez, The Diamond Minecart or iBallisticSquid; or you can visit websites like cleanminecraftvideos.com.

The benefits of playing Minecraft

Because Minecraft doesn’t have rules, it forces kids to use their imagination. There’s also a lot of numbers involved—whether it’s from keeping track of animals or calculating how many supplies are needed to build a structure. Minecraft also encourages computer literacy and gets kids excited about things like programming. They’ll also learn how to set—and finish—tasks and work collaboratively with others. In fact, there’s even a version of the game called MinecraftEdu made with teachers—and the classroom—in mind!

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