Minor Miners
March 27, 2011 3:25 PM   Subscribe

My seven year old daughter has fallen in love with Minecraft after watching a video review of the game with her mother. I've just started letting her play. She's in Peaceful mode. Building like crazy. She seems to be having a blast. Anything I should be aware of as she gets more involved?

I've never played, neither has my wife. So far my daughter is only using the desktop version building her own world. Any tips or precautions?
posted by Toekneesan to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Um, like what? It doesn't get violent or anything.
posted by RustyBrooks at 3:28 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depending on her temperament, you might want to keep her in peaceful mode. Spelunking around with the zombies muhhhh-ing in the dark can be genuinely scary for this grown man (me). Also, losing everything you've gone down there to work for or having a critter blow up stuff you've built are two of the most frustrating experiences in the world.
posted by cmoj at 3:30 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, definitely keep it peaceful. I'm all growed up and I still yelp every single time a skeleton starts shooting at me.

It's not just about building, there's also all kinds of cool recipes! You can plant seeds and harvest wheat and bake bread if you want to. You can build a rollercoaster. You can make books and bookcases and a jukebox. You can even play with logic circuits by mining redstone and making redstone wire and switches.Check out the minecraft wiki for lots of fun stuff.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:35 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

If she gets to understanding shafts and ladders, make sure she knows how to go down them without falling. I do not, apparently. It's depressing to die that way.
posted by unknowncommand at 3:45 PM on March 27, 2011

Beware of mods. My eight year old loves Minecraft as well. His older friend wanted to install a mod "where you can kill humans and it's awesome because it shows blood!" so you may just want to watch out for that.

Also, there are a lot of YouTube walk-throughs that are very helpful. Sadly though, there's no easy way to tell which ones are made by pre-teens who call everything a gay faggot.

So like all computing at this age, it's up to you to keep your eyes and ears open while they play. For just basic peaceful mode single player though, it's pretty safe and an awesome way for them to occupy themselves and learn some computer skills in the process.
posted by bondcliff at 3:46 PM on March 27, 2011

Minecraft in peaceful mode is like lego - fun, constructive, essentially highly structured play.

Minecraft in 'normal' mode is the same, but with a horror story attached.
posted by BigCalm at 3:48 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, and don't dig straight down-ish (you might fall or get stuck) or dig straight up-ish (lava and sand can kill you).
posted by unknowncommand at 3:49 PM on March 27, 2011

As long as you're supervising her, which as a good and responsible parent you are no doubt already doing, I can't predict any real problems here. Your daughter is obviously enjoying the creative sandbox side of stuff, and probably won't be too impressed by the nasty monsters, so keep it Peaceful. I'm not sure if there are cheats of hacks to make her invincible/fly, but I'm sure there would be - these might make it even more enjoyable for her, because she can just create without the frustration of dying/not being able to reach things.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:58 PM on March 27, 2011

Yeah, peaceful mode is probably best—if only because the combat is more frustrating than challenging. The creative aspects of the game are mindblowing, but the combat elements are poorly executed. Also, monsters force you to stay inside at night, which is boring. Also also, you slowly regenerate health in peaceful mode. This will compensate for the inevitable falling damage, etc., meaning she can worry less about staying alive and focus more on building cool stuff.

Consider using an inventory editor to give her a few useful items—some diamond tools (which get things done quickly and last a long time), perhaps some of the rarer blocks like pumpkins and obsidian, etc.

Of course, it will be a lot more fun for her if she finds / harvests / crafts these things herself, but some of them will difficult for a seven-year-old. Obsidian, in particular, is always found directly adjacent to lava, deep underground, and it requires a diamond pickaxe and a bit of trickery to mine it safely.

If you want to let her have a little bit of explodey fun, give her some TNT. Setting off bigger stacks of TNT produces exponentially bigger explosions. Fun!

She might want to make a compass. Note that Minecraft compasses don't work the way real compasses do: instead of pointing north, they always point toward spawn (the spot where you began the game, and where you return if you die). If you treat spawn as a home base, a compass is indispensable for findind your way home.

A clock is handy, too. Being outside at night is kind of a drag—it's so dark you can't travel effectively. If you're mining deep underground, it's nice to know the time of day, so you can decide whether to climb back to the surface, or wait for dawn.
posted by ixohoxi at 4:05 PM on March 27, 2011

And for recipes and what you can build, I find minecraft wiki a wonderful tool. Good luck, and hey why not try it yourself? You may just find yourself addicted, too! (nthing the peaceful mode -- i can't stand non-peaceful, personally - i wanna build stuff, not get attacked by monsters)
posted by symbioid at 4:08 PM on March 27, 2011

My answer to your question is NO, there is nothing in the game you have to be worried about.

I am assuming that the reason you ask this question is because you are worried that Minecraft, like so many other games, has those bits that you don't find out about from the trailers, eg sex, swearing, violence, satanism.

All minecraft has is zombies/skellingtons/etc. Really, it's quite a bit less scary than Brother's Grim.

Show your child how to turn the enemies on and off, and let your child choose what to do. It could be a great learning experience.
posted by rebent at 4:11 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The game itself is fairly harmless. There's some (very) minor violence on Peaceful mode, where you have to whack wild animals to death in order to harvest their feathers, wool, hides, etc., but the death animation is little more than the animal flashing red, squawking, falling over sideways, and vanishing.

Thing can get much more tense in Normal mode -- when you're lost deep underground with a bundle of hard-won loot, hearing a zombie moan, a Creeper hiss, or even a well-timed sting of scary music can inspire genuine dread. It's no worse than a well-constructed psychological thriller -- there's no gore, only the fear of being caught in the dark and losing your haul -- but if she's prone to nightmare's, you'll want to keep it Peaceful.

The only thing to really watch out for is the wider community. You can play online multiplayer pretty easily, which includes unmoderated chat and all the dangers that brings. But things like tutorial videos, forum posts, and other online content can be inappropriate, too, and hard to avoid when your daughter needs help figuring out how to do something or wants to share her handiwork with others. But treat that aspect as you would any other online browsing and it should be fine.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:15 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and:

Show her how to craft a bed. All you need is wood and wool, which are both readily available. If you place it on the ground and then right-click on it, you can sleep through the boring night. (And then you can pick it back up and keep it on hand for the next evening.)
posted by ixohoxi at 4:23 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are some cute mods she might enjoy; GirlCraft is a texture pack which makes everything pretty colors. There's also a mod that adds horses to the game world, and one that adds Faries. You'll have to help her with adding the mods though.
posted by The otter lady at 4:57 PM on March 27, 2011

Minecraft is a really wonderful game for young kids. As long as you are in single player mode there is nothing to worry about. Installing the Single Player Commands mod can provide a lot of fun. My 8 year old is a complete master of everything to do with minecraft, and it's one of those games that you really can have a long and involved conversation with a child about.

Minecraft really comes to life when you start playing it with other people on a server, though. If you don't want to expose your child to the internet, consider setting up a server at home where you can both play (if you have enough computers). I have a home server set up for my 11yr old and 8yr old and they love to play on it together.

It's essentially a big sandbox except nobody gets sand up their nose.
posted by unSane at 5:04 PM on March 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh, yeah—installing a few choice texture packs for her is a great idea. All you have to do is download the texture pack (they're ZIP files), and put them in the right folder. Then she can select the texture pack she wants to use from the Minecraft main menu.

The folder varies depending on your operating system, but for Windows, do this:

—Click on Start and type %APPDATA% in the search box (Windows 7), or click on Start > Run and type %APPDATA% in the dialog that pops up. This will open a folder window.

—From there, drill down into /.minecraft/texturepacks/. Put the ZIP file there.

Screenshots of Girlcraft are here, and you can download it here.

There are scores of other texture packs; you can get started with this list.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:21 PM on March 27, 2011

One thing no one's mentioned: MineCraft has a multiplayer version. With text chat with random people on the Internet. It can be a lot of fun on a good server but as with all public Internet games there's a lot of jerks, too. You mention "desktop version" so maybe you already know about this, the game is a lot of fun single player standalone, too.

(Metafilter friend site MeFightClub has a very nice multiplayer server at Aporkalypse. It's not intentionally kid-friendly but folks tend to be well behaved.)
posted by Nelson at 5:41 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Aporkalypse: my kids have joined as guests a few times and had a great time wandering around, because it's chock FULL of stuff to gawp at. I've hung out there enough to be confident that it's very benign. To get full building privs you need to jump through a few hoops though and that part really is more adult oriented.
posted by unSane at 5:59 PM on March 27, 2011

Yep, Aporkalypse is great. The folks there are mature, civil, and ridiculously creative. People have built some really impressive things there—at one point, it was one of the largest Minecraft worlds in existence. (I don't know whether that's still the case.)

New players have limited abilities until they've been authorized, but you could spend months just exploring the existing constructions. People have let their kids visit (supervised) before, and it's always a big hit for the kids.

The user base skews older (20s to 40s, I'd say). There's occasional salty language in the chat, but nothing hostile, adolescent, or straight-up vulgar. If you say "hey guys, I'm letting my daughter explore for a bit, could you please try to keep the chat kid-friendly?", I'm sure people will be happy to oblige.

Please look over the rules first. They're mostly common sense, but since we're talking about a seven-year-old (and it sounds like you might not be a gamer yourself), they deserve a good once-over.
posted by ixohoxi at 6:10 PM on March 27, 2011

All of the above, PLUS keep a timer or something by the computer if you ever want her to stop playing. Maybe it's just me [1], but I find it very easy to get sucked into hours of play. Before I know it, I've lost the day. I can only imagine how long I could have played when I was that age....

[1] I doubt it.
posted by MShades at 7:19 PM on March 27, 2011

I'd encourage her to use crates as caches if she goes spelunking. Every time she's got a heap of nice resources that you can only find underground, she can plunk down a crate and put the stuff inside, and pick it up again on the way back up. It's easy to lose a whole heap of resources and equipment if you fall into a lava floe, and I could imagine that could be pretty upsetting for a 7 year old.

heck, it's pretty upsetting for a 25 year old.
posted by dudekiller at 5:51 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Minecraft can be fun for the whole family. You might want to watch a few of the Minecraft Dad videos, wherein dad and kids play together on a private server.

I also enjoyed Minecraft Chick's videos when I started playing. Her videos let you see someone going from complete novice (like "how do I walk?") to competency.
posted by paulg at 8:50 AM on March 28, 2011

Watch out for fire (I assume it works the same on peaceful mode, which I never play, I'm always in Normal).

A flint + smelted iron "lighter" or a misplaced bucketful of lava can do a lot of un-repairable damage in very short order.
posted by de void at 9:50 AM on March 28, 2011

On the other hand, setting fire to the square of grass that animals are standing on...

Maybe best not show that to your daughter.
posted by unSane at 9:55 AM on March 28, 2011

Aside from the animals grazing part, the fire mechanic does gives room for teaching a lesson about the danger of playing with matches. Crates give room to organization skills, and planning things ahead. Hrmm, I like where I'm going with this...I'm actually inspired to keep a copy of Minecraft handy now for when I have kids.
posted by samsara at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2011

You should buy two other computers and play together. It's so much fun in group.
posted by zouhair at 6:08 AM on April 8, 2011

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