Minecraft minefields
May 3, 2016 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Please help me understand minecraft pocket edition. My son is 7 1/2 years and initially I was fine with him playing minecraft. He was building stuff, planted carrots and had dogs, and was flying around. But suddenly he is using weapons. I put an immediate stop to it by banning minecraft. But I would like to find out if there is a way to get rid of the weapons and return to the childfriendly version as he really enjoyed it.

I think from googling that he switched (accidentally?) from creative mode to survival mode. But I cannot find a way to switch it back and he does not know what he did to suddenly have an arsenal of weapons. He says it is simply a bonus he got by playing a lot - is that possible? This is the Pocket Edition played on an IPad, and I found this link which says mode switch is not supported in the Pocket Edition - but then how did it switch from creative to survival?? And how do I get it back to creative?
Assume I know nothing about the minecraft universe and zero about IPads. He uses my husband's I Pad who refuses to be involved, as he sees no problem. But that is another story entirely.
Or perhaps there is a better version for a child to use than pocket edition?
posted by 15L06 to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I can confirm that it is probably a bonus from playing a lot.

Maybe this would be a good time to talk to your son about why guns are not appropriate and let him choose to play the game without using the guns. Use it as a teaching moment and a way to connect with him instead of just blind banning a game he loves. My aunt did with this with her son, banned guns, no movies with guns, no games with guns...he grew up and joined the army.
posted by Marinara at 12:20 PM on May 3, 2016 [11 favorites]

I don't think creative mode was ever intended to not have the weapon items even exist. It's your kid and your call about that kind of stuff, but there aren't a lot of people who are this strenuously against the idea. I'm not sure how PE works exactly, but I'm pretty sure that in Creative you can in fact get weapons and there are still mobs, even though I don't think they're hostile? But the update that made all that possible seems to have come out last September, so it's been awhile. I'm not sure what you're seeing, but I'm going to guess he doesn't have an "arsenal", what he has is the Creative inventory, which allows you access to every item in the game.
posted by Sequence at 12:22 PM on May 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you can get rid of weapons, but you can definitely switch between creative and survival in pocket edition now.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:33 PM on May 3, 2016

Thank you, and just to clarify - he also plays Angry Birds, and has plastic swords, etc. Mythbusters is one of his favourite shows.
I cannot pin down what bothers me about the weapons in minecraft.

And yes, I suppose the word is inventory not arsenal.
posted by 15L06 at 12:34 PM on May 3, 2016

There aren't any guns in (unmodded) Minecraft, unless the game's radically changed recently. The only weapons are the sword and bow.

And yes, Creative Mode gives you access to every item in the game, including the weapons. They're just kind of pointless in Creative because there's nothing to fight unless you build a monster spawner, and even then you have infinite health.
posted by neckro23 at 12:34 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure this is just baked into minecraft.

"he also plays Angry Birds, and has plastic swords, etc"..."I cannot pin down what bothers me about the weapons in minecraft."

You should work on articulating that, and reflecting on if arbitrary lines like that are a good thing. Not a good thing for him, but a good thing for your relationship with him and how you want that to play out over the next few years.

I was the kid of parents who had really weird, arbitrary stances on totally harmless things (anything with magic in it; forbidden. Watching Christian snuff films about Jesus and post-apocalyptic movies? Totally okay, nay encouraged!). I speak from experience, but arbitrarily banning things inconsistently is just going to drive your kid's enjoyment of those things underground, and you probably won't even be able to have productive discussions with him about them later on when there are real issues around violence, sexuality, morality, etc.

Minecraft is a pretty damn positive force for most kids (at least from the ones I've talked to about minecraft) and being excluded from that would be a total bummer.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:45 PM on May 3, 2016 [28 favorites]

Yes, weapons are available in both creative and survival modes. The difference between creative and survival is that in creative you have access to unlimited quantities of building materials, and can fly, and also you don't experience hunger (so you don't have to eat). In survival, the focus is on gathering materials (wood, then stone, then the various ores like iron and finally diamonds) to build a home, grow crops, and, yes, defeat monsters.

So, a few things:
- There are no guns in regular Minecraft. Swords and bows are the only overt weapons. (There are also axes and I guess you could hit someone with a hoe if you needed too.)
- Swords exist because, in survival mode, you are being attacked by monsters -- zombies, skeletons, and creepers in the "overworld" (the regular grassy part of the world where the player starts) and then other monsters if he builds a portal to go into the Nether (which has different blocks and resources available but which is is more dangerous).
- If he plays in Creative mode, every item in the game is available to him (including all the weapons and armor). You can go out to the menu and click on Options to look at his game mode to check what mode he's in.
- If he plays in Creative mode with the difficulty set to Peaceful he won't need weapons (although he can access them), because no monsters will spawn, so there won't be anything to fight. If you won't want him to use weapons, this is how you have to set up his game, and then just tell him not to use swords or bows.
- If he wants to play in survival mode (where the challenge is to both build a homestead to survive and also fight against the monsters that come at night) then you'll need to let him use the swords and bows, because otherwise his character will not be able to survive.

As the parent of a 9 year old boy, I'm also going to advise you this: learn more about the game. Minecraft is probably the most creative game out there for kids -- but part of that creativity is that sometimes they'll want to fight monsters (and, as he gets older, other players).

As an entry point for you into Minecraft, I'm going to suggest that you watch the "Lovely World" videos from a YouTube player named Stampy, who makes kid safe videos that (yes) do sometimes feature players fighting monsters.

There is no way to "return" it to the "child friendly" version he had, because nothing changed except he found out where to find swords on the menu. You can react by banning Minecraft if you want, but Minecraft is probably one of the best games that has ever been invented for promoting creativity, so think hard about why you want to ban it.
posted by anastasiav at 12:50 PM on May 3, 2016 [41 favorites]

I totally get your concern about weapons on Minecraft. When my son started playing (around age 6) it made me a bit uncomfortable, but taking the time to play with him and understand the game made me feel mostly better about it.

... and anastasiav basically wrote what I was going to write. So read that instead.

The only thing I will add is that the conversations you can start with your kid about why weapons exist in Minecraft (once they understand the mechanics of Survival mode vs. Creative), and when killing thing is appropriate vs. not, can be a fruitful one -- you kill a cow/pig/chicken to get meat, etc. And even if your kid avoids weapons, it is still possible to punch a cow to death with your bare hands. So there is a rich conversation to be had about how the rules of the Minecraft universe are different than the real world, and why that is, and you can maybe even talk about the historical role of weapons in frontier societies (which is effectively what Survival mode is, with some more exotic creatures). Etc.
posted by misterbrandt at 12:58 PM on May 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

I meant with the distinction between the Creative inventory and an arsenal, by the way, that he isn't hoarding swords or anything, they're just there. He didn't collect a bunch of swords for some worrying reason while you weren't looking; they just exist in the game so they're an option in the Creative inventory. I can see why it'd seem like a lot if you hadn't seen that screen before, but the number of them just represents the various upgrade options. I realized that might have sounded more mean than I meant it!
posted by Sequence at 1:06 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also -- and trust me, I get where you're coming from, I really do, as my kid is now bringing home all sorts of questionable stuff -- another thing to think about is this: by banning Minecraft, what have you taught him? Have you taught him what your values are? Or have you just taught him what not to show you?
posted by anastasiav at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

Also keep in mind that some of what might appear to be weapons are actually tools - shovel for digging dirt, pick for mining stone, ax for chopping wood. Those things can be used as weapons to bash monsters, but so can anything in the game you can pick up (chunk of dirt, gold brick, bookcase, etc.) The only things that are designed as weapons are the sword and the bow & arrow.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:04 PM on May 3, 2016

I told my child no mods with guns in Minecraft so the little stinker figured out how to use redstone to create electricity and built himself a repeating gun (machine gun I guess?) And a working elevator, and a bomb machine, and a ton of other "machines". Anastasiav's first comment is very thorough. You can kill animals with a hoe in Minecraft if you are determined enough. There are some differences between PE and regular edition and survival vs creative, but they all have weapons. Wait until he finds the gunpowder, that's what really got my kid going with his experiments.

If you decide not to ban the game I agree with everyone who says that talking to your child about weapons (real ones and the ones in video games) and playing with him/her is the way to go. My son is 10 and I don't let him play realistic first person shooters but we have Splatoon and Minecraft and I play with him from time to time and keep an eye on him as he works. I don't know what I'll do when he starts begging for Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto or some such thing and I hope that day is many years away. I'm in constant negotiations with myself. My partner also wants nothing to do with dealing with video games so I feel for you on that account.
posted by Cuke at 2:23 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

In pocket edition, there's an options screen where if you set the difficulty slider all the way to the left ("peaceful"), then the monsters won't appear in survival, and the fighting aspect of the game goes away. Weapons can still be made, and used for killing livestock for meat (cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens), but even that's not necessary because the player doesn't get hungry. So it will make weapons irrelevant to gameplay and hence not so appealing.
posted by xris at 3:12 PM on May 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes to anastasiav! My violence-sensitive 7 year old is basically terrified of Disney movies. She plays Minecraft in creative mode only, by choice, and even SHE shoots at "googlies" with her bow and arrow. I have watched many Minecraft Youtube videos and I have watched her play, and - honestly - It's far LESS violent than Angry Birds, Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda, Star Wars, Road Runner, the Muppets, and 99% of other kid fare. And I have seen how Minecraft has empowered my daughter with dozens of small problem-solving "wins" per session, which those other things don't have.

So I second the suggestion to watch Stampy videos and unpack your feelings about this.
posted by nkknkk at 6:04 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to point out that one of the posts in this thread is inaccurate. It is not possible to use redstone to create "guns" in vanilla minecraft. The closest you can get to a gun is hooking up a dispenser with an inventory of arrows that will automatically shoot arrows sort of ballista style. But this is not a portable solution. As others have pointed out in this thread, there are three items designed to be used as weapons--the sword, axe, and bow & arrow. No bullets, no guns.

Source: I've been playing Minecraft since beta and focus primarily on the technical aspect of the game.
posted by xyzzy at 9:06 PM on May 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much everyone. Also to those who recommend to reflect on what exactly it is that bothers me so much. I will.

I admit I was in a panic when I sent this off. I am trying to find a solution where he can play again but I see I really need to understand minecraft much better.

And - as some mentioned minecraft you tube videos - those videos are actually what caused me to shut it down for the time being.
His dad lets him watch videos of people playing minecraft unsupervised when I am not around, and when I found out I watched several with him over the last few days and some on my own, and to me I can see no difference to a shooter game: the only thing happening is a person walking through a city (or landscape) and basically shooting everyone and everything moving in sight. They have titles like Minecraft - World of Warcraft, or noob vs pro. So this is what he himself wants to do in minecraft now. I think you have to have an online partner to do this - and I have no guarantee his dad wont let him do that.

In addition to the violence the language of the players providing a running commentary is absolutely foul (expletives in every single sentence, mysoginist, etc). These are in German, so perhaps this is why but I was and am shocked by the videos. The videos are not negotiable unless I find a child friendly player/videos in German (like the one anastasiav linked to) which I have not yet managed.
posted by 15L06 at 12:09 AM on May 4, 2016

15L06: "His dad lets him watch videos of people playing minecraft unsupervised when I am not around, and when I found out I watched several with him over the last few days and some on my own, and to me I can see no difference to a shooter game: the only thing happening is a person walking through a city (or landscape) and basically shooting everyone and everything moving in sight. They have titles like Minecraft - World of Warcraft, or noob vs pro. So this is what he himself wants to do in minecraft now. "

These are all unofficial modifications that can only be installed and run on the PC version of the game. The iPad version is pretty well locked down and will only run the default game, where the most violent act is bloodlessly swinging a pixelated sword at a monster until it falls over and vanishes. As long as he sticks to Creative mode -- and you're open about why this matters to you -- he should be fine.

As for YouTube videos, streaming, Let's Plays, etc., it's something that comes with the territory in terms of being in contact with others online. How much access he has to the internet and under what forms of supervision are going to be important guidelines for you and his dad to work out.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:21 AM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just to second Rhaomi - the more violent Minecraft you’ve seen on YouTube is only available by connecting to unofficial modified servers on the internet, which in turn is only possible with the PC version of the game.

The PC version of Minecraft has been modded to emulate almost every game type in existence, so you’ll see all sorts of things out there on YouTube. There are plenty of people making explicitly kid-safe YouTube channels though, of which Stampy is probably the most popular.
posted by pharm at 1:52 AM on May 4, 2016

In order to restrict (to some extent) the youtube content that your son can access, you can enable "safety mode" - see here for some details. Not perfect by any means, but it might filter out some of the objectionable content.

My son is 12 now, and Minecraft is no longer his thing. While he was still playing, I learned to live with the degree of violence that it contains, in exchange for the creativity & cooperation. Now (on PS4) he has Plants vs Zombies, which is essentially a cartoon-style first person shooter. I'm not in love with it, and maybe it's the middle portion of the wedge of which Minecraft's survival mode was the thin end. I don't know yet. My last defence against Call of Duty & similar titles is the age restriction that applies to those games. I've made it clear that the age restriction is there for a good reason, and that I'll enforce it - just the same as we do (mostly...) for movies. I'm relying on the PEGI classifications, but on the whole, they're OK. I wish his friends' parents would also apply the same standards, but unfortunately they don't.
posted by rd45 at 2:29 AM on May 4, 2016

It sounds like maybe your problem is less Minecraft and more that his dad and you are not on the same page. Have you thought of talking to the dad about your feelings on this?
posted by corb at 6:18 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also, if you can get YouTube Kids (free app) on the iPad, there are lots of kid-safe Minecraft videos there. No swearing! Hopefully you can use that to find some videos - in German - that focus on the building and building challenges rather than battle aspects.
posted by nkknkk at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think xyzzy is speaking about my comment. It's true that the guns my son creates aren't portable and they don't shoot bullets. However, they do shoot arrows, flaming arrows & gunpowder and his bombs do blow things up. In creative you can easily spawn (birth) mobs (animals, monsters etc) at will and then kill them with with these constructed weapons. In the same way that a kid forbidden to use nerf guns can still pick up a stick, point it and say "bang" a creative kid playing with Minecraft can make machines that are designed to shoot at and/or blow things up. Source: watched my kid blow up a lot of things.
posted by Cuke at 10:33 AM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

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