As real as the world outside

Minecraft: As real as the world outside

A year or so ago we were introduced to Minecraft. I’m still not sure how we missed it for as long as we did. I kept hearing other parents complaining about the hours their children were losing devoted to placing these tiny little blocks in an online world and felt a certain smugness that we were managing to avoid it.

But when she was introduced to it, boy, did she fall hard. It was like watching someone fall in love. Crazy, stupid love. Deep, blind love. Those first few weeks she was completely absorbed, looking up from the screen only when absolutely necessary to her survival. You know, to eat and pee. Sleep took a back seat. Actually, so did eating.

It helped (or not, depending on your view) that she had a few friends who were obsessed as her. They taught her the language, guided her through her first few projects and helped explain the intricate social landscape that seems to have developed within the Minecraft world.

Endless videos of Stampy Longnose came next, books, toys, Lego and merchandise. (As a side note, the first person to start a Kickstarter campaign for Minecraft clothing made for girls will have my undying dedication.) We progressed from just the iPad to the Playstation and her world continued to expand.

Sure, being a student at an all girls school, not every kid there has the in-depth knowledge that she possesses of things like the Nether, but there are enough for her to find a little tribe to share this semi-socially acceptable obsession. Weekend play dates were passed with hour after hour in silence, as they met in the same world and conquered together.

The next step was a server. She was desperate to play with other people online, but every one of my instincts bristled against it. Poss is a brilliantly smart child, but when it comes to online safety, she’s the one that managed to infect my Mac with a virus. Which incidentally, I didn’t think was even possible. Turns out Poss found a way.

We needed a safe option. Or as safe as it can be online. And one day a friend sent me a link to an article on something called Autcraft. A server developed specifically for people on the Spectrum, created by a dad with two kids on the Spectrum.

This was it. A safe option. Or as safe as it can be online. There were rules, guidelines and a crew of volunteer moderators that would put any other forum to shame. We had to go through a sign up process and wait to be ‘white listed’, and Poss had to agree to a code of behaviour.

A few weeks later, we were in. A new world opened up. Suddenly she had a whole world of others at her fingertips, others just like her. People that could talk at length about the ins and outs of redstone, or the behaviours of each mob and seemingly never be bored.

Since then she’s continued to escape to this online haven whenever she can. Her friends are there. She chose to spend her birthday there. She worries about other members when she’s not online and is desperately trying to earn her stripes to move up in a world, where the title of junior helper is a huge honour.

They chat, always chatting. I often sit and just watch the feed slip by, Poss dipping her toe in and out. But what always surprises me (although it probably shouldn’t) is the adherence to the rules, the politeness, the kindness, the interest they take in each others worlds.

Occasionally I’ll see a parent commenting about Minecraft online, or in passing at an event. “What a waste of time” they’ll say, or maybe they’ll admit to be completely confused by it.

How do you explain it? How do you show that for Poss, and others like her, this world is easier. It’s less confusing. It’s calm, it’s ordered and it’s just as it’s expected to be every single time. She can build things, try things, explore and there isn’t anyone telling her no. People follow the rules, there’s always someone online, the chat feed keeps going. If you don’t show up, people miss you.

Simply, it’s as real as the world outside of the computer. Except better.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge