PARENTS

A Dumb Parent's Guide To Minecraft!

14/08/2014 17:00 | Updated 20 May 2015

Guide to Minecraft

Asking your nine-year-old son and his mates to accompany you to a book launch doesn't score too highly on the Enthusiastic Response Scale.

But when I told my boy the book was a guide to getting the most out of Minecraft, his Gaming Geiger counter went haywire.

"MINECRAFT?" he said. "Seriously, MINECRAFT?"

His enthusiasm left me a little bemused. Like most parents of boys of a certain age, I am familiar with the online construction game. But like many parents of my age, I am also quite bewildered by it, as I am with most things of a video gaming nature.

I'd rather be stuck in the kitchen butchering a chicken than twiddling my thumbs on an Xbox. But my son loves it. He would happily live for the rest of his life in the worlds he creates from the comfort of a computer.

And I have resigned myself to allowing him to linger in its block-building cyber-illusion for as long as he likes – by using it as a carrot to reward him for reading!

As parents of boys know, it it notoriously difficult to get them to pick up a book, so I resort to any means I can to encourage him, namely bribery.

He reads (reluctantly), he gets to play his beloved Minecraft. Win-win, no? Well, you'd think.

Unfortunately, because Minecraft is the thing he and his mates would rather do more than pretty much anything else in the real world, David Walliams and Michael Morpurgo only get a perfunctory look-in, their prose being nothing but a mere obstacle to contend with en route to the online obstacles and blocks with which he really wants to engage.

Enter, via the portal of publishing, Minecraft Handbooks. Specialist publisher Egmont launched three of the guides to getting the most out of the online game last year, and each book soared into top 10 Bestseller list.

So when I was invited to take my son along to the launch of Minecraft Construction Handbook and the Minecraft Combat Handbook (available for £7.99 each), I jumped at the chance.

Anything that could enthuse my child's interest in the written word - albeit to get the most from the online world - seemed like a good idea to me.

Perhaps this is a long-desired solution to get boys not only to read, but to volunteer to read?

According to the bumph: "The official Minecraft Construction Handbook is packed with tips and step-by-step instructions from master build team FyreUK.

"And the official Minecraft Combat Handbook teaches readers everything they need to know to defend themselves from hostile monsters and enemy players, packed with tips from Minecraft experts.

"In Minecraft, the threat of attack is constant and this handbook will help gamers survive.

"They can learn how to build a fort, craft armour and weapons, set mob traps, defeat enemies in one-to-one combat and battle their way out of the Nether and the End."

Before this event, Minecraft was a mystery to me, but I've boned up now. And so, dear fellow parent, allow me to share my new-found knowledge so that you too can engage with your absent children on terms they might just about find acceptable.

Minecraft guide for parents

WHAT IS MINECRAFT?

Very simply, it's a computer game which is like virtual LEGO. Players can build anything they like from textured cubes in a 3D world. Other activities include exploration, gathering resources, cultivating crops and combat.

The creators, Mojang say it's 'about stacking and breaking blocks' - but perhaps it could be better described as LEGO mixed with Robinson Crusoe . . . plus monsters.

Others describe it as basically LEGO on an infinite scale with bad guys and explosives, but without the gratuitous visuals and gore that many video games have.

But it is Minecraft's relative lack of an objective which seems to have propelled its popularity.

WHY DO KIDS LOVE IT?

It's more like a toy than a game - the player's experience is mostly driven by their imaginations. So when they tell you about their adventures and creations, it's like when they describe role-playing with friends or a second-hand conversation or even a dream. And you won't always follow along with the story!

Also, every player is having a different experience. That's the way that Minecraft is designed. When a new game is started it creates a new world, and you can have as many of these worlds as you want. Each time you play you can choose a different one to roam around in, and the things that you see and do (or that happen to you there) won't be the same each time.

You can also customise the world using a bunch of different options, as well as unofficial modifications to the way the game looks and acts. It's playable in multiplayer environments with no limitations, topped off with a ridiculously huge community.

Depending on how you play you can do it for different reasons; to build amazing structures, to make technical mechanisms, to fight other players, to play role play games, to play adventure maps. The list is endless.

WHAT DOES THE MINECRAFT WORLD LOOK LIKE?

It's a terrain made up of mountains, forests, caves and water. There is day and night. Two dimensions exist – the Nether, which is hell, and The End, where the Ender Dragon lives.

IS IT VIOLENT?

There are two modes: survival, in which players fight off baddies, and creative, where players have unlimited resources. But even in the survival mode there are no gratuitous visuals and gore that many current video games have.

WHY IS MY CHILD GOING BONKERS BECAUSE THEY'VE MINED DIAMONDS?

It means they can craft stronger armour and weapons for their character, who is a man called Steve.

WHO IS STEVE?

This is you, the player, in all your Minecraft-y glory. Steve is the character that users control in Minecraft.

WHO ARE THE BADDIES?

Creepers are green creatures which sneak up on players, make a hissing sound before exploding. There are also spiders, skeletons and zombies. The biggest baddy though is the parent who will insist seven hours on Minecraft is enough.

WHO ON EARTH IS STAMPY CAT?

He's a gamer called Joseph Garrett who uploads videos of him playing his character Stampy Cat Minecraft on YouTube.

The 23-year-old has millions of fans and his videos get more hits than One Direction and Justin Bieber.

'Minecraft' Video Game Following 'Lego' To The Movies

IS MINECRAFT ADDICTIVE?

Video games are often viewed with suspicion by adults who believe they are addictive and warp young brains.

But Mojango says Minecraft is different. It's an imagination-based game in which you can build anything. Geometry, cause and effect plus problem-solving are all part of it.

Some say that, like Lego, it provides the building blocks of architecture. More importantly it guarantees peace. And there's no clearing up afterwards.

WHICH MODE SHOULD YOUNGER CHILDREN PLAY IN?

Playing Minecraft with other people can be a lot of fun, but it's important to understand that connecting to a public server means playing with other people on the internet.

TIPS FOR BEGINNERS AND CHILDREN PLAYING MINECRAFT:

• Play in single player mode

• Play in multiplayer mode with people in your house via a LAN (local area network) server

• Start your own multiplayer server

• Join servers run by people you know or can trust

TRUSTWORTHY RESOURCES:

WHAT MINECRAFT COSTS:

You can download to a PC or XBox or buy the Xbox game for £15 to £20, there's also a Pocket Version on Apple and Android for £4.99.

Minecraft on the PC does not have any in-app or in-game purchases.

After buying the game, children can play with everything and do whatever they want in the game without adding any additional charges.

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