Minecraft: The joy of making and breaking in a world without parents

My stepdaughter has opened up the world of virtual construction to me

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The Independent Online

As the wind picked up yesterday and the bin lids flapped off to warmer climes, I asked my stepdaughter if she’d build me a storm shelter. Nothing too elaborate, just a little underground bunker with hot and cold running water, bunk beds and a modest library, in which to see out the inclement weather. She wasn’t interested - too busy renovating her chicken farm. Before you imagine that my stepdaughter (I’m going to go a bit Mumsnet and refer to her as SD) is running a construction firm as a sideline to being in Year 6, the farm exists only on screen and that my aborted storm shelter would have been built in the game Minecraft rather than real life.

For the last year or so, SD has spent quite a bit of time on consoles, computers and her iPad in a world I had never really got my head around. I was dimly aware of Minecraft as a) a retro-looking game that let players build things with blocks b) an indy-gaming success story (sales figures currently stand at 33 million) and c) something I ought to have a go on, partly because I used to be far more into video games than my present job allows, and party because if SD loved it so much, it must be pretty cool.

Luckily SD was even keener for me to have a go than I was, and gleefully constructed a tutorial to start to chip away at my ignorance. The reason she had to build a tutorial is, she explained, because you’re pretty much left to your own devices in Minecraft. But how cool is it to be able to make a tutorial in a game for your friends and dozy stepparents? Very, I think. It’s a super creative space - her hunger for the game has been fed by watching videos of the extraordinary things people have built in it. Of course, it’s not all calm construction - players can go around destroying each other and, depending on what version they choose to play, watch their farms/storm shelters be ravaged by monsters. No wonder kids love it - making and breaking in a world without parents. In a recent article about the game’s creator, Markus Persson, statistics were quoted that said 65 per cent of Minecrafter players were under 21.

While SD’s tutorial was ace, my Minecrafting skills were not (her peals of laughter at my ineptitude rang around the house). She’s told me that if I want that shelter, I better get practising. These virtual construction-firm bosses are hard task masters.