Kids are simply obsessed with. From dressing up in green block heads and calling themselves "Creepers" to asking for diamond swords and pickaxes, there's something about the game that kids just can't get enough of. As a parent whose child is playing Minecraft and rambling on about the Nether, dragons, and mushroom cows--it's hard to make sense of it all.
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Minecraft is an open-ended universe of blocky graphics designed to challenge players of all ages to use critical thinking. But it was also apparently designed to leave parents scratching their heads in confusion. Let us help you out.
1. The point of the game
Unlike most games, there's no single objective or end goal in Minecraft; it's an open-ended world in which players can more or less do what they want to. In other words, Minecraft is what each player makes it. In survival mode, players are forced to solve problems and figure out a means to provide shelter, food, water, light, and of course, mine elements from the earth below.
In creative mode, the only limit is the player's imagination. Creative mode players have unlimited resources to build and customize a Minecraft world.
And it's possible to switch between creative and survival on demand.
2. YouTube is where it's at
Here's my old man voice speaking: There are far too many people who sit at home all day long making videos of themselves playing Minecraft and then posting the video to YouTube. There's also far too many people sitting at home all day watching said videos on YouTube.
But as my kids tell me all the time: "Watching YouTube is how we learn to play."
And they might be onto something. You can do some incredibly compicated things in Minecraft, far, far beyond building a basic house out of stone and wood. Did you know you can build functional, interactive devices in Minecraft? Here's a video someone made of a working digital computer.
That's right: It's a working computer. Made with nothing more than the raw materials available in the game.
3. It's no big deal to fly
In creative mode, players can fly across the map like a bird. Or perhaps a plane. Flying is available to aide players who are building massive buildings and don't want to worry about building ladders (or construction cranes).
4. There are no instructions (and never will be)
Minecraft's game designer Markus "Notch" Persson specifically created the game such that it's up to the player to discover what to do (and how to do it). The game is all about free-form exploration; players are put on a map without tools or food and left to fend for themselves.
While the game has no instructions of its own, you can find a wealth of tips, hints, and guides online. The Minecraft Wiki is a great resource for players of every level from newbie to experienced explorer.
In survival mode, you have until the sun sets to make shelter, or you will probably need to restart soon thereafter. My advice: Start by punching down a tree.
5. It all starts with a crafting table
With a tree cut down and blocks of wood gathered, literally the first thing a new player should do is to make a crafting table. Think of it like a workbench on which you can make everything else in the game.
6. You need to sleep
That goes both for the player within the game and the little person holding the controller. You can craft a bed out of wood and sheep's wool. A bed is about more than getting some rest, as bad things lurk in the dark, and the best way to avoid them is to sleep through the night.
7. There are custom skins
While it might initially seem that way, you don't have to play as the default main character, Steve. There are a ton of "skins" that users can apply to their character. Some are free, such as the Minecraft birthday pack, while others cost money to unlock them.
Depending on the your gaming platform, users can even create custom skins from scratch.
8. Crafting depends on blocks
If you're not a Minecraft player, that sentence probably sounds like gibberish. But it gets to the core of the entire game of Minecraft.
First, you need to know that everything in Minecraft is a made of blocks. A tree is a series of wood blocks stacked on top one another, and when you chop up a tree you get individual blocks you can use to make things. Likewise, water occupies a 1x1 block, as does lava.
Here's the important part: You can take 1x1 blocks of various materials, arrange them in a particular order, and create other items--this is called crafting, and it's how you accomplish almost everything of significance in Minecraft. Such as this arrangement of wood planks and sticks to create a sword.
In this sense, crafting is almost like casting a spell; the order and arrangement of the pieces is absolutely critical. Put the parts on the crafting table in the wrong order, and it makes a different item. Or nothing at all.
9. You'll have to become good at farming
Users have to farm their own food. Wheat is the most commonly farmed item, and with wheat, a user can make bread.
10. And you'll be a hunter, too
Cows, pigs, chickens, and rabbits are commonly found throughout Minecraft. And it's a good thing, because a player needs to eat!
Successful survival mode players often have a big farm, full of crops and animals to sustain a healthy serving of plants and meat.
11. There's mining, and it's hypnotically addictive
If the name of the game didn't give it away, mining (often deep inside caves) is where players find the various minerals hidden throughout a world. From mining coal to gold to diamonds, players need to find valuable minerals to make important objects on their crafting tables.
With these minerals a player can then build stronger tools or weapons, along with materials to build a home.
Honestly, mining is little more than clicking--over and over again--at dirt, stone, iron, gold, and other elements. Mines can get incredibly deep and complex, and while your jaded adult mind probably expects it would be boring and repetitive, the reality is that mining is a hypnotically addictive experience. Start Minecrafting with your kids, and you just might find yourself late for dinner as you mine just a little deeper in search of a few more rare redstone ore.
12. Mobs are Googlies, Googlies are Mobs
Skeletons, zombies, creepers, spiders, witches, and endermen are all examples of things that can hurt a player in Minecraft.
The makers of Minecraft official call them Mobs, however YouTube player Stampylongnose often refers to Mobs as Googlies in his videos. Due to his popularity amongst Minecraft players, the term has been adopted and is now synonymous with Mobs.
13. Obsidian is out of this world
When water is poured on lava, the end result is the creation of a block of Obsidian. This block can only be mined with a diamond pickaxe, so don't try otherwise.
With Obsidian, a player can build a Nether Portal. Wait, what? That's right, there's a place called the Nether and it requires a portal to get to.
14. There's a lot more to Minecraft, including a dimension called Nether
So what is the Nether? It's a parallel dimension that exists within Minecraft, covered in lakes of lava and blocks found only in the alternate dimension.
15. There's a dragon
As if creating a mansion, building a farm, and raising animals wasn't enough, there's a dragon in Minecraft. Yes, a dragon. The Ender Dragon is the final boss, if you will, in Minecraft.
Players need to build an Ender Portal in order to fight and kill the dragon, gaining experience points and a dragon egg to destroy.
16. Withers are deadly, too, if you are into that sort of thing
A second boss is called a Wither, which is a three-headed creature that shoots its heads at a player to inflict damage.
The good news is a player must purposely spawn a Wither with a specific set of blocks placed in a particular order on the ground.
No, I'm not going to tell you. It's too dangerous.
17. Command blocks turn you into a god
Command blocks is a term commonly used when talking about Minecraft, especially in YouTube videos. Through command blocks, players can alter the world or specific block types to do things that it wouldn't normally do.
For example, instead of having a bat fly around inside caves, users can change the bat into a flying kitten.
Command blocks, for obvious reasons, are only available in creative mode or in multiplayer servers.
18. Mini-games give you specific goals
A simple Google search for Minecraft games will return hundreds if not thousands of maps. Some players enjoy the challenge of creating puzzles or mazes which others must compete within.
Remember, the point of Minecraft is up to each player, and is never set in stone.
19. Yes, you can do parkour
A popular sport in the real world, parkour has made its way to Minecraft. Players create maps with challenging jumps and leaps for others to complete.
If your kid has watched any Minecraft YouTube videos, they've undoubtedly watched a parkour video or three.
20. You can pay for a subscription to Realms
Realms is the name of Minecrat's own multiplayer servers. A Realms subscription includes access to a world from anywhere with an Internet connection and the option to invite and share a world with friends.
Be careful, however, as anyone with access to a world can steal supplies and destroy your buildings.