I’m a Minecraft parent desperately waiting for a new game. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate some aspects of the game: its square, old-fashioned graphics, its lack of violence, the way it can entertain for hours when a parent needs to get work done.
I’m glad that it lends itself not only to critical online thinking but also to creative endeavors such as making Halloween costumes from cardboard boxes, playing imaginatively with little Minecraft characters, and creating stop-motion animation. I thoroughly approve of Stampy Longhead, the character who has made Minecraft such a phenomenon: his friendly voice, his distinctive laugh, his clean vocabulary suitable for my 8-year-old. I enjoy the fact that Stampy loves to eat cake (even for breakfast) and has a place he calls his “Love Garden” where he puts tributes from his adoring fans.
What bothers me is the overall concept. Minecraft is true to its name: It is about the craft of mining. This seemingly innocent video game is passing on a key element of our society’s dominant narrative: extracting natural resources (that is, wealth) from the earth. We know now that practice leads to climate change, which will deeply affect our own children’s lives and put entire coastal cities and nations at risk. And, we know that when it comes to avoiding a catastrophic future, one forever altered by sea level rise and global warming, each decade matters.
I know Minecraft is just a game. But in my more paranoid moments, I wonder if it was created with funding from the fossil fuel industries in order to ever-so-sneakily shape the attitudes of our children. The other day, my daughter’s friend announced to his parents that he wanted to be a miner when he grew up. We don’t need our kids to think in terms of extracting resources from the earth. We need our kids, our geeky teenagers, and our entrepreneurial young adults to think in terms of capturing and sharing renewable energy.
So I am waiting, impatiently, for a new game. I am waiting for a game where, instead of competing individually to dig into the earth to extract and build, the players collaborate to create grids that supply 100% clean energy to cities and hard-to-reach mountain villages. I’m waiting for a game where the goals are to create solar farms and wind turbines, to harness the hydro power of tides or rivers. I’m waiting for a game where the characters are heroes when they bring life back to bleached-out coral reefs, dead forests, or city streets.
I suspect Stampy Longhead could convert his six million subscribers, and many more kids, to such a game over the span of a week or so. And so I plead, game makers of the world, make a new game. Just make sure it includes cake.
Addendum: My son, upon hearing I was writing this blog, became concerned. He would like to argue for an “enhancement” of the game instead of a replacement. Whatever works!
Read about positive benefits of playing Minecraft game in an article, “The Minecraft Generation,” on the New York Times mobile app.
About the Blogger
The Revered Lee Bluemel has served The North Parish of North Andover (MA)
Unitarian Universalist since 1999. Previously she held a four-year ministry position in Midland, MI. She is also the mother of two elementary-age kids, an 11-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl, who play Minecraft (or watch YouTube videos of Stampy Longhead playing Minecraft) almost every day.