Can a Minecraft playdate be good for kids?
Spawning, natural resources and survival. These are the themes that my daughter comes home bubbling about after her 10-year-old playdates. Maybe you have heard of them – Minecraft playdates?
Playdates I will be honest – I don’t understand. Playdates at first – I was against.
But now? I understand that Minecraft playdates are one way that my tween girl has established healthy relationships.
There are two bits of information you need to know to fully understand my parenting context.
First off, my daughter – an only child – has not always made friends easily. She can be bossy and stubborn and her creative mind does not always relate to the fashion forward, teenage idol chatter of her peers. Secondly, the idea of electronic devices being an integral part of sleepovers and playdates is still new to me. Last fall, six young tweens showed up at our house for a sleepover with sleeping bags, toothbrushes and their devices. I had to hide my disbelief when one after the other, they asked our wifi password, so they could play Minecraft together in a shared world (or something. I still have not mastered the Minecraft lingo). At first, I resisted the idea. How was this appropriate? Weren’t they here to play together, to giggle and to chat.
Except that as I watched and listened – I realized that indeed, they were doing all those things. That in fact, this shared Minecraft play fostered more dialogue than if they were eating popcorn in front of a movie. They encouraged each other with supportive comments, they strategized about the natural resources that they needed to survive and they marveled at new landscapes that appeared in their virtual reality.
When it comes to fostering a lifetime of conversations and modeling healthy choices – I never really thought that Minecraft would be part of the equation. But as I watch my daughter play with her “BFFs” on their tablets, it occurs to me that infact, they are living out an entire world of healthy choices when they play. While they play, she is able to use her creative thinking without being bossy. She becomes part of a team that works together toward a common goal.
The girls play in survival or creative modes, which after talking to them and doing a bit of reading, are like playing in a virtual sandbox (survival) or with a limitless bucket of legos (creative). In survival mode, players have to pay attention to health and hunger – whereas in creative mode, players are invulnerable. Both of these modes focus on building and in many ways – exploring. Is Minecraft the same as going into the woods and building a treehouse? Is Minecraft the same as playing team sports? No. It isn’t.
Any way you spin it, the game is still played on a device – usually in a sedentary position inside – which is something that I try to limit as much as possible with daily screentime allowances. What Minecraft is though – through this new form of playdate, is a forum for shared play that is perfect for someone like my daughter.
And when I think about it – I would much rather my daughter play and discuss Minecraft with her friends than topics like make up or nail polish, Justin Bieber or the Kardashians. I know those days will come. She will giggle about boys soon enough. She will whisper about parties and underage drinking – and then hopefully tell me about what is going on around her because we have created a safe environment that inspires conversations about difficult topics. But for now, at 10 years old, she talks about how to spawn new eggs and defeating the Enderman. And I am ok with that. More than being the least of two evils, Minecraft playdates involve conversation and strategy. The play helps build bonds of trust and friendship over shared experiences – all of which are key building blocks for making a lifetime of healthy choices down the road.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*