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Modern Parenthood

Minecraft: The video game kids should waste time on this summer

Minecraft is a digital 'sandbox' game – a video game designed to allow users an infinite ways to interact with the game world.

By Guest Blogger / July 1, 2013

Screenshot of kid-created builds on the Massively @ Jokaydia server in Australia (the young players and parents are all over the world, though).Screenshot taken by “Kerry J” at Flickr.com (Creative Commons licensed).

Screenshot by “Kerry J” at Flickr.com (Creative Commons licensed).

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Reporters and reviewers write about Minecraft as if it’s just like any other video game. Even this highly readable piece about its creator (Markus Persson, aka “Notch”) and its parent company (Mojang) by Harry McCracken in Time magazine doesn’t cover what makes it different from other games specifically for its kid (and parent) players. But he does bring out this extraordinary differentiating factor:

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Guest Blogger

Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.

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“No less lofty an authority than the United Nations sees Minecraft as a tool to improve human life. Last September, its U.N.-Habitat agency teamed up with Mojang to launch a program called Block by Block. It will use Minecraft to digitally reimagine 300 run-down public spaces in the next three years, giving people who live near them the chance to chime in on how they might be improved. First up: a dilapidated park in Nairobi’s business district and parts of its Kibera slum” (Kibera is home to some 1 million people – see this).

Distributed and shared safety

As for what might interest Minecraft players’ families is not only how it’s different from other video games but what it shares with all social media: distributed, collective, and/or shared safety (pick one adjective, but they all work). This game that looks like a virtual-LEGO land is literally all over the Internet and world. It’s not hosted by its so-called parent Mojang in Stockholm. It’s hosted and played on public and private servers all over the world, and it’s the ultimate example of what online safety is now and from now on in our very social media environment and connected world.

Kids under 10 host Minecraft games on their own servers, as do parents for their own kids, on laptops and family computers. So do schools I know of. Some people play the year-old Xbox 360 edition for console players. Others run adult-only Minecraft servers because they don’t want to “babysit” young players who sometimes like to be annoying and mess around with “griefing” or just ask too many questions in chat.

This is not exactly the kind of safety that can really be regulated for all by any single parent, jurisdiction, or law such as the US’s COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act). Each Minecraft server has its own rules of engagement (or creation or play), its own atmosphere and mode (“survival,” “creative,” “adventure,” or “player vs. player” [PVP]). Some have more than one “world,” allowing players to choose their mode of play. Clearly, child safety in Minecraft is a shared proposition, just as it is in social media in general (because multiplayer console, online, and phone-based games are indeed social media) – shared by players themselves, server admins, families, classes, teachers, school policy, and shared with the designers of the games, apps and worlds and the conditions they create and change. More and more, online safety takes a village too.

What creating together safety can teach

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