Minecraft – the Lego of today?
I can not shake my generation’s gut feeling of digital media being a poor choice for child entertainment / play. I grew up with hours of building Lego cities, spaceships and creating fantasy worlds of heros, villans and village idiots. It was considered a suitable hobby. Fostered creative building, engineering skills and had enough degrees of freedom to span a universe of stories. Indeed, everything was awesome.
Twenty five years later and I find myself publishing a Minecraft tutorial app for my kids to bring them a child friendly, curated and censored access to Youtube content. Trying to make the most out of the time they spend playing this game. Of course I ask myself: Should they be playing the amount they do.
Not all digital media is created equal and if you allow your kids access to some kind then Minecraft is arguable one of the better choices. But how does it weigh against that wonderful Lego of my generation? Isn’t it actually the same and it is only my generation’s bias that is unjustifiably antagonistic towards everything digital?
Consider these points:
- Minecraft is (not yet) a tangible experience. You can not bring it into the real world to experiment with the environment (make a bush a batcave, a bed a space station, etc.).
- Lego with its static appearance and behaviour forces the player to create a world in his/her imagination.
- Minecraft allows children without siblings to connect and engage with other players in a safe environment (if you choose the right server)
- Since most families usually already have a computer powerful enough for Minecraft (no – you don’t need a custom shader) enabling this game requires only a small first investment and can bring MANY hours of quality play time. Lego on the other hand will generally require a larger investment.
- Much of the Minecraft ecosystem teaches valuable lessons for todays technology driven world. E.g. My kids already know how to look up their IP-address via command line (being 5 and 6 years old), make sure they are on the same WiFi and occasionally use a in-game commands for cheats such as teleportation. Unless you get an expensive Lego Mindstorms your kids won’t have many encounters with tech.
Summa summarum, should you substitute Legos with Minecraft?
I think only if you must. We don’t live as virtual beings in a digital world (yet!). We are real people in a very messy real world. Lego allows kids to explore this realm. Furthermore, although allowing a great degree of freedom, Minecraft in its visual driven core still does not force creativity as Lego does. I love Minecraft, maybe even more than my kids, but do I love it because I can unleash my creativity there or because I can escape the messiness of reality? Ideally you’d want to combine both having each ones pros and cons in mind to make the best of it.