What is Minecraft?

Photo: brownpau

Minecraft is often described as a ‘sandbox game’. This means that it’s a virtual land where users can create their own worlds and experiences, using building blocks, resources discovered on the site and their own creativity.  

The game is available on multiple platforms. You can play on a computer, smartphone, tablet, X Box or Playstation. It is growing in popularity day by day, especially among primary-aged children. 

Why is it so popular?

Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has quickly become one of the most popular games in the world. As an indie game built by a very small team, Minecraft’s success isn’t down to massive resources or a carefully planned advertising strategy. So what explains its popularity with children?

Minecraft has been described as a game with no rules. It doesn’t come with a set of instructions, or a stated objective – players can build and explore however they want. It’s often compared to virtual Lego.

This means that Minecraft fans have a lot of flexibility in terms of how they play. Users can recreate an existing fantasy world or build a new one from scratch, they can fight villains and seek adventure, and they can play alone or with friends. It can also be played at any level. In a lot of popular games, you need a certain amount of skill to move on to the next challenge. This can be frustrating for young kids who don’t always have the abilities or unrestricted time required to make real progress in a game. In Minecraft, children can create their own adventures at any level of play.

What are the age restrictions? 

Minecraft guidelines say that you need to be 13 to play. This minimum age is down to American privacy legislation, which states that websites collecting information from children must get permission from their parents. Many popular websites set over-13 age limits so that they don't have to comply with this legislation. 

If you have a child under the age of 13, you may have decided to allow them to play Minecraft.  If this is the case, it is a term and condition of the site which is being broken, not UK law.  

Is Minecraft helping my child learn anything?

Minecraft’s focus on creatively building and exploring could help children build their problem solving, planning and organisation skills. And kids who play with their friends might find it improves their ability to work as a team. Some parents of children with autism have credited the game with improving their children’s social skills and communication abilities – there is even a Minecraft server specifically for young people with autism and ADHD.

Minecraft is catching on in schools as well. Students at Stackpole VC School, for instance, used Minecraft to build an accurate scale model of their school. It’s also been used to teach kids about programming, ICT and maths. And minecraftedu.com exists to provide teachers with a version of the game for use in lessons.

How can I find out more? 

If your child is already playing Minecraft, they are your best teacher. They love teaching their parent something new. Take an interest, sit and play with them. If you have concerns about risks on Minecraft, see our article, Staying safe on Minecraft.

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