I’ve been chatting a lot with DeGei, who you might know from listening to the Group Quest podcast.

Quick plug, if you haven’t listened to it, it’s a great roundtable discussion of things in WoW. There are always great discussions that get me thinking.

DeGei and I have mostly been talking about pet battling and old school raiding, but one day he turned the topic, quite subtly, to what Alex was doing lately.

“Alex is mostly playing with toys and the 3DS, or tablet games like Star Wars Angry Birds. He pops in and out of Warcraft, but the complexity and difficulty of the game this expansion is hampering things.”

I should have been suspicious. I should have suspected something, but no.

Oh no, not me. Blind fool.

“Well, has he ever tried Minecraft? I think he’d really like it.”

Uh oh. Another one of THOSE freaks.

He hasn’t played Minecraft, but I grudgingly admitted that the option was available.

Back in August of 2011, Cassie asked if I’d heard of ‘this Minecraft thing’, and said the game was on sale, buy the game and get a gift code for a free second account. We could buy it, try it, and if it seemed cool give it to Alex, AND one of us could play it too.

I bought it and tried it out a bit… and I was totally lost.

No quests? No breadcrumbs? No instruction manual on how to make shit? What the hell was I supposed to do with nobody there to hold my hand?

I read a little about it on the internet… Survival mode, monsters that would come to eat me and I had to scramble to try and build a crude shelter, light a fire, say what now?

Where are the menu of commands? How do I make anything? OMIGOD I’M SO CONFUSED.

it wasn’t for me because, hello, Warcraft, and Alex does NOT like survival zombie apocalypse ‘grue will eat you’ kinds of stuff at all. Alex was really loving World of Warcraft at the time, so I decided to shelve Minecraft and leave it the heck alone.

Fast forward to today, a year and a half later, and an uncomfortable conversation.

“No, he has never played Minecraft, but, um… we own it. So I don’t have a real good excuse as to why not.”

I signed off, and decided to dust the install off and give it another try. I knew it was still on my computer somewhere, because the Curse Gaming downloader saw it and added it to my list of games that had addons available. Curse knows my computer better than I do.

I found it, dug up my old email with login info, loaded Minecraft up and started trying to figure it out.

I would have given up again, except I decided to use my leet WoW skills. Namely, I went looking for a website that would tell me what to do.

Ah, the lessons learnt from WoW. If something takes more than 3 seconds to figure out, look for an internet guide.

With the beginner’s guide from the Minecraft Wiki open, I began to puzzle things out. Hey, this game is pretty cool, this is neat, you can…

“What are you playing, Daddy?”

Oh, shit. Busted. Cold, flat busted.

“Umm, it’s a game called Minecraft.”

“SQUEEEEEEE.”

Aw, shit.

It turns out EVERY KID IN HIS CLASS plays Minecraft, and talks about it sharing stories and tips.

They compare notes. They brag about hidden things they’ve discovered, as kids do.

I was asked, could I, maybe, just possibly, install it on Alex’s computer so he could play? Maybe? PUH-leeze?

Yeah, he’s gone.

Here’s the thing about Minecraft.

Minecraft is the LEGO of video games, before LEGO became all about movie video games done in block style.

You get out of it what you bring to it, and you really do tear down and build up anything you can imagine, one block at a time.

Yes, the graphics are primitive, but once the switch flips in your noggin and you realize this is a world made of LEGO blocks, and YOU can tear the existing blocks down and build whatever the hell you want, that’s it.

So, that’s what Alex has been playing lately. And I blame DeGei, damnit.

Alex started in the default game mode, ‘Survival’, and had a lot of fun with it. He learned how to mine, make torches, tunnel caves, make doors, and grasped the idea of ‘hide when it’s dark’ better than I might have wished. The game has taught him to be afraid of the dark and cower in a cave.

What’s really interesting is, he wasn’t even in danger at the beginning. He never saw a bad guy, but he had heard enough to know to fear what creatures the darkness would bring, so he’d build a shelter and focus on making it defensible, and being inside by lights out.

He was on the easiest difficulty, where he can’t starve, or really die except from falling or lava, and where monsters don’t even spawn in the game to hunt him. He could travel in the dark with impunity, he just didn’t know it.

Once he found that out, he got a bit more adventurous, although he had a rough time when he got lost far from his crafted home once.

I left him to it. I used the Minecraft Wiki to teach him how to make various things like torches and better pickaxes, and a crafting table and furnace, but other than that he was on his own.

A couple of days of busy activity, and he proudly showed off his new island home.

He’d found a small island off the coast, installed a stone road lined with torches, built a stone multi-storied house with real doors that you could open and close, put in a trapdoor to the basement with a pressure-plate for an ‘escape hatch’, built up a massive tower with torches all up the sides so he could see it like a lighthouse leading him home at night, and he even led chickens from the mainland to his island.

Just… amazing. And all of it from his imagination.

So, he was happy, but in order to advance, I was going to have to really break out the crafting item wiki to figure out what else he could do.

Then, chatting with Tish Tosh Tesh about Minecraft, it turns out Tesh plays it with HIS kids, and they play the ‘Creative’ mode.

Um, the what mode?

Oh, Creative mode! Where you can’t die, you start with infinite amounts of every item/block in the game, and can fly. So, you can build ANYTHING, anywhere.

Lolwut?

Wow. Can Alex handle that? What if having everything so easy without having to mine materials and make it by crafting ruins the experience?

Hah. HAH.

I am so FRICKING FUNNY.

It’s been about a week.

He has made a massive multi-level walled fortress with turrets, minarets and battlements. He has one tower filled with lava, and another tower next to it filled with water.

He has a basement chamber that is the petting zoo, filled with various animals like chicken and sheep.

He has a wolf that he tamed, using a technique taught to him from a school friend.

He built a special doghouse in the castle for his tamed wolf, and spent two days frustrated as heck that the Wolf kept escaping the doghouse, despite walls or whatever, until his classmates shared the cause… tamed wolves teleport to your location if you get too far away.

He dug down into the ocean, built a sub-basement and installed glass windows so he could look out at the sea and the swimming squid.

He built soaring towers of glowstone as a beacon and floors of glowing magma rock.

He has a big bed in his bedroom, and he’s got this chicken that seems to like hanging out there, because every tie he logs in, there’s the chicken… in his bed.

He’s got winding staircases and signs and… wow.

He loves it. And he loves it even more because he is able to talk with his classmates about the shared experience, all of them playing the same game, having something in common.

It turns out that the modern peer activity isn’t hockey, or football, or any other kind of sports.

The peer activity for his class, the NORMAL activity is video games, and specifically a creative video game called Minecraft.

I have a small sliver of hope for our future.

What will the world look like, or this corner of it, when it’s hard to call someone derogatory names based on being a geek when everyone grew up doing ‘geek things’ and there is no stigma of ‘the other’ attached to it?

He loves it, and he likes that he can talk about it with friends at school.

DeGei has told me about addons and modifications, but I’m really confused about that stuff. I don’t want to change things on Alex too much all at once, and most addon packs seem to have a ton of stuff all rolled together. I’m sure he’d like some additional items, but how to choose what, and not go too far?

Enough. It’s a great game, and I’m sure once he starts to wander, addons will bring more for him to excited about. Time enough to worry about it then.

Wait, World of Warcraft in there somewhere?

As far as World of Warcraft is concerned, he still likes the game, but this expansion has been very hard.

Some of the quests are designed to be challenging for normal players to negotiate, so he’s been running into some problems that lead to frustration.

He gets through them eventually, but when the stress level is that high, he takes his WoW in small doses.

He was really jamming the pet battles and taming, but he’s stalled a bit on that because he’s in the 19 range, and it gets hard to tell where to travel to for your next pet tames, and it can take a while to grind some levels on those pets. When you’re leveling in Pandaria and everything is 23 – 25, your team of 19′s don’t help.

He’s at the point now where he plays his Death Knight just a little bit questing, but he really looks forward to playing with us in places like Molten Core, AQ40 or Karazhan, where his level doesn’t matter because we’re all overpowered there anyway.

He still likes World of Warcraft, but it’s for playing as a family.

For everything else, it’s Minecraft. It’s all about creating his own thing fresh, and proudly showing it to Cassie and I.

What lesson could we learn from this?

I know one lesson… if there was an area in World of Warcraft where he could easily design his own house, walls, basement and barnyard, and populate it with animals and plants and whatever else, he’d stay in WoW all the time, too.

When it’s just visiting something someone else designed, if there isn’t something to kill, quest or craft, it’s only so good for so long.

Maybe that is where your farm in Halfhill is heading, but there will have to be one hell of a step up to compete with the world building in Minecraft.

Just saying.

17 Responses to “The Cub Report – DeGei Corrupts the Innocent”
  1. Tesh says:

    Mwahahaha!

    Er, *ahem*…

    You can tell wolves to sit by right clicking on them, and then they won’t teleport. My kids love wolves, so we’ve spent a fair bit of time with them. :) It really is awesome seeing what the kids come up with. My four year old boy was putting the finishing touches on an emerald castle last night, and my six year old daughter is still expanding her giant mushroom town. (Sort of like Zangarmarsh crossed with Lothlorien.)

    I think the LEGO comparison is spot-on. It’s all about putting things together and using your imagination. If I were limited to one video game for the rest of my life, Minecraft would be my pick. Then again, I *was* a LEGO kid.

  2. mbp says:

    Great post, it reminds me of my own “penny dropping” moment with Mineccraft when I built my first house and I suddenly went from this game is meh to hooked.

    The massive popularity of Minecraft among pre-teen kids is an amazing gaming story that has been largely overlooked by the gaming press. who would have predicted that modern kids could see beyond flashy graphics and mega-franchises? I think you are absolutely on the ball when you make the link to Lego. I can still remember the light bulb moment when I built my first house in Minecraft. That was when I realised the game was special. Proud boast: my preteen daughter got amazing respect from the boys in her class for knowing about Minecraft (from me) before the craze took off.

  3. Swampy says:

    Paul Soares Jr has a great series on how to do the basics in Minecraft, starting from surviving your first night and currently going as far as fighting the wither boss. He targets beginners and his videos are all child friendly. Might be worth a look?

  4. Jeff says:

    The modding scene in minecraft is spectacular. There is a launcher called Feed The Beast that handles all the downloading and installing for you, you just pick the ‘modpack’ you like and log in as normal to play.

    I like the magic one that has things like wands for chewing up the landscape and a parallel world called the twilight forest where the sun never shines and there are all sorts of strange and dangerous things.

    A direwolf20 on youtube does a season of ‘lets play’ videos that are him using some mods to build lots of cool stuff in survival mode (His modpack is available in the feed the beast launcher). Here’s the first in this season: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMTdtWG_t7k

    And lastly, play with your son! Hit escape once your world is up and click to open it on your lan. Its still a single player game, but family can come in and help!

  5. I’ve known about Minecraft for quite some time. I’ve never tried it. I’m thinking that’s about to change. :o)

    I’ve always loved LEGOS and would have a billion of them if they weren’t so darned expensive. I miss sitting for hours and hours letting my mind wander as I constructed things. Reading you, and others, state how much Minecraft is like a LEGO type building experience I might just have to give it a try.

    Hey, take some screen shots, if you can, of the Cub’s creations and share them. Would love to see what his mind thought up.

  6. Michelle says:

    Yeah, my oldest found it in alpha, we bought it then for super cheap. He’s done tons with it now, and has his own youtube channel (not kid friendly, but amusing). Now my 8 year old is pulled in, he wants the mods (we have most of them already, but I have no clue how to make them work). He also wants to play on a server with someone, but I’ve not let him yet. It’s a cool game, not one I could play but I love seeing what people build :)

    • DeGei says:

      Some mods have to be installed manually, which I don’t know how to do, however there are several mod packs that can be downloaded as an executable file that handle everything on their own.

      Feed The Beast (FTB for short) is the one rising in popularity right now. Jeff mentioned it above, http://feed-the-beast.com/ is it’s site. It has several different subsets within it with different assortments of mods in each. The “Direwolf20″ set is popular (named after the youtuber who worked on it), also Mindcrack, Voxel, and Magic World are high on the list.

      Direwolf20 has the widest assortment, including things like The Portal Gun, Thaumcraft (magic), and Mystcraft (Dimensional creation and travel).

      • Michelle says:

        Thanks for the info! I’ll poke around and get him “something” . He wants “TooManyItems” and ZombieCraft, which are both already on my computer but I have no clue lol

  7. DeGei says:

    I regret NOTHING!

    Another fun tip for wolves, if you right click on one youve tamed with a colored dye, it will change the color of their collar.

    That’s a tip not many seem to remember, so it should get you plenty of cred and he can share that with others.

    I’m so glad this has steamrolled the way it has, and Direwolf20 is a great source for mod information.

    Side note: I wound up in someone else’s let’s play video of Minecraft FTB series today.
    Warning, there is some cursing by the host in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUnyGd1vYV0

  8. Gameldar says:

    When I was a lad *creak*… There was this game called SimCity. Now I used to play it the proper way – by building some stuff and then getting swayed by public opinion. One day my brother found the cheat that gave infinite gold… And that was it he played it for day’s and days just designing his perfect city. He went on to become a town planner…

    But I’ll have to try out mine raft with my son. We love our lego so it would be a natural progression, particularly if he can build mechanical things!

    • DeGei says:

      Mechanical things are only sort of possible in basic minecraft. There is Redstone which is a combination electrical source and wiring that has been used for amazing things in some creations.

      More fully realized devices are in mod packs that take machining to the next level, Buildcraft, Industrialcraft, and Redpower being examples, (all of which are in Feed The Beast with other additional mods).

  9. Matty says:

    Minecraft rocks.

  10. Sprowt says:

    Haha … my youngest son (he’s 10) plays Minecraft constantly .. his older brother (by two years) got him into it at the same time you originally bought it, I think … he basically used his brother as an excuse to buy it “its on sale, we can get two for one!” … Eldest is now into futuristic soldier type games, but the youngest spends HOURS on Minecraft. He’s currently in the process of making his own texture pack, but he’s made houses, towns, factories that produce building materials – he even made a sign that lit up “I love mum & dad” when he flicked a switch, which was both cute and awesome :-)

    He used to play on LAN, but I think most of the time he’s playing on a school-friends server, where a bunch of them hang out.

    If he’s going to play a game for hours, I think Minecraft is the one to go for ..

  11. Azwing says:

    I found Minecraft a little under a year ago during a slow WoW period. It’s been a fun diversion ever since.

    As you said, the game is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. The Lego analogy is great. Although I hadn’t really thought of it, I can see Minecraft being a big pull for kids in particular. It’s a creative outlet, a thinking challenge, and a game all in one.

    I’d recommend checking out some of Monkeyfarm’s videos on Youtube. He has several different LP (Let’s Play) series that are entertaining and informative. As far as I recall, they’re all kid-safe.

  12. Langalore says:

    BBB, our 10 year old plays and I play a little with her. You said that you have 2 accounts… You can open up Alex’s world to LAN and you can both be in the same world!

    Addons, some of them you have to modify the minecraft.jar file which isn’t too hard and then drop a file into the mods folder. It’s a huge pain when they update (1.4.7 now but generally minecraft has updates every 2-3 months). The addon that we always update and have on is Dr. Zharks Mo’ Creatures. It took me about 10 min to figure out how to put it on but it’s amazing once you get it in there. Wooly mammoths!! Elephants! Tigers! Sharks with freakin’ laser beams attached to their heads!!!! Wait a minute… :( just sharks, no laser beams unfortunately.

    I also second Paul Soares Jr. I let Rebecca watch them on her own without supervision because when I did watch them, they were always kid friendly.

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