Has Minecraft ensnared your child’s total attention? If so, you’re not alone. The game is hugely popular with sales of more than 14 million copies on PC and over 35 million copies across all platforms.1 That’s a lot of people playing the game, and my 8-year-old son is one of them. He’s obsessed with Minecraft, and if I want to have a conversation with him it will usually revolve around his Minecraft world. I had to learn how to talk Minecraft and this article will teach you, too, so you can connect with your child’s passion.
To speak Minecraft, you first must know what it is. Minecraft is a video game in which players build and break apart various kinds of blocks in a 3D world. The blocks represent different materials, such as dirt, stone, various ores, water and wood. The game has two main modes of play. In Survival, players start with nothing and must gather resources to help them stay alive despite attacks by monsters, such as creepers, zombies, spiders and skeletons. In Creative, players have an unlimited supply of resources, can’t die or get hungry, and can fly. The goal of the game is simply to build and explore while staying alive. There is no story to follow, and there are no points or levels to earn.
Minecraft has its own vocabulary, and knowing it will go a long way toward being able to speak Minecraft with your child. Knowing these words will help you understand what your child is talking about and not sound like such a noob (someone who is a new player just learning the ropes).
Animals – Animals are not hostile and include pigs, cows, chickens and sheep. Animals can be used for different purposes. For instance, a sheep can have wool removed using shears and cows and pigs can be harvested for their meat.
Biomes – regions in a Minecraft world with varying geographical features, flora, heights, temperatures, humidity, and sky and leaf colors, as well as different types of blocks present. Biomes are separated into 5 categories based on their temperature: snow-covered, cold, medium, dry/warm, and neutral. There are 61 distinct Biomes such as forest, jungle, desert and ice plains.
Blocks – Everything that can be mined, picked up or used to make other things in the game is called a block, e.g., dirt, wood, sand, cobblestone, grass, various ores, lava, wool, pumpkins. More than 150 different types of blocks exist, and each one has a unique color and/or pattern to make identification easy. While most blocks are cube shaped, there are many that aren’t, such as ladders, fences and torches.
Chest – A special block that stores all your stuff. Players might have lots of these.
Crafting table – A special block that you use to combine resources to make tools, food and other useful items. Each thing you craft has a specific recipe of raw materials that you need.
Crafting – Putting together resources to make useful items such as tools and food.
Creeper – A bad guy that sneaks up on players and then explodes, causing damage. They’re very quiet except for the hissing sound they make just before they’re about to blow up.
Diamond – A rare ore that can be used to make very strong tools and armor. Exciting to find because there’s a not a lot of it and you have to dig for a long time to get to it.
Enderman – A tall, thin creature who becomes a bad guy if you look at or attack it. Hard to kill and makes a horrible noise, but has stuff that you need if you want to get to The End and fight the Ender Dragon.
Griefing – Intentionally attacking other players or destroying/stealing another player’s property on a multiplayer server. Generally frowned upon or banned.
Inventory – All of the stuff that the player is currently carrying – food, tools, blocks that they’ve picked up or mined. Usually this will all be lost when a player dies.
Mining – Digging, punching or destroying blocks in order to collect resources, clear land or dig tunnels. Can be done with either bare hands or tools.
Mobs – Short for “mobile.” Creatures, characters and animals that exist in the Minecraft world and interact with players. They can be hostile (creepers and zombies) or passive (animals and villagers).
Ore – A type of block that can be used for mining, and is particularly used for crafting purposes. Most Ore blocks must be smelted to be used, but some can be used right away. Types of ore include coal, iron, gold, diamond, redstone and lapiz lazuli.
Portal – A special door that transports players from one place to another, e.g., between the Overworld and Nether dimensions.
Redstone – An ore that can be extracted and used for circuits, torches and traps.
Skin – The skin is what your character looks like. Everyone starts with the same default look (known as Steve), but this can easily be customized.
Spawn – Being born or created into the game. As a player, the place where you come into being is called your spawn point and this is where you’ll start again if you die and come back into the game. Despawning means to stop existing in the game.
Tools – Items that a player needs to hold in order to do various jobs, like mining or chopping down a tree, e.g., pickaxe, hoe, shovel, axe.
Updates – Regular and highly anticipated re-releases of the game software to fix previous problems and introduce new features. These don’t cost extra money but do require you to download the update to access the new stuff.
World – Every new Minecraft world is randomly generated and will include many different Biomes. Every world is unique.
Zombie – A bad guy that comes out at night and attacks players by touching them. It makes a groaning sound that is distinguishable from all other mobs. In the daytime, it bursts into flames.
Now that you know some of the language of Minecraft, you’ll find it’s easier to talk to your child, and more fun, too. You can actually have an intelligent two-way conversation. To get the conversation ball rolling, ask your child some questions about his Minecraft world. Here are a few to get you started:
1. What have you been working on?
2. Will you show me your house?
3. What is your favorite thing to do?
4. Can you show me your most valuable object?
5. Which do you like better mining or building?
6. Are you in creative or survival play?
As parents, we’re always looking for ways to support our kids’ interests. The child has an interest in music so we sign her up for piano lessons. He wants to play soccer so we get him on a team and cheer for him at every game. Supporting your child’s interest in Minecraft is all about showing enthusiasm for what they’re doing and talking to them about it. As video games go, Minecraft isn’t all that bad. Kids learn some geology, architectural design, geography, geometry and spatial relations. Think of it as a big computer generated Lego world where your child is in control and can make anything happen. Wouldn’t we have loved to have this game when we were kids?
1. Hillier, Brenna (February 3, 2014). “Minecraft prime sales pass 14 million, bringing total to over 35 million”. VG247. Retrieved February 3, 2014.