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Minecraft Saved My Life

I know that’s a pretty bold statement to make.  Could a video game obsessively played by small children across the world literally save my life?  Well, yes.  I would not be writing this post today if not for Minecraft and the difficulties we had in downloading the software.  So thanks, Minecraft, for making the sign up process take a long time.  Because… you know… you saved my life.

Let’s back up though before the explosion happened.

We called a family meeting to discuss two items of business: the fact that the kids seem more enamoured with the idea of obtaining things than they do with using said things, and violence in video games.  I submitted, as evidence, for the first item of business an unopened video game they asked us to get them a few months ago.  As in, we got them the video game and they never opened it.  What a huge waste.  There are also the numerous toys that get played with once or twice, the Legos that are never taken apart (and therefore, never reused), and clothing that sinks to the bottom of the drawer practically never worn.

My shtetlness rages against such waste, and my general feeling is that if my kids are not going to use something, it should be passed along to another child who will use said item.  So many toys have left our house on the wings of that thought.

But the reason the Wolvog called this family meeting (anyone can call a family meeting) was to discuss a discrepancy in our video game violence policy and he wanted us to close the loophole.  I just decided to tack on the wastefulness issue because the reason he wanted to close the loophole was that he wanted to be able to play the survival mode of Minecraft with his friends, and we were only getting him the game if he remained in creative play.

So the question became, should we get the game at all.

The first issue was handled and put to rest quickly.  The Wolvog promised that he would be using said game, and would put up his own money as collateral.  This is a popular solution in our house to a host of issues from practicing guitar to purchasing items that we promise to use and then don’t.  In the case of guitar, the Wolvog gives me $5 at the beginning of the week.  As he practices, he gets a $1 back with interest as if his money was in the bank.  The interest is determined by the quality of the practice session and whether I was entertained by the music.  At the end of the week, he has made a few cents and has his original money back.  If he doesn’t practice, he loses whatever is left in the “bank” (eg. my tight little fist) at the end of the week when we get to his lesson.

The same goes for purchases — sometimes we ask them to contribute money towards a purchase and sometimes we ask them to put in cash as collateral.  If they use said item as promised, we slowly give them back their investment that we held as collateral.  If they don’t use said item, we don’t remind them.  We simply keep that money held in escrow.

So we determined the amount of money that the Wolvog would be contributing toward the purchase of Minecraft, negotiated that it would be money held in collateral vs. contributed to the purchase, and moved on to the next order to business: violence in video games.

We are an anti-violence family.  No guns — not even water guns.  No role playing games with violence.  No violent-looking Legos.  And this extends to video games and movies.


The Wolvog pointed out that the ChickieNob plays Plunderland, a fairly bloody iPad game where jolly cartoon pirates blow the heads off of unsuspecting boatmen.  With cartoon blood splashing into the water.  I purchased said game because I am a big fan of cartoon pirates.  The same rules hadn’t been applying to the ChickieNob because of a gender-bias.  I was treating violence as problematic in boys and teaching assertiveness in girls.

Merida in Brave with her bow-and-arrow = good.  Eowyn with her sword = good.  Hermione using her wand as a weapon = good.  I feed my daughter a steady diet of girls doing courageous things, always fighting on the side of good.  If she wants to bash open a few boatmen with a cannon, more power to her.  Maybe it will make her an assertive, self-assured, kick-ass lady.

But I certainly don’t seek out the same type of role models for the Wolvog.  I assume that seeing fighting will turn him into one of those violent playground assholes that kick dirt in your face and call it a game.  I was banning him from the survival mode of Minecraft because it meant fighting zombies and creepers with a sword or bow-and-arrow.  And this wasn’t fair, nor did it make a ton of sense since he also pointed out that he was allowed to see Lord of the Rings, which had violent fight scenes with orcs, and Harry Potter, where he battled Lord Voldemort in various forms.  The Wolvog asked for consistency.

So we reconsidered our stance and decided that we would have a ban on realistic and gratuitous violence.  Meaning, if it existed in a fantasy world and the violence didn’t look realistic at all, it was okay.  If the violence came in a video game like Real Theft Auto or in a snuff film, it was still banned.  We watched a video showing Minecraft violence (it sort of looks like Legos fighting Legos), decided it looked sufficiently unrealistic.  The final rule put in place is that if we saw any violent behaviour off-game or if he was unable to step away from the game without whining when we told him it was time to stop playing, the game would be taken away immediately, with no room to get it back.  Ever.  Because we’re hardcore like that.

He agreed, gave us a large stack of quarters as collateral, and the transaction began.

And by began, I mean that we went through a very long setup process to get the game on the computer.  First we had to get an account, then we had to download the game, then we had to troubleshoot because the game wasn’t downloading, then we had to set up his user account.

And somewhere in the middle of this 45-minute-long set up, I walked out of the kitchen where I was making dinner to observe the process, and as I was out of the room, there was a huge explosion.  A set of glass bowls had somehow fallen out of the cabinet, shattering as they fell and sending glass into multiple rooms.  The impact was strong enough to slice through the dish draining board on the counter.  If I had been in the kitchen at the time, I probably would have been dead or at the very least, very lacerated.  But I wasn’t in the kitchen because Minecraft takes a shitload of time to set up on the computer.  It takes such a considerable amount of time that it draws you out of the room to repeat ad infinitum, “really, it isn’t done yet?”

So, thank you, Minecraft, for your remarkably time consuming setup.  Because it saved my life.


For those who think that Minecraft is not educational, I give you this tale from our first day of world construction.  The first thing the Wolvog wanted was to spawn himself an ocelot.  He’s a big fan of wild cats, and Minecraft is a lonely world without a feline companion.  So he spawned himself an ocelot that stuck around for all of five minutes and then ran away.  Lesson one: build tight cages for all the things you love so they can never escape you.  Neveeeeeeeeeeeer.

So he built a cage for his new ocelot — Ocelot 2.o — and then spawned a dozen chickens too.  Unfortunately, all 12 chickens are now dead because the ocelot instantly ate them.  Lesson two: build separate cages for the things you love so they can never collude against you to get away OR eat each other.

So now he is hard at work on constructing a structure that keeps his ocelot away from his chickens.  It’s all about control, baby.


1 Chickenpig { 04.15.13 at 7:58 am }

Whoa. I’m not so sure about Minecraft saving your life, but something was watching over you, that is for certain. I’m so glad none of you were hurt. That is some scary sh*t. What caused the explosion? Are you safe now?

2 jodifur { 04.15.13 at 7:59 am }

I don’t know if the twins go to camp, but there in a camp in our area that is doing a science of minecraft week. I was going to send Michael, but it is the week we are on vacation. he is doing other sessions there. It sounds like it is right up Wolvgog’s ally.

We have a no violence in video camp rule too, although I’ve relaxed some. The lego games are okay, and I’ve recently let him start playing skylanders. Things like Halo and Mortal Kombat…absolutely not.

3 Kathy { 04.15.13 at 8:42 am }

Wow! Yes, I too am glad that you and your family are okay. I love when you share these parenting stories. I really appreciate hearing how you approach various things. Sometimes it’s validating, if I do something similar and sometimes it gives me ideas for better/interesting ways to handle situations. You could totally write a non-fiction book about your approach to parenting. I would buy and read it. 🙂

4 loribeth { 04.15.13 at 9:25 am }

Scary stuff! What happened to set that off??

My mother was visiting me once, some years ago, & we popped a casserole into the oven and went over to the nearby strip plaza to pick up a couple of things while dh was watching TV in the living room. When we got back, dh met us at the door with a weird expression on his face. A few minutes earlier, the glass casserole dish had exploded in the oven, sending glass shards shooting out the cracks of the oven door and leaving our dinner mixed with glass at the bottom of the oven. I thought those things were tempered, but I guess not. They do get brittle over time, especially in the dishwasher. We cleaned up the mess and ordered in for dinner. 😉

5 Catwoman73 { 04.15.13 at 10:38 am }

So glad you’re Ok! That could have been… messy (to put it mildly!).
Hubby had a scary indicent with a stove-top espresso maker a few years back- fortunately, he wasn’t in the room either when it blew up! It could have been a disaster!

I really enjoy reading about how you approach these parenting challenges . My daughter isn’t quite four, and every time I read posts like this, I pack some ideas away in my mental tool bag for when I face similar issues down the road. The only video games my daughter has encountered so far are on our classic Atari- games like Pong and Space Invaders. No real issue with realistic violence there!

6 jjiraffe { 04.15.13 at 11:01 am }

Holy moley! That sounds scary. Glad you are OK…

I do the same role modeling with my daughter (Hermione and Merida = good, even though they do use weapons) while preventing my son from using any kind of violence in his play. Weapons of any kind are not allowed, except for pirates which I also enjoy and think are OK (one of the pirate books we just got at the library was surprisingly bloody!).

We haven’t yet come to an impasse over this discrepancy but I’m sure it’s coming. The twins seem to have a hawk eye for fairness and equity…

7 Alicia { 04.15.13 at 11:01 am }

Oh wow – that’s scary! Good job Minecraft!

On another note, you are so freaking funny – and had an awesome approach to the problems at hand!

8 Tiara { 04.15.13 at 11:19 am }

So glad you are ok! I had a lightbulb burst in the bathroom once & I thought that I was being shot at! ‘Cause, you know, that could happen in the bathroom! Thankfully the shower curtain protected me…but it scared the shit out of me.

9 Another Dreamer { 04.15.13 at 1:14 pm }

Woah, glad you were okay. Scary stuff!

I like the system you have in your home for your kids. I’m glad you were able to objectively look at the issue and listened to him, and found a solution that made you all happy.

10 Erica { 04.15.13 at 1:16 pm }

I am glad you’re okay. I tend to have similar thoughts about violence and boys and girls, and I need to examine them more closely.

I hope the next bunch of chickens have longer life spans.

11 magpie { 04.15.13 at 1:22 pm }

A new word! Though I think it should be shtetlness? (Why yes, I did grow up with a copy of The Joys Of Yiddish…)

My child hasn’t evidenced any interest in Minecraft – so I only hear about it third hand – but it always sounds amusing, what with ocelots eating chickens and whatnot.

BTW, do you know Trainyard? If not, it’s a wonderful puzzle solving game for the iPad. I think you’d like it.

12 magpie { 04.15.13 at 1:23 pm }

Also, I like the use of collateral.

13 Justine { 04.15.13 at 1:32 pm }

YIKES. You have just blown me away. That? Is an incredible story.

(We don’t play video games here, and it’s partly for fear that it would be a slippery slope for my son–who has been known to assume the look of a pouty teenager while curling up with an iPod– and partly because we just don’t seem to have time … between bath and bed there’s about an hour, which usually gets divided equally between reading and some crazy imaginative game that my son initiates.)

14 Brid { 04.15.13 at 2:49 pm }

I dig the strategy for guitar lessons… might have to give that a try.
Glad you didn’t get bombed by the bowls!

15 a { 04.15.13 at 3:26 pm }

Ack! Scary crashing bowls incident! Minecraft has saved my sanity a time or two, as when we go to visit my sister, my daughter asks my nephew to let her play Minecraft with him, and he very willingly complies. This was very handy during the tasks associated with planning my mom’s funeral, as the kids were always well occupied…either playing with the dogs or playing Minecraft.

So, it would appear that one must download that game from the internet? I’ve been wondering how to get it…

Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I was washing the dishes and dropped a lovely pink depression-ware bowl on the side of our enameled cast-iron sink. It broke into a couple pieces, and it slashed my thigh as it fell to the floor. I still have a scar…and it split one of my freckles/moles in two. Bowls are dangerous, man.

16 FrozenOJ { 04.15.13 at 5:57 pm }

If he feeds the ocelot a raw fish it will follow him around or he can command it to stay. They will also protect you from creepers.

17 loribeth { 04.15.13 at 7:28 pm }

I kept wondering why Wolvog had to BUY Minecraft… although it sure sounded fancier than the version that came pre-loaded on my computer.

Then I realized I was thinking about Minesweeper. Shows you how up I am on the subject. :p ; )

18 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.15.13 at 11:42 pm }

I am impressed with your self-awareness about gender bias, and the Wolvog’s astuteness in pointing it out. Sounds like you honed your stance.

My son is into Minecraft, too, but to my knowledge he has never spawned an ocelot.

I’m glad were not near the bowls. Whew.

19 Katherine A { 04.16.13 at 6:41 am }

Glad that you are okay and were not in the kitchen when the bowls crashed. Yikes.

The strategy of taking some collateral and giving it back as the item gets used – that’s a really good idea. Will have to keep that one in mind.

20 Anne { 04.17.13 at 12:36 pm }

Wow. I am so glad you are okay. What a scary experience!

So, I have a lot thoughts about being violence-free and having a boy. Because I always thought that I would have a household that wouldn’t have toy guns.

Here’s where we currently stand. I bought some water guns last summer and watched my son and his best friend run around on a sunny day and squirt each other with abandon. And have loads of fun doing it.

How did I arrive at my decision? Well, first, I observed Zach and his boy friends making sticks into guns at age 4, which they called shooters, because they didn’t even have language to name them. Next, I observed that a lot of the movies that I, as an adult, watch have guns and violence in them. And then I did a little more observation of the behaviors that the boys had regarding violence and guns. My son is also currently obsessed with a plastic bow and arrow (with suction cups) that he received as a gift.

Ultimately I decided that if we were going to continue to live within the culture we live in, Zach needed to have space to process the idea of violence and guns. He needed to make sticks into guns and pretend to shoot his friends while they pretended to fall down. My husband, whose mother forbade guns in the house, sneaked water guns with his brothers and played with them. Lots and lots of little boys play “gun” and don’t become violent people who shoot other people. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t want to pathologize the behavior because it is the norm in our culture. And I believe that he needs to process guns and violence (our cultural norm) and I believe that this helps.

We have rules, of course. With water guns, the fun is in shooting each other, of course. But only with consent. We don’t have any fake plastic guns because I don’t see the point and he hasn’t ever asked for them. We do have a bow and arrow which he is quite good at aiming at shooting. But there is no aiming at people, the dog or the cat. Shooting and/or aiming is strictly for inanimate objects. I believe that in itself is a valuable lesson. We also don’t have real guns and neither I or my husband has any interest in having them.

I could be totally wrong about water guns and gun play, but as I looked at those two exhausted boys, soaking wet and grinning from ear to ear, I thought it was worth it.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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