If you're the parent of a child of a certain age, you've probably heard of Minecraft. (That “certain age,” by the way, is anything between about 3 and 23) I'm excited to tell you a cool new gadget that gives you portable Minecraft, the Gameband, but first, I want to address a few conversations you should have with your child before you give them access to the magical world of fun (and learning!) that is Minecraft.
I've been playing for almost a year now with a group of friends. (Feel free to admire and laugh at this photo of my arrow-riddled self, after a run-in with a skeleton) We call ourselves #Momcraft because we're nerdy like that. Max loves watching me play, and giving me “helpful tips,” but he is just now venturing into his own account, with his own worlds to explore. Before I gave him free reign over my hand-me-down laptop and a Minecraft account with which to play, we wanted to sit down and go over a few things with him first.
Consider this a primer for a parent who is preparing to send their child into the world of Minecraft, with some tips and suggestions on discussions to have before they spawn in for the first time.
- First things first, what IS Minecraft? What are the different play modes, and which will you allow your child to play?
What is it? My friend Susan calls Minecraft “the Oregon Trail of this generation” and I think she's on to something. Much like folks our age would go on these virtual cross-country treks towards the West Coast, Minecrafters are embarking on treks of their own. They are going on adventures, discovering new worlds, building and expressing their creativity, even building train systems and circuits and so much cool stuff! The potential for what Minecraft can do is limitless.
There are two “modes,” Creative and Survival… Creative mode is like having unlimited digital blocks to build with; you can just build and explore and it's fun. Survival mode is where you need to find plants and animals as food, chop down trees for wood, and go mining for stone.
While it's a blocky, 8-bit world, that doesn't mean it can't be beautiful. As days pass, the sun rises and sets, and there's something really calming about watching pixelated clouds glow in a pixelated sunset.
There are different types of worlds (biomes) such as deserts, jungles, and tundras. Each one has its own characteristics and things to explore. You can let the game randomly place you into a world, or there are ways to land in specific ones. There are people who have built entire worlds that they then make available for others to explore. (The Gameband actually comes preloaded with several worlds, from renowned designers SethBling, Hypixel, and Dragnoz. So cool!)
- Personal information protection: This is really only a concern if your child will be playing on outside servers, where he or she will encounter real people inside the game, but it's something that cannot be emphasized enough. Do not set up your account using your child's real name (We generally use a Star Wars character for Max when he needs a handle for something; he won't forget it, but it isn't identifiable), and impress on them the importance on not sharing things about themselves. It's fine to say “We have a dog named Mocha,” but to inform online strangers where they live, go to school, or spend time is too risky and cannot be stressed enough.
Don't get too invested in virtual products: This is something we've practiced with Max for a long time, but again, it never hurts to have a reminder. When he was about 2, he would be allowed to play on my mom's iPad when he was at their house. It got to the point that he would start crying when we left their house. Not because he missed my parents (who live 20 miles from us) but because he missed the iPad. That was a clue to us that the iPad had become too important to Max, and he needed a break. Similar things apply here; you can work really hard to get the coolest stuff in Minecraft. Exchanted weapons and armor, diamonds and glowstone, you can brew potions and breed animals, you can have pets and farms and… all sorts of cool stuff. But you need to remind them that none of that stuff is actually “stuff,” and it isn't worth crying real tears over. If you're playing an outside server and someone comes in steals all your stuff and wrecks your house because they're jerks? It's called “griefing” and it stinks, but it's one of the risks of playing in a virtual world.
I also want to let you in on another cool feature of the Gameband here; it backs up your worlds, including all of the stuff you accumulate, twice. Your info is saved on both the Gameband itself, and to Gameband's secure cloud-based servers, so you're extra protected if anything happens. If something ever happens with your Gameband, you'll want to reach out to Now Computing, who actually makes the band. They are affiliated with Minecraft, and will be your resource for all things Gameband-related.
- Expectations; right vs. privilege: I know this is a “duh” for parents, but it needs to be stated clearly so that there's no question. When you confiscate their beloved Gameband so they can't play until homework is done? Set those expectations out ahead of time. Make agreements on time limits, world access (see #1), when and where they can play (especially if they're playing on a mobile device!)
For us, this is where the amazing Gameband comes in. Players can now “Minecraft on the go”; using any machine with a USB port that's running Windows, Apple OS, or Linux. Gameband is the first Minecraft wearable and it's AWESOME. I picked up our Gameband at GameStop; I had to ask at the counter for ours, because they've been flying off the shelves this holiday, and they keep them behind the counter. You can also order on the Gameband website.
The Gameband is a great tool for introducing Max to his own Minecraft account because I really appreciate having the physical item I can hand over when it's an acceptable time for him to play; it makes it more special for him, to have a special tool he needs to access his worlds. The fact that it's so cool looking certainly doesn't hurt!
The Gameband allows Max to take his worlds with him; I can just picture him introducing my dad to Minecraft the next time he spends the night over there… it's right up his alley, as well.
Because the Gameband is geared towards kids and teens, they added some really important features in; the band itself is made of tough TPU silicon, the MLC drive technology has 10x lifecycle of standard drives, it includes USB3.0 support, and features a hand-painted Redstone Ore clasp.
If that isn't enough awesomeness, it also includes something called PixelFurnace, which allows you to create customized displays on the 140 LED array. The website also has a selection of animations, so that you can, in the words of Gameband, “Hack Your Band” and truly make it your own. It didn't take long for Max and I to get him sorted out so he could make his own animations for his Gameband…
Is there a kid in your life that would love access to portable Minecraft? Who would love to be able to #GameOnTheGo? The Gameband is the perfect solution for those who want to share their Minecraft love with others.
Wearables are the future of tech, and this is a great place to start!