Recently, our son planned a birthday celebration in the online game Minecraft and, being such cool parents, we agreed to participate. Just in case you are a Boomer who finds yourself in similar circumstances, here are some helpful tips:
1) Get logged onto the platform. Judging from our experience, this takes four days, a dozen Google searches, a couple of password changes, and several new gray hairs. In the literary world, this is called foreshadowing.
2) Create your avatar. My husband made mine – a cute blond girl – I guess it’s his fantasy Lego woman. He gave himself a full gray beard which I find just as adorable as I do in real life.
3) You’ll be using computer keys and your mouse to move, grab weapons, jump and climb. Millenials have been doing this sort of thing for decades so the real fun begins when, in response to your cries for help, your child’s avatar appears and says, “Follow me!” By the time you locate the right button to move forward, the back of your savior disappears over the horizon, leaving you all alone again.
4) Most of your time is spent making things, which means a series of many steps for the smallest improvement. You chop down some wood with your bare hands and use that to make a wood pickaxe. Now you mine some cobblestone so you can make a better axe and hopefully find some coal so you can make torches. What I just described takes me so long that I’d actually rather be chopping real wood with my bare hands.
5) After wood chopping, you dig in the ground for other elements. For us, most of this phase consisted of digging holes and falling into them, whining while our kids explained how to get out, and then having them finally give up on us and throw us ladders.
6) You can chase down a cow or a pig to use as food. You hit it a few times until it glows red and falls over. I found this oddly satisfying. Cooking it is another entire production involving a furnace (which you have to make first) and finding coal (at which I am impressively inept.)
7) Home ownership is humbling. Our daughter made a house with beautiful landscaping and framed art on the walls of her enormous rooms. Our son created an underwater glass abode with sharks swimming outside the windows. Our place is a tiny stone hut. Inside we have a hole that goes down to our mine – usually we dig a while and then hit water, flooding the place. There is also a bed – a pity gift from our wealthy neighbors.
8) We like to have an audio call going so we can visit. Conversations go something like this:
Daughter: Look at this cool gold armor I made!
Son: I found some diamonds!
Us: I died again! Where’s our house? How do I make a stick?
9) During the day you can work outside and visit places, which is pretty fun except for the spiders, the portal to hell, and feeling like complete losers when you see the amazing things your kids have accomplished while you figured out what happens if you eat raw meat.
10) Stay inside at night! I decided to travel back to our place as the sun was setting – rookie mistake. I got to the right coordinates but couldn’t find the door. I got killed by zombies and respawned somewhere else but had lost my weapon so – you guessed it – I got killed by other zombies.
11) Remember where you died because that’s where all the stuff that you spent the last 3 hours making is going to be. There will be a welcoming committee of creepers there too and hopefully other family members didn’t run off with your supplies.
12) Your family will try to help you – up to a point. Actual conversation between me and my husband:
Me: Where are you?
Him: I can see you!
Me: You can? Great! Come help me?
Him: Um, sorry, you have monsters chasing you.
I don’t know if we’ll play in the future because it’s such a steep learning curve but my biggest question is: How many hours have these kids spent to get so good at such a thing?! I knew I should have given them more chores.