This weekend I decided to learn how to play Minecraft. It’s a game two of my children, Cerys and Oliver, have really got into recently, and until the last few days I’d never given it too much thought.
However, they regularly make an effort to get into things they know I enjoy, so I decided to repay their efforts by getting into something they enjoy. While I’ll never be quite as into it as they are, it was surprisingly enjoyable and therapeutic; mining resources and then creating something out of our imaginations.
This is a letter to both of my children about some of the lessons I’ve learned as you’ve taught me to play. Whether you read it now or in the future, I hope it rings true.
When we started you showed me your brilliant houses, made of rocks which are on fire, valuable gems, chests stacked high with diamonds and gold and jewels and food. These were amazing, and it’s clear you’ve worked hard to build them.
When I started I wondered what I would do, which led me to mining pretty much a whole hill to start building our castle, with a giant building for a home in the middle which is sitting on top of a narrow spiral staircase.
I wanted to demonstrate to you that now you’ve learned your skills you can put them to use on a much grander scale.
In life you’ll learn many things which will come in useful along the way, but unless you dream big and work towards those dreams you’ll fall short of the amazing things you will be able to do if you try. Just like in Minecraft, if you can dream it then you can do it; all it takes is a lot of hard work, effort and time. In the end you might not quite build everything you originally planned to, but it will be a magnificent thing nonetheless.
It matters more when you’ve earned it
I’ve learned that there are two ways of playing Minecraft; Survival and Creative. The former means you can only use what you mine or make yourself, you have to think about food and danger, as well as avoiding the bad guys who are out to get you at night. Creative mode allows you access to everything you could want, where you are limited only by your imagination.
You both asked at the beginning why I insisted on doing it in Survival rather than Creative mode. Well, for me, whilst learning about things with no restrictions might be fun, there’s something in the process of digging things up and crafting them before you can use them which makes it all count for more. Yes, we could have built all the walls out of gold, but instead we have started with dirt and are now replacing that with cobblestones as we collect enough of that; we worked hard to gather it all, so it felt good to have built what we built.
As you get older you’ll perhaps encounter some people who get given pretty much everything they want. They’ll be given all of the money they want, the best clothes, every gadget they can think of and later on given high level jobs without having lifted a finger. Some of these people will work hard and make the most of it, but some won’t.
You need to remember that your whole life will be based on making the most of what you have. You will need to work hard every step of the way, making opportunities for yourselves and then making the most of them when they arise. Of course Mummy and I will help you wherever we can, but it’ll be up to you to make yourself succeed, and when you do you’ll look back and appreciate it all the more for having had to earn it yourselves.
At first you watched me work while you both worked on your own areas. This was fine. I was just learning, and to be fair I didn’t ask for your help at the start nor did I explain what I was doing. However, soon you both joined in and helped me with our castle, which meant we were able to work much faster and achieve more than I could ever have done myself. You both also gave me inspiration for things we are adding; Oliver, you gave me the idea for the house on stilts, and Cerys, you gave me the inspiration to start planning an underground maze.
You, along with your other brother and sister, both will be able to achieve great things on your own, but like The Avengers it will all get even better when you come together. You’ll be able to bring your own skills and ideas to your projects, and complement each other brilliantly. And the more you communicate with each other and share ideas and suggestions, the better they will be. Don’t lose this as you get older!
Finish things to the standards you’re proud of
I started by building the castle walls out of dirt because that was the only thing I could mine easily. It also gave me a way of getting rid of those materials I’d dug up to clear a space for it all.
You’ll have noticed me gradually starting to replace these dirt walls with stone walls. This might have seemed like a waste of time, but stone was what I originally planned for, so as we now have more stone than we know what to do with I’ve started upgrading things. That way, when I look at the castle it’ll be more like what I had in my head.
As you get older you’ll have loads of projects to complete. You could make them all from dirt blocks; perhaps that’s all you have to hand, perhaps it’s all you can do in the time available, but it’ll probably never be because that’s the best you can do. Look at everything you do and really ask yourself if that’s the best you can do. If it is, then be proud of it. If it’s not, then do it again and do it better. If you’re not proud of it, what is the point?
Don’t stop playing
Our castle will take ages to finish, and even then I’ve got ideas for other things we can do. You showed me a roller coaster you’d built somewhere else, so perhaps we could build one around the castle walls? Maybe a giant log flume, or perhaps a sports stadium? My point is that there will always be other things to do in Minecraft, and more fun to be had working them all out.
You are going to get older, and along the way people will try to make you stop playing and be more serious. They will want you to stop experimenting and trying new ideas out in order to do what you are told to do. Resist this. Don’t lose that spark of fun and adventure and creativity in everything you do. You are giving up your life to do what you are doing right now; make sure it’s something you are enjoying doing, which you are learning from and which allows you to achieve what you want to achieve. Keep playing, even if only in your imaginations.
Oh, and just to let you know, I might have started grasping the basics of Minecraft but I’m not quite ready for the Nether World just yet, one step at a time after all…