I’m not talking about anything that’s clearly inappropriate, like Grand Theft Auto where they’re stealing cars and beating people up, or a war game where they’re taking down people with Uzis.
I’m talking about the seemingly innocent game of … Minecraft.
I’d been hearing about Minecraft for years, but I didn’t pay much attention since my kids weren’t old enough to get into it. It seemed weird and confusing. Everything’s made of cubes? And there’s a guy named Steve, who is also made of cubes?
I was surprised when our seven-year-old son was suddenly obsessed with the idea of having Minecraft here at home. During a desperate moment of boredom over Christmas break, I agreed he could spend $20 to buy an older version for the PS4.
After all, I reasoned, it’s probably like Lego. The kid does love to build things out of cubes!
I helped him download and install the game, and then I handed over the controllers. The split-screen option meant both kids could play, although I assumed our five-year-old daughter would just bop around and not build much of anything.
Their good buddy came over to join them, and soon all three kids were happily shouting as they “met up” with each other’s characters. I stuck my head in the room to peek at the screen occasionally. They were in some kind of jungle, I think. The fact that everything was pixelated cubes made me a little dizzy.
When I passed through the living room at one point, I actually recognized one of the cube-y shapes.
The kids were giggling as a cube character beat the living snot out of the cute cube chicken.
“We have to!” one of them shouted. “It gives us an egg!”
I watched in horror as they killed a cow to get leather and killed a little hopping rabbit to get a rabbit’s foot (I guess even murderers need luck). They started to hit a wolf but the wolf attacked them instead. Then one of their cube people fell into a lake and struggled for a while before drowning.
I told them I didn’t like them wiping out all of the animals and I was thinking about turning the game off, so they quickly went to a new area. They went in and out of little buildings, and even closed the little doors. One of the buildings even had little tiny beds! Ahh, that was better.
I went back to the kitchen as they kids chatted excitedly about “creepers” and had a big discussion about where to find Santa Claus. (Huh?)
I’d almost forgotten about the earlier carnage when I heard a new sound: blood-curdling screams.
“ZOMBIES!” they screamed. “ZOMBIES COME OUT AT NIGHT!”
Our daughter was crying hard and the boys were still shrieking while I snatched up a controller and quit the game.
“Awwwwww,” they complained, as if they hadn’t just been screaming like someone had cut off their legs.
Once everyone had calmed down, I did what I should have done in the first place and started reading up on Minecraft. Apparently the kids had selected “survival mode” where there are plenty of enemies. If your characters don’t find shelter at night, there are all sorts of monsters waiting to get them.
We tried again with the game set to “creative mode,” and they happily wandered around some kind of North Pole village — yes, Santa was there! — and no one attacked anyone else. Well, they tried to kick an elf and I told them to stop. Sheesh.
I know this is just the beginning of our kids’ foray into video games, but never again will I agree to a new game before checking it out in detail. Dora the Explorer never would have killed a poor little chicken.