One morning I picked up a note in my son’s handwriting. It contained all sorts of codes. I asked him what it was. Minecraft. Of course. For the next twenty minutes, speech poured from his mouth. The same kid that every day when asked, How did school go today? He replies, Good. Silence. Long pause. Nothing. I try again. Did anything exciting happen? Another pause. No.
He spoke about something called the Nether, the Ender Dragon, and an Ender of Pearl. He then asked me, Mom, do you want ME to read and explain to you about the potions? Oh…Please, NO! was my first thought. But, a little blip went on, call it mother’s intuition. I would love to say I said, Yes, go ahead. But, I just couldn’t.
I did say, Why don’t you tell me about the potion for golden carrots? That sounded exciting.
He continued on. You have to mine for gold nuggets, and trade a villager for carrots or pick up one from a zombie to make one. I then asked, Why do you need potions?
So help me we were back in someplace called the Nether. I then realized-I had zero Minecraft vocabulary to carry on this conversation.
My mom-brain was waking up to the fact, this was really important to him. I knew it was when the next day he checked out a Beginner’s Guide to Minecraft from the library for me. Sweet. Now I knew, I would never have to actually pick up a controller, I could just read about it. So with my son’s help here’s a little information and some phrases to spur conversation in your home about the complex game of Minecraft. (Trust me, it is not just a computer version of building LEGOS.)
Creative mode versus Survival Mode: Parents LIKE creative mode. It is safe. Building occurs free of zombies. What? Yes, zombies, skeletons, creepers, spiders, witches, and slimes, etc. all emerge in survival mode. Survival mode is the mode of choice for challenge-loving kids. Don’t worry, home-security is possible. You just need to punch a tree, make a crafting table, forge an ax, chop more wood, build a house, dig deeper until you get to stone, make a stone oven, burn more wood to create charcoal. Use the charcoal to make torches and at night you can sleep peacefully. Easy Peasy! Or you can build a pumpkin-snow man. (Called snow golems) Just take two blocks of snow and put a pumpkin head on top. These snow golems lob snowballs in the direction of those terrible creatures.
Villagers: These are benign beings that live out their Minecraft existence in your world. Or vice versa. Given a limited scope of jobs, they are farmers, priests, butchers, blacksmiths, and librarians. As a book lover, I appreciate the addition of the librarian. You can trade with Villagers. What you get depends on their job. Villagers attract zombies and can become zombies themselves. Guess what! You can cure them of their zombie state. Just splash them with a Potion of Weakness and feed it a golden apple. Endless animation shorts can be found on Youtube highlighting Villager life. Some you might want to preview. Contains juvenile humor.
Grocery List for Potion of Weakness: Spider eye, mushroom, and sugar make a fermented spider eye. Which you’ll need to mix with a potion of regeneration to actual have a potion of weakness.
Spawning: Farm children used to learn about the birds and bees from actual animals. Now they learn from the virtual kind. To make this work, think Feed then Breed. After being fed, little hearts pop up above the two animals and then suddenly an additional sheep, pig, cow, horse, chicken or ocelot appears. (Because it is just that easy.) Fun fact, the sheep’s wool can be dyed. Spawn a blue sheep with a yellow sheep, and that’s right, you get a green sheep.
The Nether: If you thought survival mode was difficult, build a portal and enter a place where if you try to go to sleep your bed explodes. This is the Nether. To build the portal take obsidian and make a 5×4 rectangle, then take your flint and light it. In the Nether, you find all kinds of materials. Like netherwart, an essential ingredient for most potions. Blaze powder is also obtained in the Nether. This you need to mix with an Eye of Ender to make an Ender Pearl. The Ender Pearl is needed to find a portal to THE END.
Ender Dragon and THE END: Who knew that Minecraft actually had an END? It does. The Ender Dragon’s domain is in THE END. If your child ever comes to you and says he defeated the Ender Dragon. Do NOT reply, That’s nice honey. This is a near impossible feat. It calls for an all-out celebration of some sort. My son, his cousins, and friends are stockpiling resources and working on a plan to defeat the beast together.
Now you are equipped with a very thin layer of knowledge about Minecraft. There are multiple books written about the game if you need more information. Or, you could just pick up a controller and play with them. Maybe, I will even do that one day.
*Thanks to Malcolm Meyers for his patience as I asked him endless questions to write this article.