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How 72 Hours in Minecraft Made My Family Stronger

How 72 Hours in Minecraft Made My Family Stronger Minecraft


Cari Donaldson - published on 01/14/14

Who knew a video game would bring us together so well?

In the world of Myers Briggs personality types, I am an ENFP.  From what I gather, this letter combination marks me as an enthusiastic, spontaneous people person.  Other than some online quizzes, though, the whole thing is more or less mumbo-jumbo to me.

My husband, however, thanks to a week-long business conference, is well versed in the nuances of Myers Briggs-ese, and always tells me that I’m not really a “P”, but rather a “J”.  He accuses me of things like “list making”, and “organizing”, and “needing structure” in my environment.  I refuse to address his claims, but I will concede that I’m the type who feels actual physical distress when my house is messy for longer than 12 hours, and I don’t have a basic outline for the day’s events.

Which means that weekends like this past one are unheard of for me.

It all started innocently enough.  My eight-year old son, who loves all things video game and Lego related, had been talking about this game called “Minecraft” for weeks.  My husband had downloaded a version of it for the iPhone, and whenever the boy was given permission, he could be found hunched over the tiny screen, making obscure gestures and occasionally cackling wildly.

Now I’ll admit it: I’m a gamer at heart, and spent vast portions of my twenties on MUDs (I’m not even going to link to a definition, so ridiculous was the amount of time I spent on them), but I just couldn’t see the appeal of what my son was playing.  As far as I could tell, it was a computerized Lego world.

Then I came across an article by Greg Willits of The Catholics Next Door fame in which he details his confusion with the Minecraft craze, too.  Right on, brother, I thought, feeling very justified in my lack of enthusiasm for the game.  But then I fell down an Internet rabbit hole, and discovered the world of Minecraft-aided education.  It was all over at that point.  The pros seemed too weighty to ignore.  I could share this interest with my son, while harnessing the unlimited educational potential of a game he really enjoyed?  How could this not be a winning situation?

All starry-eyed at the amazing learning that would take place, I bought two Minecraft accounts for the family, and that was the last time I saw the outside world for three days.

For the next seventy-two hours, the whole family (yes, even the three-year old and the 18-month old) was sucked into the world of Minecraft.  We constructed a world called “Parent/Child Bonding Time” and started building.  We solved puzzles.  We fought monsters.  We blew things up.  We sat around the dining room table and laughed until we cried at the strangest of post-modern experiences – namely, ones that didn’t really take place at all.

The kids all got turns playing one-on-one with a parent.  They got undivided adult attention while problem solving and being silly.  We got to see our kids’ individual personalities and quirks come into clear focus through the lens of a computer game.  My oldest, for example, will carry her love of animals over into every situation – even virtual ones.  My suspicion that the five-year old is really a budding arsonist was reinforced while watching him gleefully set Minecraft fires.  The three-year old does not like it when Minecraft mommy spends the night away from Minecraft home.  And the six-year old will wear a pumpkin on his head at every possible opportunity.

At Mass, sandwiched between Minecraft sessions, every time I blinked I saw Minecraft graphics – Jesus looking at St. John the Baptist standing in the middle of a Minecraft river; the Last Supper, rendered in 8-bit majesty.  On the way home, the kids talked about how they could recreate the Gospel reading in Minecraft.

When I finally came up for air late Sunday evening, my immediate thought was, “Oh my God, what did I just do?”  I had increasingly worried texts from my family and friends asking me where I was.  My email inbox was overflowing.  Several people unfriended me on Facebook because they assumed the only way I’d be off it for three days is if I were dead.

But strangely, the guilt didn’t come.  I mean, I felt badly for worrying people with my sudden disappearance, but I saw the whole climate of the family had changed for the better. My eight-year old felt happy and important that one of his interests had been validated to such a degree.  The three kids who love physical touch, who would be blissfully happy if they could just drape themselves over me all day long, were able to do just that as we played the game.  And I, for all my possibly J-type tendencies, let the house get messy.  I didn’t try and script out our weekend.  I let the kids make peanut butter sandwiches whenever they wanted them, rather than worrying about food rationing and following the menu plan.

I couldn’t honestly say that I’d wasted three days of my life, despite what it looked like on the surface.  Instead, this unexpectedly Lost Weekend was a gift of time and attention and leisure that I didn’t realize the family needed.  Even if I had realized it, I don’t think I could have allowed it to happen.  It had to sneak up on me in the disguise of a computer game.  Now, as the family gets back to the structure of the working week, we do so with more laughter, more patience, and hearts that are closer together.

We also go forth into this week with a massive password change on the Minecraft accounts, because this house is a wreck.

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