Is Minecraft Ruining the Newest Generation of Gamers?

By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

I have a 10 year old at home, and she loves video games. If she isn’t watching Adventure Time, she’s most likely playing a game of some sort. For Christmas each year, we buy gifts for “the family” that are aimed at the kids but that we, the parents, are interested in playing ourselves. One such family Christmas gift this year was Yoshi’s Wooly World for Wii U. Our daughter loved Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and Wooly World is basically both the spiritual successor to that as well as the standalone Kirby series, so we figured she’d really enjoy it. So one day, when she had a friend over, we told them they should play Wooly World together (it’s co-op), and after no more than 10 minutes, the Wii U was off and they were playing on their Kindles.

“What happened,” I asked. “Didn’t you like it?”

“Not really,” she replied grimly. “There are too many rules.”

So what were her and her friend playing instead? Well Minecraft, of course. The game that is the very antithesis of rules and structure. And it gave me a moment of both realization and disappointment that her and the kids of her generation, growing up playing Minecraft and other free-form, open-ended games like it, have made traditional games with any sort of structure at all seem too shallow and limiting.

Full disclosure: I myself am not a huge fan of Minecraft, as I have stated here in the past. But that in and of itself isn’t my only reason for having a problem with how popular it is among children. You quickly learn that as a parent, your kids are going to play a lot of games that you hate or just think are boring and stupid. Which is fine – while there are plenty of great all-ages games, there are also going to be games that are specifically geared for children without also being appealing to adults. And there should be; not every single game that our kids play should be a blast for us, too. I’ll never understand how our daughter can sit there for an hour with Talking Angela, day after day, doing mundane things like brushing Angela’s teeth and curling her eyebrows. But it’s not for me to understand. The point is, I’m not bothered by every seemingly pointless game she plays; chalk it up to the same generation gap that makes me roll my eyes at some of the music she likes, which my parents also did to my music, and their parents to theirs, and so on.

My worries about her love of Minecraft go much deeper than that. I definitely can get behind open-world games where she treats them almost like a set of Legos or a digital playground to just mess around in. Games like Minecraft do inspire and nurture a certain level of creativity that you don’t find in most games, which every parent should encourage. However, speaking purely as a fan of games and of someone who wants my kids, my kids’ kids, and so on to be gamers, it troubles me that the open structure of games of that ilk have left younger gamers with the inability to appreciate a well-designed, directed gaming experience. I shudder at the thought of my kids playing a game with brilliantly-designed levels and really novel mechanics and only looking at all of that as “too many rules” or wondering why they can’t explore more or do whatever they want. And it’s not just Minecraft that is causing this problem – even actual supposed “platform games” that are made these days often have randomly-generated levels rather than levels that are built piece-by-piece for a well-polished, compelling experience. I worry that an entire generation of gamers won’t even know what a “designed level” is, which is sad because for me, the common thread through the majority of my favorite games is that they have really expertly-crafted levels.

The first game that all of us gamers really sunk our teeth into and fell in love with shaped the rest of our lives as gamers in some fashion. It set the tone for what gaming is and what we hoped it would continue to be. For the young gamers who say that game is Minecraft for them, I truly hope that they aren’t so oblivious to what a directed, crafted (irony of that word notwithstanding) gaming experience is that they see any game that doesn’t let them do whatever they want, go where ever they want, and make it into any type of a game that they want as a boring, limited experience with “too many rules.” Making your own fun is for when you’re playing outside on a cold January afternoon or when you’re stuck at that one grandma’s house who doesn’t have cable or anything kid-friendly to do. It’s not supposed to be for video games; video game designers are supposed to actually design a fun, directed experience for us to have, and we’re supposed to trust them and allow them to do that. Now it’s just a matter of getting our kids to allow that, too.

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15 thoughts on “Is Minecraft Ruining the Newest Generation of Gamers?

  1. I agree with what your saying however I believe that minecraft is a “well design experience”, even though its procedurally generated, its design is well thought out. Our generation grew up with games like Mario and Zelda, this generation is growing up with minecraft and the Internet. Unfortunately I think games will evolve, especially when this next generation of Kids grow up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s important to distinguish games from toys. Talking Angela is not a game – it’s a digital toy. Minecraft is somewhere in between games and toys, more on the toy side in its vanilla state imho. Like digital Lego. To me it makes sense that a younger person would appreciate toys over games, but as many grow up they go for more crafted, designed experiences alongside the sandbox games such as DayZ.

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  3. With an eight-year-old in the household, this article really strikes a chord. He loves Minecraft but doesn’t want to play on survival mode because it’s ‘too hard’ and he likes ‘just exploring’; but when you put him on creative, it usually ends up in some kind of destruction…

    We’ve recently started taking him to expos and it’s been a great way of getting him to play different types of indie games. He’s starting to develop a love of anything with exploration and a strong narrative – so there’s hope for the future! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha that’s funny, because our daughter is the same way. Put her in front of a game where there is a lot of freedom, and she’s beating up the animals and the innocent characters just because the game gives her that freedom. But then she shies away from action games where that type of thing would be the goal. It’s all very interesting to observe, if nothing else.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, Minecraft’s really not a traditional game; it goes without saying that kids who play it won’t have traditional expectations for games- and that’s alright.

    Take a look at Undertale- it’s an RPG that’s designed around subverting the rules and looking for your own way to succeed, even if that success doesn’t resemble “winning” in the traditional sense. I’m sure your kid will appreciate other games, just give it time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And it may very well be that she doesn’t ever end up having a deep fondness for “traditional games.” Obviously I will support that and I’ll just be happy that she games at all. There’s just always that thing where you want your children to like the type of stuff you like. But again, at least she’s still gaming.

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  5. I respect but disagree with your opinion. Open world games, for one, most definitely do have rules. In Minecraft, for example, looking an Enderman (one of the baddest baddies) in the eye enrages them. And one of the most open of open world games (that your children cannot play yet) is Grand Theft Auto Online. You can do whatever yo want in that game on nearly the same level as Minecraft, but there are definite rules to follow. As for procedurally generated games, they are actually more difficult than our old games. People do speed runs in Sonic and Super Mario Bros because they have the levels memorized. If someone could do a speed run through a procedurally generated game, especially a child, they would be a genius because their brain is processing the info as quickly as the computer is creating it. That is a good thing, for gamers and children alike. I definitely agree that some of the more mundane apps need to go with the hair brushing, but let the children grow up and I guarantee you will not be disappointed as a gamer . . . as long as they play something more than just Call of Duty :o)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Nice post – the move of many games towards procedural generation and sandboxing is a really interesting direction some games have gone… but it should be one of many game types. A well crafted gaming ‘moment’ is something I have yet to see in a sandbox style game, or something procedurally generated. *cough* My first blog post was pretty much on this subject if you’re further interested in my opinion (hundstrasse.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/it-could-all-become-a-procedural-nightmare/), but I won’t be offended if you’re not 😀 */cough*

    Liked by 1 person

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