My house has been taken over by Creepers, Zombies, and Endermen. Just three months after the Skylanders invaded our home, they are out and Minecraft is in. Our neighbor’s son, helpful kid that he is, turned our boys onto Minecraft just two weeks ago. Now, they are obsessed. (Minecraft, in case you are not game savvy, is one of the hottest games out there right now with over 41 million registered users and about 7.5 million games sold.) In just two weeks, we’ve already threatened to take the game away from them no less than 10 times. It’s that powerful.
When Joe convinced me to download it to his iPad using the last little bit of the iTunes gift card he got for his birthday back in June, I had no idea that this would become the new “thing” in our house. But, sure enough, the $7 app for his iPad became the $27 computer version so both boys could play. The first night Joe tried out the online game on his Mac, he made me sit and watch.
“What do you do in this game?” I asked.
“You try to survive,” Joe said. “See? Look…I am swimming. It’s daytime. When night falls, the Zombies come out. They can kill you so I have to try to find a village for safety. I’m looking for land so I can find a house.”
“Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. When you told me about this game, you told me it was a game where you build stuff in another world. Now suddenly you’re killing Zombies?”
“And Creepers too,” he went on.
“So, if you’re in a house, the Zombies can’t get you?”
“No. They can break down the door. Then you have to find a way to kill them,” he said.
“Oh, holy hell,” I said under my breath to no one in particular since he was already absorbed back into the game.
Just hearing about Minecraft began to stress me out. Fearing I might start dreaming about killing Zombies, I stopped asking. Today though, after weeks of denial, I finally accepted that it is not going away. I asked Luke to describe it to me so I could better understand their new favorite activity. This is what I found out. The Creepers can’t really kill you, but for some reason they can explode so if you’re near them when they explode you die. There are four game modes (Creative, Adventure, Survival, and Hardcore), but Joe only likes Survival and Luke only likes Creative. According to Luke, at night the Creepers are “highly aggressive” and in the day they are “semi-aggressive.” You cannot kill Endermen with a bow and arrow because they “just teleport away.” You can revive Endermen, Creepers, and Zombies, although I have no idea why you would want to revive something that is trying to kill you. In Creative mode you can’t die and in Survival mode you can revive yourself if you are killed, but in Hardcore mode when you die you’re done. Creepers and Zombies are both green but Endermen are black with pink eyes. You can keep Creepers in a zoo. There are all kinds of animals in this world, including cows that grow mushrooms out of their backs. (Somebody was tripping when they came up with that animal.)
Luke confidently and competently explained to me how he was able to build a fortress that included rollercoaster tracks that run right through the house. He described how you survive your first night in the game. He told me how you can smash bricks and turn them into other things. My 9 year old son talked for 7 minutes to the Voice Memos app on my iPhone, explaining this new obsession in ridiculous detail. When he was done talking, I asked him how to spell “blare,” one of the words on his spelling list that he has written down no less than 16 times in the past four days. He got it wrong. I shook my head. Apparently, the Minecraft Zombies have already eaten my sons’ brains.