If you are a parent and you have a computer, I'm sure you've seen the article titled "6 Words You Should Say Today." Sometimes it's shared under different titles: "The Only 6 Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids," "This Is the Only Parenting Tip You'll Ever Need," "6 Words You MUST Say to Your Children or You're Literally the Worst and Should Go to Jail," etc. The gist of it is that saying "I love to watch you play" is the best thing you can say to your child when they're doing an activity like sports or playing a game -- much more powerful than praising or criticizing their performance.
Here's the problem with that oh-so-viral command: what if you do NOT love watching them play, not at all, not even a little bit? What if watching them play is so insanely boring, it makes your brain feel like it's liquifying and is on the verge of erupting from your eye sockets in a wall-splattering fountain of grayish-red gore?
Because that, friends, is exactly how I feel about Minecraft.
I've long given up on wrapping my head around the obsessive appeal of Minecraft. I mean, I sort of get it: it's like LEGOs, an infinitely-expanding universe of things you can build and engage with. That's cool. And even though Minecraft looks like it was made for the 1985-era Nintendo NES, well, who am I to criticize my children's graphics preferences.
Still, my understanding and patience can only stretch so far. I'm glad my kids have found something they're both into, and I'm pleased it's Minecraft and not, like, Grand Theft Halo Call of Slaughter or whatever. But the problem with Minecraft is that kids aren't just interested in it, they're consumed by it. They want to play it all the time, and worse, they want to TALK about it all the time.
That's where the whole "I love to watch you play" thing falls flat for me, because no. I salute your passion, child of mine, but I don't want to talk about Minecraft. I don't even want to give you the courtesy Mom "Mmm-hmm" when you blather on about it, because oh my god, that might encourage you.
If you have a Minecraft kid, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those who haven't had the pleasure, here's what basically every one-sided conversation sounds like -- along with my inevitable reaction.
"Mom! Mom! I crafted an iron sword and, guess what, iron swords and diamond swords only take two hits to kill an enemy like a zombie or creeper or skeleton, but any kind of sword can kill a spider in one hit, so anyway I used two pieces of iron and I melted them and then I got a stick and that's how I made an iron sword!"
"MOOOM! I built a square out of nether rock and put lava in the middle and after a while I took the lava back out and put it on sand and it made GLASS, and guess how else you can make glass, you could put sand in a furnace! And if you have glass, you can make windows so you can see out of your house and it brings in light so the bad guys can't get you OR you could make a torch with one piece of coal and one stick and that makes six torches."
"So Mom, did you know that if you can get eight pieces of leather, you can make a leather tunic and, guess what, that makes ARMOR. And if you have seven pieces of leather, you can make leather pants, and that's armor too, and if you get five pieces of leather, you can make either a leather helmet or leather boots and those are ALL ARMORS."
"MoOOOmmmmm! I got one piece of wood and now I can craft that into four wooden planks, and if I throw away one of the wooden planks, I'll have three and I can take three pieces of wool, which you get from three sheep -- unless you can shear one, then it gives two pieces -- but anyway you take the wool and the planks and you can make a bed and that's what you can sleep on at night."
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"Hey Mom? Mom? Mom? So I can use a wooden pickaxe, stone pickaxe, iron pickaxe, or diamond pickaxe to break stone, which you can't break with your fist, and if you have broken stone, you can craft a furnace or a stone crafting table that you can use to craft stone materials like a stone sword or stone shovel or stone hoe!"
"GUESS WHAT MOM! If you get 14 pieces of obsidian and put three on the ground and put four up one side and four up the other side then connect the four with the other three and then take flint and steel and tap it on the obsidian, you can make a nether portal!"
"Oh and also? ALSO? Also, Mom?? If you get some eyes of ender and make or maybe find a stone surrounded by lava and then you put the ender eyes in these holders, YOU CAN MAKE AN ENDER PORTAL!!!!!!!"
Do you share my Minecraft pain?
Image via Linda Sharps