Column

Thank God for ‘Minecraft’

Everything I’ve been taught about video games as a parent is a lie

Two young children play the open world game Minecraft on their iPads.
Two young children play the open world game Minecraft on their iPads.
Photo: Georg Wendt/picture alliance/Getty Images

As a parent, I’m going to say something I never thought I would: Thank fucking god for video games. I cannot imagine the last few months without them.

Covid hit New York just a few days before my then-9 year old’s two-week Spring break. There was no school — remote or otherwise, a trip to visit her grandparents in California was canceled, and we were on city-wide lockdown. So in the midst of buying masks, canned food, and hand soap, I got my daughter a Nintendo Switch.

She had never played video games before, but she’s an only child who went from seeing dozens of friends a day to none. I knew there were only so many puzzles and board games she would abide, and only so much time that my husband and I could spend entertaining her given our full-time jobs. We figured we’d let her mess around on it an hour a day.

Ha!

A bit of Animal Crossing and Mario Kart got her started, but it was Minecraft — a creative building game — that got her hooked and became her full-time obsession. When she wasn’t playing Minecraft, she was talking about Minecraft, researching how to play Minecraft better, or watching videos of other people playing Minecraft. I didn’t understand it, really, but she was occupied and happy.

Even better, she got her friends interested in the game; soon she would be on FaceTime talking with kids from school at the same time as they built a Minecraft world together.

They were chatting and laughing in the same way they would have in a school yard.

There were moments where I felt guilty: Shouldn’t I be making her read more or do some science experiments in the backyard? But it only took a few days of watching her on the game for that hesitation to dissipate. Everything I’d been taught about video games as a parent — that they make children anti-social, or lazy, for example — was just demonstrably untrue.

My daughter was more social than she ever could have been without video games during the pandemic; she was playing complicated games with multiple friends every day. They were chatting and laughing in the same way they would have in a school yard.

I also watched as my usually-shy 10 year old blossomed into a leader. I listened to her directing friends on how to create something, or coordinating complicated games in Minecraft that her peers were excited about. It wasn’t just that she was having fun, she was having fun being great at something. She’s even been inspired to start taking coding classes, something she never showed interest in before.

Since school started back up in September, her video game playing has slowed — she has homework, after all, and can have real playdates outside (masked, of course). But we still allow for as much time as possible for her to play. I’m sure as she gets older some of the warnings we’ve heard about video games will feel more urgent: namely, the violence inherent to so many games, and the noxious sexism that so often rears its head in online gaming.

But I’m glad that in the middle of such a terrible time, my daughter found something that she’s passionate about. After all, If I had an alternative world I could go to right now — I’d do the same.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store