Love Spawned…Embracing the Great Minecraft Challenge.

Love is a seed. For love to keep growing and ultimately survive, you have to keep watering it. That’s the hard part. Keeping up all that boring maintenance…especially long after all the flowers have died and what’s left of the plant should be kept well and truly out of sight until next spring.

I don’t know about you but I’m not good with all that long term, routine kind of stuff.  As much as I love gardening and all my pretty flowers, I must confess that I’ve had quite a few plants die of thirst right next to a tap and I’ve felt so bad!!

You would think that I could make that very small effort to give them a drink, especially when I didn’t even need to go out of my way?!!

Yet, sometimes even those small, seemingly painless steps are too much even for the strongest and deepest kinds of love which go way beyond seeds, plants and gardening and involve the very people we love and cherish the most.

For me, learning to play Minecraft was about watering these seeds and nurturing our family, knowing full well that it would catapult me right out of my comfort zone and dump me into hostile, crocodile infested waters. Snap! Snap! You’re gone!

I have to admit that I was quite terrified of playing Minecraft, especially after my introduction last week. It was nothing like Space Invaders. Nothing like Space Invaders at all!

I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of Minecraft because you can Google that or check it out on Wikipedia. That’s what you do when you want to learn a new computer game, isn’t it? Apparently, it’s not. Most people actually play the game and don’t feel compelled to write about it either. It’s just me.  Geoff said this proved that I didn’t “get” Minecraft or I’d be playing it instead (and hooked on it like the rest of the family!!)

Well, he has a point!

When my great Minecraft challenge began, it reminded me of arriving at the dentist knowing I was about to have root canal. I sat in my chair and the iPad was put on my lap. As much as I knew it was going to hurt, I knew the alternative would be far worse (something like tying a piece of string around the offending tooth and slamming the door shut without any form of anaesthetic.)  I had to go through with it. Waves of panic completely overwhelmed me. I’d been catapulted so far out of my comfort zone and wanted to boomerang back there again. But writing about doing things with your family is no substitute for spending time together. I just had to do it. Embrace all those horrible, uncomfortable feelings and walk with them hoping that as time went by, I would somehow feel more at home.

The trouble with Minecraft is that is involves a number of my weaknesses and while working on these would ultimately help them to improve, getting to that point is hard, frustrating work. It’s like scaling Mt Everest using your bare fingernails and who doesn’t want to avoid that kind of stress?

It wasn’t just a matter of learning Minecraft. I didn’t know how to operate the iPad either. Not that it should have been that difficult because it is like my mobile phone. However, trying to learn Minecraft at the same time, seemed to compound my difficulties and the whole thing felt crushingly difficult. I was freaking out. I have no shame. I really am one of those old dogs who doesn’t like new tricks.

However, as Mister so kindly pointed out: “Mummy, you can’t runaway from Minecraft. It’s coming after you.”

He was right. I persevered. I embraced the terror and kept going. That said, I did have the timer going. I was going to be playing Minecraft all day!!

Anyway, I made some interesting observations during my time in Minecraftland:

Firstly, if you keep focusing on your feet, you have no idea where you’re going. A few times, I was wondering why I couldn’t get through a doorway when I was actually bashing my head against a dirt wall. It always helps to see the bigger picture.

Secondly, beware of the power of touch. I would be tapping on the screen trying to open or close a door and instead, I accidently dumped a mound of dirt in my tracks. I also accidently bashed a few holes in the wall with my wooden pick axe. Such acts of wanton vandalism aren’t usually appreciated by the other players.

Thirdly, despite being in a virtual world, you are still “you”. With my poor sense of direction and spatial reasoning, I get hopelessly lost in real life and the same applied in Minecraft and it felt just as awful. I was constantly lost, which felt really, really unnerving. Nobody likes getting lost even if it is just “a game”.

A few times I wondered what on earth I was doing in my lost state and Geoff would call out: “where are you?” I was so lost that I’d somehow become “beyond lost”.

Anyway, I just found a story I read about rescuing missing bushwalkers and it gave me a bit of insight into my “lost” behaviour:

“They say to find a missing bushwalker you first have to try to think like one. “We try to get in to the psychology and understanding what common mistakes people would make while they are walking. People do unusual things when they are lost,” said rescuer Caro Ryan.

People will unintentionally make themselves more lost. They will make decisions you don’t usually make.[1]

Geoff must have picked up on this because it didn’t take long for him to suggest: “Follow me!” It was as close as he could get on Minecraft to actually holding my hand. He was protectively and encouragingly lead me not only through the house we’d built but also though the minefield which had become Minecraft. There was so much to learn.  I had to follow him very, very closely and he really looked out for me too which was nice.

I also learned that the kids don’t close doors in Minecraft just like in the real world. In real life, they let the dog out and in Minecraft, they let the creepers in. Grr!

Yet, probably what I appreciated most is what it actually takes to get someone you love to take on your interest to a point where they can truly understand and enjoy it, join in and want to do it again. You need to put yourself in their shoes and somehow walk at their pace even if it might be excruciatingly slow to the point of irritation. You might need to steps down into bite-sized chunks or even micro-bites so they can pick it up and feel they can do it. You want them to feel good about what they’re doing! When I was lost and Miss took me off on a wild goose chase leaving me vulnerable to the creepers, Geoff firmly explained to her that if you want Mummy to play again, you want her to have a good experience. Enjoy it and want to come back.

Harper Lee summed this up pretty well in To Kill A Mockingbird:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

DSC_6402

Big shoes…Little Feet.

Another thing I found interesting was juggling the balance between caution and risk. In Minecraft, you need to build defences to protect yourself from the creepers but you also want to actually do some stuff.  The first time I played, I found myself a nice deep tunnel and stayed inside. I was surrounded by stone walls on almost all sides and I was very safe but I was doing nothing. I was just sitting there in the dark waiting for the sun to rise. With all that waiting, the iPod went to sleep and disconnected from the server. This meant I’d lost all my tools etc and had to start over.

Being so safe was also pretty boring. It was like when you’ve found a really good hiding spot in Hide & Seek that you’re still hiding there when everyone else has moved onto the next round. It gets a bit boring after awhile. Beign so safe was pretty boring and I did start wondering whether it would be more fun outside chasing creepers instead…even if I died!  Besides, you don’t actually die in Minecraft. You respawn but you come back with nothing and have to start over.

Lastly, I don’t really see the excitement in doing all these virtual jobs on Minecraft. Even virtual jobs feel like too much hard work. Moreover, if Geoff and the kids enjoy all those jobs so much, they should get started on the house but I guess real work doesn’t quite have the same appeal.

I don’t think they’ll ever make a gamer out of me but at least I’m having a go. I’m watering the seeds. You never quite know what is waiting around the corner and when those few minutes of my time might actually make the difference.

Moreover, by seeing me attempt to do something I find difficult, it shows the kids to persevere, keep fighting and as Pink so aptly put it to: “Try! Try! Try!”

xx Rowena


[1][1] The Sydney Morning Herald, February 23-24, 2013 pg 11.

2 thoughts on “Love Spawned…Embracing the Great Minecraft Challenge.

  1. amphomma

    It’s turning out to be so much more than the game! Showing your family your willingness to try seems to have opened the way for them to learn how to help you figure it out. Great lessons for all! I am fascinated by how differently people learn new things (I was a Psychology major in college) and how teaching them according to their existing strengths can help! Are you going to keep playing?

  2. roweeee Post author

    Hi Alison,
    The whole Minecraft thing does seem to have taken on a life of its own which so many valuable contributions to our family, which I’d never anticipated. I really am quite anti computer games and so for me to even see some benefits is a huge change and I have seen many.
    I am also very interested in psychology and what makes people tick and studied psychology at uni as well. Since I’ve had the kids and also due to some of the quirks which I’ve attributed rightly or wrongly to my hydrocephalus, I’ve also looked into how people learn and also neuroplasticity. There is a great book called “the Brain Which Changes Itself” by Norman Doig. I have found it very encouraging that the more you practice something, the better you get at it. It provides such hope…as long as we persevere.
    A teacher at the school told me that the kids learn best when they know about 90% of a task. So that with their reading they try to pitch the reading level in the classroom at that point. I have found that quite helpful with teaching the kids new things and in my approach to learning Minecraft.
    I am going to keep playing Minecraft on weekends but I can’t see myself getting addicted. It just doesn’t speak to me and what with playing the violin and doing my writing, I don’t have a lot of spare time.
    Take care and have a great day. I’m off to see Les Miserables while it’s still on the big screen and then off for my treatment.
    Best wishes,
    Ro

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