The first scream came from the basement, where my two oldest daughters usually go to watch YouTube videos. What they were watching might surprise you, unless you’re the parent of a Minecraft-obsessed kid.
Minecraft can best be described as a video game based on block building. Think of it as a hyper-electronic version of playing Legos.
For the last two years, my kids have been watching other people play Minecraft on YouTube. Essentially, the videos are created by people playing the game, sometimes with other people, and recording their actions and reactions.
When I asked my daughters why they were screaming, they said, “Because you never know what they’re going to do next,” and, “It’s exciting when they race and play games.”
For Minecrafters like my daughters, it’s a world without boundaries and very few rules.
Go to YouTube and do a search of “Stampy” or “DanTDM” to find good examples. These Minecrafters offer some of the more popular, kid-friendly videos.
In reality, my kids tend to watch more YouTube videos than they do cable television, and I’m okay with this.
They once took a large cardboard box, cut out a hole and turned it into a TV. Of course, their new TV also had a YouTube logo crudely drawn on the side of the box.
For the most part, what they’re watching on YouTube is generally more acceptable for their age group than some shows on cable TV.
This is because we don’t let them watch every video they find on YouTube. Even among the Minecraft superstars, there are some videos will simply won’t let our kids watch.
One of their favorites used to be “SkyDoesMinecraft,” until we heard a volley of expletives that would make a sailor cry. Now they say, “Oh, we don’t watch him cause he swears too much.”
Dig deeper and you’ll find that kids love to watch these videos for several reasons:
1. Learning. My kids like to try to recreate parts of worlds created by famous Minecrafters. For example, when they see duo Mincrafters “TheAtlanticCraft” create something new (usually something that explodes), they try to emulate it in their own worlds.
2. Evolution. As new versions of Minecraft are released and new modifications (or “mods”) are developed, the more skilled Minecraft users uncover new strategies for playing the game. Mods offer something unexpected, and these changes keep the game and videos fresh and exciting.
3. Entertainment. They love to watch Minecraft parody videos. Some players will take popular songs, keep the tune but change the words, and create a Minecraft-based video using game references that only those who play the game will understand.
Popular Minecrafter BebopVox’s parody of Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” received more than 60 million views. What’s strange is that when the real Katy Perry song came on the radio, my 8-year-old said, “Hey, it’s the Minecraft song!”
Some of you may never play Minecraft, but there’s a whole generation creating their own virtual worlds, inviting people to play, explore and interact in a world they’ve created.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.