What's the best way to wean a 13-year-old boy off video games so he can develop interests? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Minecraft is *the* game children talk to me about the most.
Something about Minecraft enables young minds to explore their creativity, as well as develop other skills that can translate into the “real world” with encouragement:
- Spatial Reasoning: This game involves knowing how to run into caves, forests, mountains, lakes, oceans, and figuring out how to get back home. For someone who needs a map at all times (like me), Minecraft has helped increase my awareness of landmarks and use my own methods for not getting lost.
- Math Skills: Items are acquired in the game, and can be used in different configurations to create new items. Math is needed to produce items, as well as blueprint the size of buildings in your world. For example, wood is needed for sticks and fences. A player would have to use math to figure out how many blocks of wood are necessary for all wood items for a farm or home.
- Increase Confidence: There’s a learning curve with Minecraft. In Survival Mode, there is a lot of dying. There’s also a lot of losing items if you’re too far from a chest or your spawn when you die. Not wanting to die or lose your things encourages players to develop strategies for overcoming obstacles faster and more creatively.
- Challenge Themselves: When I started dying a lot in the game, I went out with my swords to practice killing the creepers. I also learned to run away. I started traveling farther from my home and increased confidence with exploring during the day. I also challenged myself to build bigger and more creatively. There are endless materials to use. I started researching what others have made and wanted to build bigger.
- Learn to Try Again: There are moments when rage-quitting sounds like the best option. Over time, with support from other gamers or friends, it gets easier to try again. Playing alone may or may not make it easy to cope with losses and dying. I find that having social support or community increases the likelihood that a gamer will try again and see games as a challenge, not a compulsion.
- Turn Ideas into “Reality”: Lots of thinkers love Minecraft. There is something about being an idea/theoretical person with endless tools and materials to use. It’s like your brain finally has an outlet to turn these ideas into reality. And over time, these ideas and creations can get very big and very complicated. I am impressed with the contraptions my friends made, as well as the monuments and worlds other players made.
- Learn How to Code: There are tutorials for learning how to code. I know people who wanted to play Minecraft for the particular reason of code implementation.
- Learn How to Build Circuits: The Red Stone in the game can be used to create circuits, which automate parts of the world. A friend used Red Stone to automate part of my farming, so I save time during my play when harvesting crops.
- Develop Survival Strategies: In Survival Mode, there is a steady stream of creepers when you fence off your home well enough. In dark places, creepers spawn, and you have to defend yourself or run away. These survival strategies evolve and develop over time, and there can be creative ways to protect yourself if you’re stuck outside at night, or can’t get home quickly enough.
- Rebuild After Mistakes/Monsters Explode: Some of the monsters can explode or destroy your home. It can be discouraging, and it can also be an opportunity to move forward after a hiccup. These moments can also help identify weak parts of your infrastructure to strengthen.
- Being Brave to Fight Monsters: There are some items you can only get from monsters in the game. They also die in the sun, so being brave enough to be around them can reward you with some neat items. Practicing being brave is also a metaphor for being brave “in real life.” It may not seem like it, but the brain can’t always tell the difference between play and real. If we are scared, sad, angry, accomplished in a game, these are moments that become memories. These memories can shape us to learn how to fight when we need to in life, or when we need to regroup.
- Problem Solving; There are video tutorials, wikis, and peers that can help you research solving problems. As in real life, there will be problems. Learning how to find answers is part of overcoming many of life’s challenges.
If on a server, or if peers also play:
- Increase Communication Skills: Working together in this game helps to increase efficiency for all players. There’s a chat window where players can identify where they are, what items they need, and if they found special places on the map for others to explore. Players also chat to trade items or identify the next steps in a group goal. If there is a boss fight or a dangerous part of the map to visit, clear communication is important, or the party could die.
- Increase Socialization Opportunities: Peers who play together, or at least play the same game, can talk to each other in person. Sometimes peers don’t have commonalities to discuss but want to be friends. Playing the same game can help children feel included like they belong.
- Learn How to Ask for Help: Some people are more skilled and seasoned than others. Not everyone will ask for help, but having peers who play offers an opportunity to be humble and ask for support. This has implications in real life as well. This skill can show others that a person is willing to take direction or advice, and is interested in growing.
- Learn How to Help Others: Those who help others benefit from feeling like they are contributing to the community. Giving and receiving is part of friendships, respectful relationships, and building partnerships.
I play on a server with my online friends, and I love it. I get to see how creative people are and can help in my own way. The community is growing, and I love being able to help others make their creations, while also getting support with learning the ropes.
If a concern is about playing too much, time limitations are healthy. Perhaps you can brainstorm together on what alternatives can be. Weaning off a game like Minecraft is going to be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Strict times for playing during the week(end), with realistic consequences, can help. I am not sure what cold turkey would accomplish (some professionals I’ve chatted with agree with cold turkey; I do not). Reducing hours weekly can help give a child time to adjust, as well as find options with their time that fulfills a similar need.
Identify what Minecraft offers your child (fun, learning, socialization, challenges, creative outlet…) and find options that can help with the transition. It’s important to have options that fulfill similar needs.
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