Mom, does your child love video games? Mine does. Let me tell you about him.
My 14-year-old son, Christopher, launches into Minecraft gameplay—single player, survival mode. This means he’s all by himself in his virtual world, but he knows he’s never truly alone. “Creatures hide in the shadows,” he tells me. “So stay alert.”
CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. With each tap on his mouse, an amazing landscape comes into focus: Brightly colored flowers and cocoa pods spawn (or spring up) everywhere, and just overhead is a tangled canopy of leaves and vines.
I scoot closer to the computer screen and squint. “Incredible,” I tell him. “Indiana Jones would love this place!”
“It’s called the Jungle M biome,” Christopher says as he pans around and gives me a tour. “And it’s my favorite.”
“How many Minecraft biomes are there?” I ask.
“Something like sixty-three,” he tells me. “Icy regions, deserts, mountains, oceans … everything! This one has the most resources, so I like to build stuff here.”
Biomes…resources…adventure…stuff to build! I quickly clue in that this is no ordinary game. It’s more like training ground for creativity! And everything is made up of cube-shaped blocks.
As Christopher explores his surroundings, he knows he can’t waste a second. Nighttime comes fast in the game. “If I’m going to survive,” he says, “I’ve got to get busy.” So he collects wood and stone. He makes simple tools. He builds himself a shelter. And as the sun begins to set, his adrenaline starts to surge—the part of the game he enjoys most.
“OK, Dad—better get ready,” Christopher warns. “For the next ten minutes it’s going to be dark, which means … they’re coming!”
“Uh oh,” I groan. “Do monsters invade?”
“Armies of them!” he says. “But not just any monster. Look, it’s a creeper—a.k.a. Creepus Explodes. The only thing I can do is … RUN!”
I watch as Christopher outmaneuvers the threat, makes a series of good choices—and ultimately finds safety.
“Impressive moves,” I tell him.
“Creepers are fast and stealthy,” Christopher says. “If you’re not careful, they’ll sneak up on you. And then it’s game over.”
“Hmmm…it’s kind of like life in the real world,” I add. My mind begins to reel with all kinds of connections to life, faith…God. As my son launches into new adventures, we both laugh and talk—and I take the opportunity to help him make some of those eternal connections.
Invade Their World (Without Invading Their Space)
Catching quality time with our children is always a top priority—and what could be better than invading their high-tech worlds? As I followed Christopher into the mysterious landscapes of his favorite game, I began to see firsthand what captivates his imagination. And little by little, we connected in unexpected and highly creative ways.
As we talked, I couldn’t help tying his virtual playground to life in the real world. But I didn’t stop there. The more we bonded during gameplay, the more I connected his world with the one God wants him to experience.
Actually, this is what motivated me to write a book with my son—Building Faith Block by Block: An Unofficial Minecraft Guide.
Let’s be honest: Family life moves at a frantic pace. Even our kids are scheduled down to the half-hour: school, church, sports, extra-curricular commitments, birthday parties, sleepovers. Yet as our “to-do” lists keep growing, the time we have left to shape and influence them keeps shrinking. (Adulthood comes all too soon.) And like it or not, our kids must find their way through a labyrinth of choices. So taking every opportunity to spend time with them is essential.
Need some ideas? Try this…
- Establish a weekly family night or afternoon…and stick with it. Devote these times to having fun with your child, laughing and playing together. Your goal is to reinforce the bonds of family and faith. Opportunities to teach and guide them will flow naturally. (Trust me on this.)
- Connect through gameplay and social media. Don’t be intimated by keyboards and game controllers. It really isn’t that hard, and besides, your kids know the ropes. They’ll be thrilled that you’re stepping into their world.
- Take these moments to listen to your child. Ask open-ended questions: “What is school like?” “Tell me why you like this game.” “Who is the bully in our neighborhood?”
- Clue into their challenges. “Tweens” and young teens (children ages 9 – 14) have real issues with self-identity, self-esteem, and acceptance. Cliques form and rejection by peers is a big issue as well as excelling at school and meeting parental expectations. Having consistent family time—and fostering a culture that affirms and accepts them—can provide a safe place for them as they experience these significant challenges.
Here’s hoping you find fun and creative ways to connect with your child over the games he or she loves.
Michael Ross is a husband and a father and the author of more than 38 books for parents and teenagers, including Building Faith Block by Block.