How my daughters are furthering my education via Minecraft

May 30, 2014 @ 6:00 pm | Filed under: , ,



I mentioned that the kids and I share a Minecraft world. Its name is Calpurnia, after a favorite book. When I got a dog in the game, Rose offered to name it for me. The next time I logged in, “Darwin” was running around my attic—Darwin because of Calpurnia Tate, get it?

Then I wound up with a second dog. It ran around my house nameless for a day or two; then one day I returned home from a grueling shift at the ruined castle we’re building in the mushroom forest, and there, wagging its tail alongside Darwin, was “Newton,” newly monikered by Beanie. It seems I’m raising a bunch of scientist dogs, which is fine by me.

One day I accidentally fed both Darwin and Newton too many pork chops at the same time, and you know what that means: a puppy. I couldn’t wait for this new pooch to grow up, so I could see what name the girls would give it.

When I came home this afternoon, half dead after a skeleton ambush, the pup was waiting beside the front door, all grown up and sporting a new blue collar. Her name was Annie, the hover-text informed me. I was a little surprised that the girls hadn’t continued the scientist theme.

Shows what I know.


Rose, evidently aware of this gap in my education, had helpfully left some signage on the living-room carpet:

The dog’s name is Annie ’cause of Annie Jump Cannon, who
was one of the greatest female scientists; she organized the
stars. We still use her system today. Also, she was deaf.

I learned a lot more about Annie (the human, not the canine) after I logged off. She featured in a recent episode of Cosmos and my girls were quite impressed by her accomplishments. Her lifetime spanned the period between the Civil War and World War II, and as Rose explained, she was instrumental in the creation of the star classification system that is still in use today.

The girls have yet to account for the pig in my living room.

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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Queen of Carrots says:

    This is making me really, really miss Glitch and worldbuilding with my kids.

    Unfortunately, Minecraft is right out for me because 3D movement onscreen gives me nausea and headaches. (I tried watching my brother play and it was hopeless.)


  2. Cathe says:

    Hehe. I can’t wait for summer vacation so my daughter and I can play more Minecraft…and more WOW. I love the theme your daughters have come up with for naming pets.

    I don’t know about where you live, but up here in the PNW, parents either let their kids play nothing but Minecraft or they are scared to let their kids play it at all. I have tried talking to several parents about what an educational tool it can be. My opinions have only fallen on deaf ears.

    Oh well. Can’t wait to see what your girls come up with next!

  3. Lori B says:

    My youngest two are re-bonding with the oldest (who lives six hours away) through Minecraft. Never thought a game could do that- so thrilled 🙂

    QoC, I’m with you. Glitch was absolutely perfect for 3D-averse players. I miss it!

  4. Erin says:

    K, major shift happening. You just won the Awesomest Mom medal in my mind. Whenever my kids start in telling me about Minecraft I automatically tune them out and smile and nod (and inwardly cringe at myself) because they’re unlikely to EVER STOP TALKING and I have no point of reference. But you got right in there with them. Hm. Maybe I just need to try it. There’s an idea, huh? Because I know the second I do, I’m getting an Awesomest Mom medal of my own here…

  5. Melissa Wiley says:

    Erin, I can honestly say that gaming with my kids is one of the chief sources of joy in my life—there’s nothing terribly altruistic about it because I enjoy it so much. And I get that not all adults are wired to love playing video games (or games, period). But that’s where I think sandbox games like Minecraft and (sniffle) Glitch are great gap-bridgers: by definition, a sandbox game has no one set of rules, no “right” way to play—they’re fields for creativity and experimentation. Minecraft particularly so. If you enjoy building, you can go into creative mode and erect massive, imaginative structures—or tiny, adorable cottages. If you’re into fighting, you can stick to survival mode and battle monsters every night, or even fight your fellow players if they too are so inclined. And the fighting is never gory or ugly. I like survival mode best, but when I want to do a lot of building I switch to creative mode because I can’t afford to spend hours upon hours mining for supplies.

    Glitch was my favorite game of all time, and I felt genuine grief when it shut down—I’m still mourning it; I have little pangs of loss at stray moments, remembering a certain street or the little cheery “la!” of a butterfly. (All the ringtones on my phone are Glitch sound effects and music.) Minecraft is different, but allows a similar outlet. And actually, the building possibilities are vastly greater in Minecraft.

    The first time I tried it out, a couple of years ago, I was completely baffled and died about five times in the first five minutes. (I realize now that it was because I was digging straight down into water. Don’t try that.) 😉 I didn’t try again until last year. By that point the kids were so into it, and I was hearing so much about the game across numerous outlets, that I figured I ought to educate myself a little. I asked the kids to show me how to play—which I think is possibly a gaming kid’s favorite question ever? 🙂 After a wee tutorial I got TOTALLY into the game and now I have to set strict boundaries for myself. I like to log on late at night to see what the kids have built in our world that day.

    I have my own private worlds, too—a survival and a creative—and have really enjoyed building houses and having adventures. I laugh when I see the amazing, fantastical structures the kids build in all their worlds, including our shared one, because I always seem to go in for traditional architecture. Spent a lot of time perfecting my Tudor manor. 😉 I have a lovely walled garden in back with a sandstone patio and mushroom sun umbrella. I’m working on a Blue Castle elsewhere.

    All the above is on the desktop edition. You can get Minecraft Pocket Edition for iPad/iPhone, and that allows multiplayer game play over a wireless network, which is how I play with the younger kids—all three at once on different devices, mostly running around shearing sheep and admiring each other’s houses.

    We like to watch the Youtube channel of Stampy Longnose, who does 25-minute Minecraft gameplay videos. He has over 200 of them. For the first 10 or 15 videos, he didn’t realize how many kids were going to be watching, so he does drop the occasional F-bomb. But if you skip ahead in the series (which is fine, since in the first ones he’s just learning the game and mostly running around getting killed), he’s cleaned it up for a younger audience and is wonderfully inventive in his creations–quite inspirational, actually. Very lighthearted and fun.

  6. Melissa Wiley says:

    Lori and QoC, there are two different groups trying to recreate Glitch, thanks to the generosity of Tiny Speck in releasing all the art & sound files to the public. “Children of Ur” and…I forget the other group’s name, 11 Giants or something like that. Here’s the most recent update from the former:

    Here’s hoping they pull it off! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    PS Here’s the link for the Children of Ur test game:

    I get goosebumps at the sound of that opening music!

  8. tanita says:

    THE PIG!!!

    I think Minecraft sounds like THE MOST FUN GAME, EVER. I usually am terrible at any video games, and I am so keen to try this.

    Additionally, the throwaway phrase, “also, she was deaf,” is maybe a testament to Rose’s way of looking at a person – the rank of importance of who you are is a.) female, b.) scientist, c.) did a cool thing, d.) and had a disability but that isn’t the important bit. May she carry that point of view forever.

  9. Kathryn says:

    Naomi discovered the iPad version of Minecraft a couple of months ago and has been having great fun with her creative world. I keep meaning to have her teach me but it somehow hasn’t happened yet. She has obviously been teaching the five year old next door though – he was sitting with the iPad at the weekend while she wandered outside, then suddenly shot after her yelling “Nainomi, your sheeps is escaping!” Cuteness!

  10. Melissa Wiley says:

    Kathryn, that is all kinds of adorable!