A Party in Minecraft

Here’s a recap about Anand’s Minecraft server + birthday party. First, an overview of the concept — getting a server of your own isn’t necessary to play Minecraft! But if you get one, it’s your own realm, and you can invite friends to play with you there.

It looks like costs and other details vary wildly, and you may be able to do this more cheaply. But I think we signed him up for one that hosts up to 10 people, for $15 / month.

Everyone who joins needs to have the right edition of Minecraft (the one we used can be played on tablet devices), plus a free Xbox live account. Generally people have a Discord server running at the same time, so they can easily do voice chat with each other while playing. We didn’t want to make the parents of the kids also learn Discord, and figured most people were already familiar with Zoom, so we hosted folks in a Zoom meeting instead.

So how did it go? Well, the party was supposed to be from 3-5 yesterday. Kavi and Anand spent the week beforehand building a bunch of stuff in Minecraft — they built an archery range, a maze, a fishing game, and chests with prizes.

Kevin warned them that once they opened up the world, other players wouldn’t necessarily do what they suggested, and that was pretty much how it went. I think we had about 4-6 kids joining at any one time, plus a few adults, and in particular, 2 kids mostly seemed interested in ‘griefing’ — seeing what they could destroy.

Anand had a horse, for example, and one kid not only took the horse, but apparently killed it and offered Anand back some leather? Anand and Kavi were not pleased by that.

And even for the kids who weren’t trying to be destructive, they whipped through the prepared games really fast (which I kind of expected, as that’s how art goes, isn’t it? You spend hours and hours making something, which then gets consumed in a minute), and then really wanted to be put into creative mode, where they would have a lot more power to do stuff.

There are some controls on all this — Kavi and Anand had godlike powers, and could do things like teleport people into a box if they weren’t behaving (and could also mute them on Zoom). But they didn’t really want to do that constantly, so they ended up putting the griefers into boxes and then letting them out again, and then putting them back in the box, etc.

And listen, I’m not saying the ones being destructive were bad kids. They’re just 11-year-olds! There are different styles of play, I’m guessing, and sure, I can see how it might be fun running around and blowing things up. But I do think it was often frustrating for most of them, having some kids trying to have a constructive game, and others intent on a destructive game.

So if you’re doing this kind of thing, maybe best to be sure everyone you invite is on the same page re: ground rules and play expectations. We didn’t really send out any instructions about that in advance, because we weren’t that organized — we barely managed to actually get everyone on the server & Zoom. (Minecraft also has issues with my account, so I still haven’t been able to play, sigh. Trying to sort that out.)

Kavi and Anand repeatedly asked:

“Is this what it’s like being a teacher???” and, “College students aren’t this bad, are they???”

That said, I do think overall it was a success. There was MUCH laughter and generally happy shrieking, and it felt like what a kid’s birthday party is supposed to feel like — more so than the socially distanced & masked 5-person porch get together we did the previous week. The two together sort of equals one semi-decent birthday party for pandemic times? If I were doing it again, I’d probably do it all on the same day, a few hours apart, with mostly the same kids.

I think both kids enjoyed it enough that they want to do it again, so tentatively planning to host the server again next Sunday, 3-6. Hopefully I can actually get my account sorted out and play with them by then. I’m a little unclear on whether people who have the server info can just go and play there whenever they feel like it? Maybe?

So there may be a little management to do there — I have to talk to Kevin about the tech and figure it out, because I’m not sure Anand and Kavi want all the kids from the party to have constant access. I’m guessing they can block them if they really want to, though.

But anyway, good experiment, we learned some stuff, and I think this will help get Anand in particular some much needed socializing, esp. as winter descends. If he’s shrieking with laughter as he’s video gaming for hours, that’s an improvement, I think.

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