One of the things parents (and kids) love most about Minecraft is its “sandbox” nature. It’s a game that allows for players’ creativity and ingenuity to shine without rules, points, and time limits getting in the way. As a video game, Minecraft is relatively tame. While there are mobs (mobile in-game beings, both passive and hostile) that a player must kill in order to survive, Minecraft doesn’t contain the violence that most parents worry about their children being exposed to in other video game franchises — Call of Duty, for instance. That is, until the new Minecraft Battle mini game came along.
Despite the fact that with Minecraft’s signature blocky graphics the violence is far from realistic, the new Minecraft Battle mini game seems to fly in the face of everything that’s “good” about Minecraft. But is that really bad? Is the Minecraft Battle mini game okay for kids? I asked our LearningWorks for Kids Lets Play editor (and resident Minecraft expert) Ryan Smith to help us understand a little bit more about what the Minecraft Battle mini game is all about and how it differs from traditional Minecraft play.
What is the new Minecraft Battle mini game? Has there ever been anything like this before?
Ryan: The new Minecraft Battle mini game is a new [free] game mode for the Minecraft console editions. This game mode is a one-life, last-man-standing, player-versus-player (PVP), arena-style game mode that pits players against each other to battle it out and compete to be the last player alive when the round ends. On the PC there are many PVP game modes — like capture the flag and team death match — but most are servers that players have created and put up and not official Mojang games. This mini game is basically a remake of the multiplayer Survival Games that are popular on the PC version of the game, which are like a Minecraft take on The Hunger Games, and it allows the console players to get in on some of the fun the PC players have been having for a while. Players start in a pre-game lobby until enough competitors have joined up, then they are thrown into one of many arena maps where they must scavenge resources and battle it out to be the last player standing.
How do players access the mini game?
Ryan: While this game mode originated from the PC version’s Survival Games, it is only on consoles (Xbox, Playstation, Wii). With an updated version of Minecraft, you open up the menu, go to mini games, and then either create your own arena, join a public one, or join a friend’s arena. If you create your own game you can customize the game,including the map, whether or not you want a public game or to just play with friends, and if you want casual or competitive.
Is it violent? How does the violence compare to that of traditional Minecraft? Can players kill other players?
Ryan: As the mini game is called Battle, you have to expect some violence. [Specifically, player deaths can include blocky bodies coming apart and pixelated blood splatter.] Yes, players can kill other players, and it is encouraged if you want to be the winner at the end of the mini game. The last player remaining wins the game and the only way to become the last player remaining is if the rest of the participating players are killed, either through the environment (lava, zombies, falling) or by another player. A key strategy to this game mode is scavenging well and becoming better equipped than your opponents so that if you happen to bump into them in the wilderness you can come out the player on top.
Traditional Minecraft has violence as well, but a majority of the time it is focused on killing “mobs” (non-player mobile characters) rather than facing other players. While player-versus-player is enabled in traditional Minecraft, there isn’t usually too much of a point in fighting each other.
Does the mini game affect a player’s character outside of the minigame?
Ryan: No, not in any way whatsoever. The Battle mini game is a completely separate mode than Minecraft’s previous Survival and Creative game modes, so anyone can hop in and out and have the same chances and tools, and death is not permanent.
Is there any/more trash talk?
Ryan: Since the game mode is exclusive to consoles there is no in-game chat bar in which players can communicate, so… no, there’s really no trash talk.Unless you are playing with friends in a third party communication method (like Xbox party chat).
What kind of executive functions do kids use in a game like this? Does the mini game have the same kind of elements that make Minecraft so good for building executive functions?
Game modes like this can exercise all different kinds of executive functions.
Flexibility: Each map is different, the tools given each round are different, and every round the players are different, so be ready to adapt to other players’ mindsets and each new round’s obstacles.
Focus: Players not only have to watch out for other players, they have to keep an eye out for the environment (lava, cliffs, etc..), or they could lose the round in an instant.
Organization: Players are given a very limited inventory space so they must figure out what is important to carry and what is not.
Planning: If a player doesn’t come up with a game plan before the round starts, they will be a step behind the other players.
Self-Awareness: If a player dies and loses quickly, the only way to get better is to understand why and figure out how to do better next round by learning from mistakes.
Self-Control: Players need to pick their battles wisely and not just run at every enemy they see or they will lose quickly.
Time Management: If a player doesn’t work quickly to get geared up, the other players will scavenge all of the tools and weapons before they can.
Working Memory: If a player doesn’t learn and remember the maps they will be at a massive disadvantage. It’s also important to keep track of things like how many competitors are still alive on the map.
There you have it! It’s handy having a Minecraft expert, isn’t it? If you want to learn more about the game and the ways it helps kids build executive functions, you can watch Ryan play and talk about Minecraft and other popular video games on the LearningWorks for Kids Let’s Play YouTube channel. If you have questions we didn’t answer, leave a comment or come talk to us on Facebook.