|Preschoolers and Minecraft|
|Written by Czar|
|Friday, 20 January 2012 16:34|
My 5 year old graduated in to a man this last Christmas. He went from Duplo blocks to Legos. You know, the real deal ones where you can fit about 50 in your mouth at once, each one capable of being choked on in an instant. Quickly, we found one problem. He doesn't have enough! Epic skyscrapers cannot be built without acquiring more building materials.
Since I'm trying to slowly introduce my child in to video games, I figured this was the perfect time to show him Minecraft. After the break, read on to find out how I not only got him interested, but played along side him in what was to become his first LAN party.
For those not familiar, Minecraft is a game where users can share an environment and build with various styles of blocks. For the purpose of this article, we'll be using the Creative mode of the game where users are free to build using all of the block types in the game. Users can also fly which allows for more creative projects to be built. I'm going to assume that those reading this article know about Minecraft and the basic gist of the game so I won't go in to all of the mechanics and available game types. If not, please leave comments here and we'll sort it out.
The biggest issue ahead of me was taking the hardware I had and making it physically accessible for a 5 year old's smaller hands. The keys used on the keyboard are minimal so I wasn't concerned about the size of it. However, the mouse was the most important factor. Nothing is more annoying than having someone mash the wrong button on the mouse. Menus open up and settings can be changed as the youngster frantically clicks to fix their mistake. The solution?
A compact laptop mouse
Just the right size for the kiddo's hand, this mouse is easily held and he is able to sort out the buttons without clicking on the wrong one..for the most part. :) Also, my kid knows his letters and can type his name if he hunts and pecks for the letters. As a side note, I highly recommend just letting your child type on an blank document on Word/OpenOffice with the font size up around 40 for fun sometime. I decided to color code the keys needed on the keyboard for Minecraft to make it easier for my boy to play along side me. Here's how it turned out.
The picture seems to wash out the colors but I made the left shift and space bar pink, the movement keys (WASD) yellow, and the inventory key (E) green. The stickers used were just some basic garage sale stickers found in the stationary section at your local big box super mega store. As I stuck each one on, I had my child call out the letters and I made sure not to obscure them. These are to be used as landmarks and not a replacement for the letters. If he asks me "How do I open my list of things?" I'll reply with "The letter E".
The above picture is of an Asus EeePC 1005-HA upgraded to 2 gigs of ram. Even with that, MC only runs at like 2-3 frames a second. To increase this to a usable rate, Google up Optifine. It's a series of files that you'll replace inside your MC install that will allow you to tweak the video settings even more. I suggest some YouTube videos to find out which new settings to fiddle with to get the best results. After using it, I was able to get around 20-30 frames which is just fine for a 5 year old.
Check out the Minecraft Wiki for instructions on how to set up a server for the game as that'll be the only way to both share the same map at the same time. You can find an available server online to play on but you can't guarantee your creations will still be intact when you come back later. Yes, both players will need a paid MC account. Consider it an investment in the gaming future of your child.
Find a comfortable place for the both of you to play and have at it.
There you can see the green sticker on the "E" better. Please understand that playing MC is a privilege for my son. If he wants to play, it'll be as a reward for good behavior. Playing the game will teach several computer/mouse/keyboard skills. He'll learn to drag and drop when he sorts the inventory. He'll also learn how to use the mouse wheel to scroll on the menus and use the mouse to look around. Finally, he'll learn movement with WASD.
While you're at it, have both of you pick out skins for your MC character. The Skindex has a vast selection of skins available as well as an editor to create your own. He wanted to be Optimus Prime and I figured I'd be the best builder of all time.. Bob The Builder.
I urge readers to post pictures of their joint MC creations! It's amazing to see the ideas my kid has regarding building things in this game. Let's see your creations!