The past few days have been rainy and dismal where I live, but around 10 yesterday morning there was a break in the weather. As the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, my daughter rushed to equip her helmet and pads. I lugged her bike up from the basement and threw on a baseball hat. We had the best of intentions to make the most of the day. We threw open the door and, almost as if on queue, it began to rain again. I did not even have time to step outside, but my daughter had run into the front yard, staring up at the sky in bewilderment. She stayed out in the rain for longer than it would have taken most to realize the bike trip was off, almost as though she was attempting to impose her will on mother nature. She begrudgingly crept back into the house and picked up her vibrant pink controller, without even removing her biking gear, and proceeded to fire up Minecraft.
Now, before we get too much further into this story, I think it is only fair that I divulge my feelings on this particular game. I have never had less fun playing any game than I have Minecraft. I understand the appeal of the game, I love what it has done for the industry, and I appreciate how much enjoyment my daughter can get out of it, but I absolutely despise playing it. The music annoys me, the gameplay bores me, and the animal sounds jar me to my core. My daughter still finds ways to get me to buy into Minecraft, building me rooms in her houses, requesting feedback when naming the animals she tames, and allowing me to marvel at the structures she completes. On this day, however, she made me do something no person had ever done before—she made me enjoy the time I spent playing Minecraft.
“Dad, I want to show you something cool,” she said, flipping through a menu.
I plopped down on the couch next to her, ready to repeat the familiar refrain of telling her how great her creations are as I comb through social media.
“Oh no,” she said under her breath, but loud enough for me to make it out, “I need another player to play the mini-games.”
Instinctively, I rose from my spot on the couch and grabbed my controller. I had committed to playing with her, even if it meant suffering through a Minecraft session of me “doing it wrong,” but this was not Minecraft as I had come to know it. After logging into my account, I found the two of us face to face in a ready-made arena with four chests surrounding us.
Now, I want to preface our time spent engaging in one-on-one battle by explaining just how competitive I am. Our family had to institute a rule that when playing Sorry, yes the board game, that any person who overreacts when “killed” has to sit out a turn. To date, I’m the only person to be afflicted by this rule.
“Pick a chest and then when the time runs out we just have to kill each other,” she instructed. I fumbled around with the controls for a myriad of seconds, while she pulled a sword and started to hack away. Once I finally opened my chest I found a bow and some arrows. I clunked them into my action bar and began to fire with the precision of a master archer, killing her in a few shots. She then suggested we try a different mini-game, but I had only just had my first taste of enjoyable Minecraft, why must it end so soon?
Then she loaded up a game mode that she only referred to as “Snow Ball.” In this mode you have one mission, knock the other player into the lava either directly or by taking the blocks they are standing on out with your snowballs; simple enough concept, but an absolute blast of an experience. Finally, my daughter and I found ourselves on an even playing field. Her lack of gaming experience and my lack of Minecraft experience culminated in a snowball fight for the ages. No longer was she the girl that hid in Super Smash Bros. while I took out all members of the other team, nor was she the girl who repeated time trials on a single course in Mario Kart because it was the only level she liked, and she also could not lose; on this day she had found herself my equal.
For nearly an hour we took turns blasting each other in the face with the ugliest snow balls that modern gaming could ever conjure, but we were having so much fun with such a simple concept. As the floor gave way or we teetered too close to the edge of the arena and our on screen counterparts plunged to their deaths in the lava below, 10 feet away, in the real world, we were laughing hysterically and playfully taunting each other. When my wife came to check on the hysterics, and knowing all too well my feelings regarding Minecraft, she almost could not believe that this game was actually what had led to the amusement.
I had turned what had historically been a passive parenting moment into an active one, simply by picking up the second controller. We forgot about the rain, we forgot about the canceled plans and solidified the defining moment of both our holiday weekends. These are the times we will both someday miss, and whether she will forget this exact moment or not, these are the experiences that brought me to love gaming in the first place and I am so thankful to be sharing them with my family now. Besides, if my daughter finds enjoyment in being smoked in the face by a pixelated snowball and sent careening to a fiery death, who am I to deny her?