In my post about reasons to love Minecraft I mention that it IS a safe game to play. There are a few caveats though. Below I outline how to control the game play. The first and formost consideration is that you do need to pay attention to where your children play. Minecraft is a multi-player game, that is part of what makes it so fun. Llike many multi-player games it has a chat feature, and that is where the biggest danger lies. .
When do you need to worry about turning chat off in Minecraft and how do you do it?
The chat feature can be handy, but often when you play on the internet you can run into language that is inappropriate. There are also concerns about bad people that may coax information or entice children. The easiest way to handle this is to stay off of public servers on the internet.
Four ways to play Minecraft:
When you play Minecraft you have the option to play single player, singleplayer LAN world, Minecraft Realms or mulitplayer. Listed as safest to most open. Each of these will offer a different level of security. If you regulate your children to specific modes it will be up to you to monitor their play. There is no way, currently, to remove the multiplayer mode to keep your kids off the Internet games and servers.
This game mode is just as it says, your child will play in a world by themselves. There is no way other players can share in the world and play at the same time. This is a very fun way to play when you are starting out. The challenges are all against the game and the monsters, or you can decide to create wonderful things in Creative mode.
Minecraft has three basic types of game play that can be used in any world, but they really are useful for keeping your child's attention when playing singleplayer mode. The first type is Survival Mode. In this mode your character starts in an empty world and needs to find food and resources to survive. The days are 15 minutes long and then the monsters start to come out at night, if you want monsters. Survival mode has four levels of difficulty as well. Peaceful (no monsters), Easy, Normal, and Hard. Each level controls the number of monsters that will be in your world and how difficult it may be to get rid of them.
The next playing style is Hardcore Mode. The same options are available as in the survival mode, but in Hardcore mode your character can only die ONCE. When your character dies, the world you were playing in is erased. This can offer a challenge to see how long you can survive at different levels of difficulty. It also offers a new level of stress to your survival struggle because if you die you can't go back.
The final is Creative Mode. This mode gives your character access to all of the blocks and items, and as many as your heart desires. This is great for building, experimenting with the game mechanics, or creating special worlds that can be played later in a different game mode.
Single player LAN world:
All of the single player worlds and game modes mentioned above can be made into local multi-player worlds if you want. When you create a LAN world the computer that the host player (the person that executes open to LAN) is playing on becomes a game server and other players on your home network are able to join the world and help create, adventure, or survive. This mode works with wired or WiFi networks so friends can play together under your supervision.
LAN worlds also have four game modes that the players can use. The host player can let others into their worlds in Survival mode, Creative mode, Adventure Mode, or Spectator Mode. The first two we have already talked about. Adventure mode restricts the non-host players so they can adventure around the world and interact with it, but they cannot change anything. Spectator mode gives the special power to follow other players, fly around anywhere even through walls and the ground. The spectator is not seen by the other players though, and cannot participate in any of the game play. They cannot interact with the world at all.
Minecraft Realms is a Mojang hosted cloud Minecraft server just for you. What this means is that it is a multiplayer server that you can purchase for your children to play on. You get an internet accessible Minecraft server that is under your control. The people that can play on the server is controlled by you. Other players need an invitation or permission to play on your Realm. This is a good way to play with out of town cousins or that friend that just changed schools and moved away.
The Realm that you get can be customized in creative mode if you like or just start playing in the world you get. This is a safe way to play with friends and control who is on the server with your child.
Multiplayer is where the safety and control of Minecraft starts to get weak. With Multiplayer mode you can type in a server address and play with the other people that are on that server. These servers can be anywhere in the world. They are connected via the internet so many people can play at once.
How would someone find out a server address? Well, many people advertise them, you can search for Minecraft servers and get a list and description of the type of world that is being hosted. Many kids also share with their friends. Listen as they walk to school and you will probably hear about a cool server someone saw on youtube. Then the kids go home and try it out for themselves. This would be the wild west of Minecraft and often anything goes. You can usually see in the server search description what kind of play is offered on the server. Some are adventure games, some battle games, and some can be creative only. It can take some extra work to make sure that you want your children playing on the internet.
All Internet servers are not completely violent or out of control, but they usually are open to all comers. You will have to decide, if the server is okay to play on, do you also want your kids open to be exposed to anyone that may be playing there as well. Minecraft in-game chat is very useful to communicate with other players. Some servers have protections installed that will prevent obscenity in the chat, but as I am sure you are aware, your email has that kind of protection too. People get creative with spelling and not everything can be caught. Those type of protections also do not protect against normal language that is inappropriate for children. Fortunately, you can turn off the chat feature if you want. This is done in the game options and will effect all worlds that are played.
If you want complete control it is possible for you to create your own server at your house and offer it up to the internet. This way you can either only allow invited players onto the server, or you can ban certain players if they violate your server rules. This can be a complex option though, and Realms is a better, though costlier, choice.
Steve's recommendations for safer Minecraft:
- Restrict your children so they don't play multi-player games, single player minecraft can be great fun for the youngest player.
- When playing multi-player restrict them to LAN worlds. These are worlds that don't leave your personal network, so the friends need to be at your house or school.
- Host your own private minecraft server or purchase a Realm. Whether on a computer at your house or at a hosted server company, you can create a whitelisted server (invitation only). This is a private server where only players that are placed in the server whitelist can connect. You get to control who your kids play with.
- When playing on multi-player servers hosted on the internet, turn the chat feature off. This will allow only server commands to be shown.