What started out as an impulsive addition to my son’s list of Christmas presents, has morphed into an addictive and all-consuming passion for crafting. I’m of course talking about the insanely popular video game for the PC called Minecraft. I must admit I didn’t fully grasp what the game was all about before I bought it. But after watching my son play it for a couple of hours (while I read the wiki and gave him pointers), I realized why the virtual world of the game is so compelling. I started having flashbacks to my college days, and the countless hours wasted in “deathmatches” in the early days of games like Doom and Duke Nukem.
But despite the similarities of its deliberately crude bitmaps, which give the graphics an odd retro feel, Minecraft is so much more than a first-person shooter. (In fact, we have chosen to play with the monsters turned off, and the game is no less compelling.) At its core, the game celebrates the creative rather than the destructive, and being able to easily mine the raw materials, and carry large quantities around with you, inspires no end of creativity. Want to build a castle on top of a mountain? That feat can be accomplished in an hour or two. And then it’s time to move onto the next challenge.
It is also, dare I say it, educational. It is a lesson in engineering, chemistry, and economics, disguised as a game. There are also some valuable moral lessons hidden there. For example, when my son decided he would loot one of the neighboring villages, and attack its inhabitants, the consequential hit to his own individual popularity meant that he could not trade with them when he later discovered that there were things he needed.
After just a few hours of solitary gameplay, I decided to up the ante a bit, and set up my own server so the two of us could play in a world that we could shape together. This is where the real addiction begins, as we collaborate on certain tasks, like planting a garden or raising livestock, while at the same time choosing our own projects to tackle, periodically sharing our progress with each other.
After a couple of days, a new rule emerged at the dinner table: no talk of Minecraft. Our incessant discussions of what we accomplished “in the mines” each day were leaving little sister (and mommy) feeling left out, and it wasn’t long before I was cobbling another PC together from spare parts, so the entire family could join in the fun.
Our daughter is just starting to read, and hasn’t had a need to write. Until now. We have been amazed at how well she is able to string together sentences when using the chat function to talk to rest of us playing in the next room or downstairs.
So, in the end, while this new hobby can be a bit obsessive at times, it does provide some unique opportunities for learning, and bonding as a family.
We just got back from two weeks in Great Britain. We took a Trafalgar tour that took us from London, through southern England, northern Wales, the Lake District, and finally to Edinburgh, Scotland. We saw some amazing sights and some truly beautiful scenery. The weather was perfect and the people we met on tour were great. It was an awesome trip. Here is a short video showing some of the highlights. I also have a number of pictures in my photo album.
Two years ago, I took Noah to his first baseball game, and now he is playing coach-pitch himself. Here’s a quick video of a hit he got in his last game of the season. Dixie took some good photos too. We’re very proud of our little slugger.
Noah’s first visit to see the St. Louis Symphony was, appropriately, to hear the music of John Williams, complete with characters from Star Wars in the lobby of Powell Hall. We’ve been talking about the instruments of the symphony in his music class, but he really enjoyed seeing them in real life. And I enjoyed watching his reaction.
I also enjoyed hearing some of my favorite John Williams pieces, like the themes from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park, as well as Duel of the Fates from The Phantom Menace which they recreated perfectly with help from the St. Louis Symphony Choir — it’s enough to give you goosebumps.
Although many people are unaware of it, St. Louis County boasts a world-class wolf sanctuary. Originally founded by Marlin Perkins, the Endangered Wolf Center in Eureka houses several species of endangered wolves and foxes from around the world. We spent the final day of our staycation on a tour of the facility. I guess we had pretty good luck because we saw quite a few wolves and some of them were active despite the heat. I’m including a short video below of our wolf-watching adventure. We followed it up with a fantastic seafood lunch at Gulf Shores in Creve Coeur.
It’s not often that you get a St. Louis weather forecast in August that calls for highs in the low 80s, so when you get one, you have to take advantage of it. Day 5 of our staycation found us enjoying a day at Six Flags. Here are the video highlights of our day.