“Mom! I drew a picture of Stampy Cat. I want to send it to him and see if he’ll add me to his Love Garden.”
I know. You just stopped in your tracks. Love Garden? That sounds weird. It gave me pause the first time I heard it too. Don’t worry. It has nothing to do with pedophilia.
Stampy Cat, AKA Stampylonghead, AKA Joseph Garrett is a 20-something, British YouTube star who’s developed a Beatles-like following of juvenile Minecraft gamers. My sons, along with over 2 million other subscribers, are obsessed with Stampy’s (That’s his gamer tag.) daily 20-minute videos that are simply his voice talking over screen capture video of himself playing Minecraft. By the way, he nets somewhere around 3 million dollars a year in advertising revenue from his YouTube channel.
Yes, let’s ALL take a moment to feel bad about ourselves and regret our career choices.
This is Embarrassing
In order to “send” David’s picture to Stampy, I first had to like Stampy’s page on Facebook, since David isn’t old enough to have his own Facebook account. Something he doesn’t even want, because, “Facebook is for old people, Mom.” (Zuckerburg, you better figure out a new way to reach Generation Z.) Then I had to upload a photo of David’s picture and post it to Stampy’s Wall. If Stampy likes David’s picture, he might mention David in one of his videos. David may even earn a coveted spot in the Love Garden, a place in Stampy’s virtual Minecraft World where he collects names of fans who have impressed him in some way.
I do give Mr. Garrett some credit. He didn’t originally intend on gaining a following of adolescent fan kids. When he did, he fully embraced them and purposefully keeps his “show” family friendly. You would too if those doe-eyed gamers were lining your pockets with L200,000 a month.
I didn’t want to like Stampy’s page or upload the picture, because I knew my “friends” would be able to see my activity. So to my friends who saw it, and I know you did because you “liked” it, (Couldn’t you just ignore that embarrassing post for my sake?) I only did it for David. I’m not an almost 40-year-old mother of two with a Minecraft obsession and a fan girl crush on Stampy Cat. I feel better now that I’ve clarified that.
Minecraft In My Own Words
David started playing Minecraft about two years ago when his cousin introduced him to the iPad app. If you have children over the age of five and electronics of any kind in your home, you probably know what Minecraft is. If you don’t, it’s a video game you can play on almost any mobile device, computer or game console.
Most people over age 30 are baffled by the appeal of the game, because the pixelated, rudimentary graphics harken back to the days of playing Oregon Trail on a Macintosh. Why would anyone want to play a game with state-of-the-art graphics so incredible they look more like video than animation? So lame.
“Mom, people don’t say lame anymore and stop make the “L” sign with your fingers. It’s not 1991.”
Minecraft is sort of like virtual Legos. Players use blocks to build elaborate worlds with architecture, farm crops and even their own pet dogs. They can play a version that requires them to survive by providing food, shelter and protection from enemies for themselves, or they can just create and add things to their world. It’s the ability to make whatever they want and use their imagination that appeals so much to young players. They love the virtual autonomy.
Yep. I’ll let your wrap your head around that for a second. It took me two years of exposure to the game to understand it enough to give you that basic explanation. For the longest time, I thought the game was called Mind Craft, and as far as I can tell there isn’t any actual mining taking place. (Sorry, Loretta Lynn.) Truth be told, I still don’t really get it.
The Minecraft Invasion
It wasn’t long after David started playing Minecraft that he introduced Wade to the game. My five-year-old understands it better than I do. (I’m so turning into an old person.)
The boys are only allowed to play Minecraft for a few hours on the weekends, because if there weren’t any rules, they’d drop out of elementary school, move into our basement and game all day long, every day. I need the space for doing laundry, so it’s not an option.
On the weekends around my house there are conversations like this:
“Wade, stop hitting me!”
“You hit me first!”
“Mom, tell Wade to stop or get off my world!”
“You have to let me play, David! Mom said we have to share. David’s hitting me again!”
“He keeps hitting me!”
“He started it!”
“No, you started it!”
Normal sibling stuff, except it all happens on the screen. No one actually touches anyone in real life, but I find myself in the ridiculous position of policing their behavior in a virtual world. “Stop burning down your brother’s villages!” Maybe King Richard and King John’s mother said something like that once?
The threat of being grounded from Minecraft usually puts a stop to bad behavior. It’s actually a fantastic disciplinary tool. Taking away Minecraft from a 10-year-old is like taking the car keys away from a 17-year-old. It’s the end of life as they know it.
The boys have books about Minecraft. They have toys and T-shirts. I’ve started pinning articles about Minecraft to my Pinterest boards for them. I even made Minecraft Valentines for David to hand out at school last year. My husband, who was long a denouncer of Minecraft for its seeming pointlessness, recently started playing it with the boys so he can, “relate to them.” Remember when relating to your kids just meant chaperoning a trip to a rock-n-roll concert?
“Mom, no one says rock-n-roll anymore.”
Lots of articles tout the educational benefits of playing Minecraft. It can improve everything from reading to math to spatial reasoning skills. Perhaps. It will give your kid a pair of super strong thumbs too.
I’m not opposed to Minecraft or Stampy Cat. I figure there are worse things they could be fixated on, like Taylor Swift and YA vampire novels.
I’m just waiting for the day one of their own kids says to them, “Minecraft? That’s like from a hundred years ago. Did you even have the internet way back then? Besides, Grandma told me it was lame.”