The cure for Minecraft obsession

Hey, listen! It seems as if Kim has found a cure for her stepson’s Minecraft obsession in the form of a green-suited hero – proof that classic games can stand the test of time.



Title overview
Name: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: November 1998
PEGI rating: 12
Genre: Action, adventure
Platforms: GameCube, Nintendo 64, Wii U
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

A couple of months ago I wrote about how Minecraft had taken over my eight-year-old stepson’s world this year. Ethan talked about the game non-stop throughout the summer, from the time Pete and I picked him up after School on a Friday night until dropping him back to his mum on a Sunday evening. He woke me up at 05:30 on weekends just so we could play it together and told us that we were exploring ‘Minecraft world’ whenever we went out for the day. And that’s not to mention that number of times he dragged us into soft-play centres with him because he needed a hand ‘getting rid of the creepers’… oh, the bruises.

The problem was that we noticed Ethan’s behaviour changing each time he played the title. He’s genuinely a lovely child, full of jokes and enthusiasm with an interest in his surroundings, but after picking up the controller he’d start to get really tetchy. He stopped taking our suggestions on things to build because they were ‘silly’ and did the opposite of whatever we proposed when asked what pickaxe or armour he should take out on his adventures. And then there was the bashing… oh, the bashing.

This title about ‘creativity’ seemed to bring about a more aggressive side in my stepson and the bad behaviour didn’t appear to be a side-effect of him playing video games in general. It seemed to be more Microsoft’s baby in particular that caused him to behave that way: it always escalated when he played the title and ended when we put it away. Pete and I were left trying to figure out what to do about the situation as being on the end of Minecraft-behaviour wasn’t much fun, and it wasn’t nice for us all to end up grumpy at each other during the little time we got to spend together.

Like a green-suited hero on a sure-footed steed straight out of Hyrule, an alternative title came to the rescue.

In my previous article on the subject I asked for other parents to let us know how they handle such situations and we started trying to limit the amount of time Ethan spent with the game. Then luckily, like a green-suited hero on a sure-footed steed straight out of Hyrule, an alternative title came to the rescue in our hour of need.

Our hero!

My stepson has had a fascination with castles, knights, swords, bows and arrows, and all things noble for as long as I’ve known him. It therefore wasn’t much of a surprise when he took him shopping so he could spend his Christmas money last year and he chose a Link Amiibo to go with the new Wii U he’d just received from his family. Other than a short amount of time spent with The Legend of Zelda on his dad’s old Game Boy he’d never had any contact with the character, but the sword in his hand and shield on his back convinced Ethan that this was a mighty, powerful warrior worthy of spending his cash on.

His slightly-distorted view of Link may have been based on his own imagination rather than the developer’s actual design, but he came to like him so much that the other characters featured in Mario Kart 8 stopped getting a turn. When I heard that Nintendo were making The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time available on their Virtual Console, we decided to download the game as a surprise before we picked him up one Friday. Pete and I were a little worried that it may be too hard for Ethan or the retro-style would put him off playing; but we both had such fond memories of the title from our own childhoods that we thought it was worth a shot. We all put on our pyjamas, snuggled under a blanket on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn, and handed our eight-year-old the controller.

MCM Comic Con, London, event, costume, cosplay, Link, The Legend of Zelda, Ethan, Brainiac

And you know what? He absolutely loved it.

We’ve raced through the Hyrule Fields with Epona while trying to get to Lon Lon Ranch before the skeletal Stalchildren come out at night. We’ve become entangled in the Lost Woods on a number of occasions and have drawn maps on scraps of paper to help find our way. We’ve turned day into night and night into day more times than I can count, just so we can learn the Ocarina notes. We’ve befriended Kokiri and Gorans, found lost puppies, made staggering jumps of faith, caught seven-pound fish – and yelled at Navi to keep quiet whenever she tells us to listen. We haven’t finished Ocarina of Time yet, and there are many more adventures yet to come.

Standing the test of time

Although he still mentions Minecraft occasionally – and we wouldn’t want to stop him from doing that completely as he clearly loves the title – Ethan is now just as likely to mention Ocarina of Time. It’s the game he chooses first on the weekends and you’ll often find us piled on the sofa together playing it on a Saturday night. He wanted to do a Link cosplay at the MCM Comic Con in London last month (at least until we told him he’d need to wear a blonde wig and tights) and pretends he’s the character when we go to the park.

It’s proof that you don’t need fancy high-resolution graphics, endless open-worlds or complicated gameplay to make an amazing title. An awesome release will stand the test of time regardless of technological advances and Ocarina of Time still holds up since its release 17 years ago. Yes, the graphics may now look a little dated and yes, Navi can be bloody annoying when she wants to be; but many people the world over still refer to it as one of the best releases ever made and you can almost guarantee it’ll appear in any new ‘top games’ list.

If we don’t help the citizens of Hyrule, the evil Ganondorf will triumph and that’s something Ethan doesn’t want to let happen.

The best part is that it seems to have a better effect on my stepson than Minecraft did: he’s no longer all about bashing everything in sight, killing as many blocky pigs as he can or filling Nether fortresses full of chickens (I admit that was actually pretty funny). Perhaps it’s because we allowed him to play in creative mode and there were never any consequences to his actions, whereas in Ocarina of Time there’s always risk and reward. If we don’t help the citizens of Hyrule – even if we’re only finding their lost puppies, reorganising their crates or selling them masks – the evil Ganondorf will triumph, and that’s something that Ethan doesn’t want to let happen. Link may not have turned out to be the ‘mighty warrior’ of his imagination but he now sees him as more than just the Master Sword and Hylian Shield.

I first played Ocarina of Time on the N64 with my brother as a teenager, when it seemed to have this magical ability of being able to stop us arguing with each other for several hours at a time. Pete also has memories of playing the title back in the 1990s, and my stepson is aware that both his dad and I completed the it when we were a lot younger. He likes to ask us questions such as whether we remember this bit, completed that quest, or whether we managed to find the puppy.

Now he’s having his own experience of playing it, and it’s sweet to think that perhaps he’ll end up having a similar conversation with his own children when he’s older. Those familiar notes will sound on the Ocarina and transport him straight right back to the land of Hyrule.

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9 thoughts on “The cure for Minecraft obsession”

  1. Great story, Minecraft by design is to make the player addicted to its gameplay elements. His obsession has left him in avoidance from normal interaction. I hope Link is his savior, if it doesnt continue to work, he should take a break from gaming. Have him do more reading or something; perhaps an alternate activity everyone does together.

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    1. While Ethan stays with myself and his dad, we limit the amount of time he’s allowed to play video games and make sure we do other things together. Fortunately he’s a big lover of LEGO and his scooter so it isn’t extremely difficult to pull him away from the screen.

      Unfortunately however, he doesn’t stay with us during the week so we therefore have limited control over what he gets up to while he’s away. He often mentions that he watches Minecraft videos on YouTube after school and that seems to fuel his obsession for the game – as well as the other children in his class.

      Right now we’re trying to show him that there are other video game experiences out there which are just as ‘fun’, and he really seems to be responding to some of the classics.

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      1. Completely understand that, as your windows of time to be a parent are limited. If it’s any conciliation, I have a strong feeling that games like Minecraft and CoD are losing their magic with kids his age and are steadily becoming dying fads, with kids his age. My wishes go to you both and I hope his behaviors continue in a positive trend for you both. It must be a rough situation you guys are going through. I cannot empathize, but I can understand it.

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  2. My sisters (10 and 8) are obsessed with Minecraft too. One of them just watches YT videos of it all day long it seems. When they found out I played it a little bit I quickly became the most interesting person in the world to them, although I’m 99.9% sure they just wanted to play it on my laptop regardless of whether I was around or not.

    Minecraft seems to have an odd effect on younger kids. I don’t live near my sisters so don’t know what they’re like most of the time with it, but it doesn’t seem to have ‘bad’ effect on them just a bit of an obsessive one.

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    1. I’d completely agree with that last comment: Minecraft definitely seems to be an obsession for some children, including Ethan! We’re trying to show him that there are other experiences out there when it comes to video games – that may not involve bashing and blocks, but are just as entertaining. Fortunately, Ocarina of time seems to have captured his attention lately.

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  3. Oh I love this. I am and will always be a HUGE Zelda series fan! And Ocarina of Time is just one that seems to always be able to come back to. I am behind on some of the more recent versions of Zelda, I will still nerd out over them. In fact, my goal is to one day catch up on them: Starting with Skyward Sword.

    I am glad that Link’s moral choices helped out. Consequences make just such a difference. I think it is games like that is why no matter which game I play, I am the ULTIMATE good person: Fable said so. And Dragon Age. I just can’t help it!

    Plus I think it’s fun to help those in games.

    Huh… I was going somewhere with this…

    OH! Glad to have another Zelda series fan in the world- There can never be enough! ❤

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    1. Aah Fable… one of my favourite games! Funnily enough, while we were playing Ocarina last weekend I said to Ethan we’d next show him Fable, as I think he’d really like it.

      The consequences thing really does help. We’ve found that he behaves much better when playing games if he thinks there’s going to be a repercussion from his actions – if he believes something might have a bad effect, he’ll think twice about doing it. 😉

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