Transitioning your kid from single-player Minecraft to playing on a server

If you’re a parent of a kid who plays Minecraft but you don’t play yourself, you may have no idea how to handle requests to play with others or play on a server.

It took me a while to figure it out, and honestly, I didn’t bother until I started to play myself, so I thought I’d write up what I’ve learned and hopefully help out other parents.

Single-player? Minecraft server?

Minecraft can be played by yourself (just on your own computer, without using the internet) or with others. Playing with others gives the game another dimension, and the easiest way to play with others is to connect to an online server that’s set up for the purpose.

A Minecraft server is similar to other online services: a central computer with a specific address that allows different people to connect to it and then interact.

Interaction can take the form of working together to build something, checking out what friends have built, or playing games-within-the-game.

Because Minecraft is a popular game, many enthusiasts have programmed add-ons that essentially use Minecraft as a platform for other games. There are both quick “mini-games” (for example, capture-the-flag style games) and longer-term games (where you work cooperatively to achieve specific goals over weeks or even months).

I tried setting up a private server to make it easier for my son, Ben, and me to play together, but it was a lot of work and I got tired of it very quickly (I wanted to play Minecraft, not manage server administration).

After that, I researched family-friendly Minecraft servers and found a couple that we tried out.

Family-friendly Minecraft servers

The one we’ve stuck with is called The Sandlot and it requires an application by the parent. The application just requires basic information about why you want to sign up so they know you understand the family-friendly idea—but it does take between a few hours and a few days to get reviewed and approved, so it’s not a spur-of-the-moment, “we’re having a play date so let’s sign up!” thing.

The family-friendliness idea impacts the gameplay in two ways:

  1. Servers have a chat feature, and the family-friendly ones use filters to keep the chat clean. They also attempt to keep the chat positive, and will ban people who are mean to others after a warning.
  2. Many of the players are parents (it seems like about 50% on Sandlot), so they’re patient and helpful with kids (understanding that their typing skills are minimal, helping them learn how to do things). On some other servers, people consider kids an annoyance (because, frankly, they can be, especially when they’re figuring out the culture). It’s nice to have an easy on-ramp to playing online.

TownCraft is also a family-friendly server that’s very active and doesn’t require an application. It has a lot more players logged in at any time than Sandlot, which can be a pro or a con, depending on your needs. TownCraft feels more chaotic but you’ll never have a time when there’s no one else to play with; Sandlot is calmer and because of the application process, it self-selects in the direction of supervised kids.

Now that Ben has experience playing with others, I do let him play on other, not-specifically-family servers (his favorite one offers an insane number of “minigames,” like Minecraft-based Capture the Flag, for instance).

On those servers, he occasionally sees swear words in the chat and we’ve had some long conversations about what words are appropriate for him to use and what kind of results he can expect if he crosses the line. 😉

If you’d like to know more about playing on servers, Minecraft “mods”, or anything else Minecraft-related from a parent’s perspective, ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

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