The game of Minecraft to a 40-something like myself looks like a 16 bit, pointless exercise. To a preteen of today, it has become obsession. In an informal poll of every parent I have come across of a preteen, 100% don't get why their kids are SO excited by the game and moreover, why they spend hours and hours on YouTube watching other people play the game. In fact, in a recent interview on Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Minecraft's creator Marcus Persson (@notch) said he too was surprised at how popular his game is and offered no explanation as to why.
My son's Minecraft "skin" or character.
I guess it goes back to the old adage, give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish feed him for a lifetime? Or, give a kid a piece of blank paper and a crayon and they will create art, show them how to make art and they will make better art.
For the first year of my son's obsession we tried to limit the amount of time he spent on the game, then I attended a School board meeting where a student at a junior high school he would soon be going to, made a presentation of a project he did using Minecraft. This student had built the inside of the Death Star from Star Wars. Oh no, I thought, there goes my credibility. He can use this for educational purposes? At every opportunity in grade 7, he and his classmates used Minecraft to construct worlds rooted in reality. He built a hydro power plant with a classmate in one project. Both could work on the project from home and never have to get together. It has become such a popular tool, his grade 8 teacher now limits the projects that Minecraft can be used on.
What an interesting part of our lives Minecraft has become. Our now 13-year-old has been playing Minecraft regularly for the last few years. What was a "video game" has turned out to be a tool for many things. He has done homework projects with it, played it online with friends and it has taught him much about building materials as well as trial and error. He has also made video's of himself playing, learning the skills of movie making. I don't recall any lessons from playing Galaga, Asteroids, or Space Invaders. This ain't your daddy's Pac Man!
Some of my son's (AceLeach) Minecraft tutorials can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV_MQLUSZe_XF2oxwzZw_5A