For the past few weeks, my 8-year-old daughter, “L”, has been participating in Connected Camps Minecraft – an educational summer camp that takes place inside of a Minecraft shared server. The camp directors have created a rich and varied environment, with creative, survival and PVP areas that enable different styles of play. Whenever the servers are up, camp counselors are online and available to answer questions, solve problems, oversee activities, and resolve disputes.
After some initial hesitation, L dove in, made friends, and built a multi-house village with them on an island. All was well – until one Saturday morning 3 weeks in, when L was befriended by a new player she’d never met – ‘T.’ Feeling like a seasoned pro, L showed him her world, taught him some commands, and proudly gave him a tour of the island village she’d built with her camp friends.
T admired her diamond sword, and asked her to make him some diamond armor. Trustingly, L got out her crafting table, pulled out 21 diamonds from her inventory… and then T broke her table, grabbed her loot, and quickly logged off.
L came to me in tears. “Why would he do that? I thought this game was supposed to be fun!” My stomach dropped; I recognize griefing when I see it – and was VERY surprised to see it on this server. So we filed a ticket and let the staff know about the incident. After some back-and-forth, we figured out the hole in their system that had let this happen. They returned L’s diamonds, and contacted T – and his parents – to resolve the incident. T ended up ap0logizing to L — and had his access restricted for the rest of camp. And I had a long, informative conversation with the camp director about the challenges of managing behavior in a creative online summer camp.
Griefing is a fact of life – both online, and F2F. Not everyone you meet is trustworthy – and when a friendly stranger asks you for an expensive favor, you might not always want to say YES. It was painful to see my 8-year-old get griefed – but now she knows how to call a counselor, protect her valuable items, and be friendly – but not naive – when she greets new campers. She’s eager to keep playing, and wants me to sign her up for the upcoming class in programming MODs.
These days. if you want to raise street-smart children, teaching them to navigate online interactions is part of the package.