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My six-year-old nephew and I play a game: I find an image of a structure from any random corner of the world, and he builds it. From the Eiffel Tower to the Great Zimbabwe, the Mayan ruins to Big Ben, we’ve traveled the world, seen and built it all. And that’s the beauty of Minecraft — it not only allows us to connect with each other, but to the world around us. Through it, we get to experience different places and connect with the beautiful faces that call them home.

But I must confess, two years ago I knew nothing about Minecraft. However, I started noticing it everywhere. I saw my friends’ kids play it on weekends when we would gather around an oversized television screen to watch Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. I started noticing it being referenced in all on my favorite movies,songs, and television series. I didn’t understand the hype, but I was curious. So, oneday I turned to my nephew, and like that kid that feels left out and wants to play too, I said, “Let me try.”

So, he walked me through it. And where he struggled to explain something, he pulled up YouTube videos that allowed me to understand what he was trying to articulate. And through these videos, I also got to appreciate the different ways people engaged not only with the game, but with each other. Young, old, experts, beginners, families, celebrities — people of different backgrounds and passions constructively, creatively, and communally interacting in this virtual world.

And that is the magic of Minecraft, its beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you're a teacher in the classroom using it to teach your students math or an activist using it to promote animal conservation, a young mind that struggles with anxiety and depression that uses it to escape the discomfort of the outside world or someone that just loves to create, Minecraft is an accessible experience that welcomes all and encourages people to explore the reaches of their imagination, discover the vastness of their creativity, and thrive on a platform that celebrates community.

When I was my nephew’s age, my parents bought me my first video game console: a used Nintendo Entertainment System. They didn’t have the money to keep up with the latest gaming trends of my friends and neighbors — Game Boy, Sega MegaDrive (Genesis), Atari — but they did the best they could. I played alone. I played with friends. I played with family. I played when I was happy. I played when I was sad. This console didn’t just allow me to find joy, community, and escape, but also it stimulated my imagination, let me explore my creativity, and engaged my mind.

Much like the Grinch finally remembering the joys of Christmas, my nephew helped me remember the joys of gaming and allowed me to appreciate this weird phenomenon with the weird graphics that took over the world. I didn’t understand the Minecraft hype, I do now.

Join us for the World Premiere of Minecraft: The Exhibition on October 19, 2019, at MoPOP!

Video Games, Education, Pop Culture

About the author

Kwapi Vengesayi is the Manager of Community Engagement at MoPOP, and a fan and student of all things Motown, Afrofuturism, and Star Trek.