Games People Play, And Explain, To Their Children

Lily and James Clark at play Photo: Marsden Epworth

Minecraft is a game designed to foster creativity in its players. Do you want to make a small home for your character? How about a massive replica of the “Game of Thrones” map, or a working roller coaster? You can build any structure imaginable using Lego-like bricks and fight off creepers as you forage for materials — all while collaborating with other players online.

This imaginative setting drew Lakeville resident James Clark, the production coordinator at The Lakeville Journal Co., to the game more than four years ago. He’s used that experience to co-author his first book, “The Visual Guide to Minecraft,” with Cori Dusmann and John Moltz.

“I love that anybody can jump in, regardless of their age, and immediately apply their own creativity to the game,” Clark said. “It can be a vehicle for learning about architectural style and interior design. Families can play together.”

That family aspect is important to Clark. The book is geared toward younger players, taking them step-by-step through downloading the PC version of the game, crafting tools, finding food, traversing climate-centric biomes and building shelters to avoid pesky monsters that roam around at night. It also explains how to create a wide range of interactive projects, such as automatic doors, cannons and fireworks launchers.

His daughter, Lily, 4, gets in on the fun — with the monsters turned off, of course.

“If I’m playing Minecraft, I’m not afraid to have Lily on my lap watching me. When she was 2, she watched as I was building a structure in the sky and fell into a pool of water. She thought it was the funniest thing,” Clark said. “Now she is getting better at the keyboard and mouse, walking around and digging. It’s helping her learn how to control her character in a 3D environment.”

Since he started playing Minecraft, Clark has been part of an online community in which players create towns together or build on their own, all while chatting and sharing their work with like-minded fans. The family-friendly group has members of all ages, including parents and their children. Clark met Dusmann, author of “The Minecraft Guide for Parents,” through this group, which led to them collaborating on “The Visual Guide to Minecraft” with Moltz.

Clark’s section of the book focuses on creating interesting structures using color and depth and gathering materials through farming and mining. He suggests that players can take inspiration from architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and demonstrates how to build light fixtures, furniture, decorations and more. Those who purchase “The Visual Guide to Minecraft” will  also gain access to more than three hours of online videos, including in-game tours conducted by Clark.

“I had never made videos before. It was challenging, but fun,” he said. “The videos get you into different aspects of the game. For  example, they show you how to build an automated farm and elevate the quality of your structures.”

Minecraft is always changing. In fact, Microsoft announced in September that it was buying Mojang, the developer behind the game, for $2.5 billion. As the game evolves, Clark will certainly keep building intricate architectural wonders — with Lily nearby, offering her creative advice.

“The Visual Guide to Minecraft” is available widely (contact your local bookseller) and through the publisher, Peachpit, at www.peachpit.com.