Minecraft, Misogyny, Racism, and Community Design
It started simply enough. My daughter asked me to download Minecraft Pocket Edition for the iPod we’d bought her for Christmas.
Within a week, she, her younger sister, and I were all addicted.
For a while there, Minecrafting replaced our ritual of reading together before bed. And although we’ve returned to our nightly habits of reading over time, still, the joys of collaborative mining continues undiminished.
But Minecraft PE is like a gateway drug, and soon enough, my ten year old was begging for Minecraft PC. I blame Mr. Stampy Cat for that. Although his videos are based on Minecraft for xBox, he and his friends, iBallisticSquid and Amy Lee, unlocked whole new possibilities of imaginative play for the girls. Soon enough they, like many of their friends, were watching Minecraft YouTube videos like we watched Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch.
This led us to the world of Minecraft skins, and a long search for the perfect female avatar, beautiful yet strong.
Then we were introduced to the public servers where my daughter could play Minecraft with a world of anonymous others. All of a sudden we were talking candidly about online safety, how it was important not to reveal too much about yourself, not to trust too easily. Soon enough I found myself explaining the meaning of certain profanities teenage gamers are wont to pepper throughout their online banter.
The Hive was the first server my daughter started playing, and however virtual, it felt menacing like the real world to me.
First there was the misogyny. Early on she was taunted for chatting—“Oh look, the female speaks.” This opened another conversation between us about the long history of misogynistic attempts to silence women, deny them a voice, and how important it is to have the confidence to speak your mind. (Happily her mother is a great model for this.)
Although there were players who teamed up with one another, still, there was a coldness to the community that left my daughter feeling anxious despite her desire to play with others, and me feeling unsettled, despite my…