The other day, PP and I each made boats and set off to explore an island that we'd noticed was just visible in the distance out to sea. We both managed to fall out of our boats and had to swim most of the way. When we got there, we didn't have a lot of time to explore before dusk. Caught that far from home, there wasn't much to do other than climb a tree and hunker down for the night. Fortunately, zombies can't climb trees, but skeletons can shoot arrows if they notice us, so we'll be keeping a low profile.
We've been playing Minecraft together for a few weeks now. Minecraft time has become the go-to reward for doing all his homework and coming home with good school reports, and removing Minecraft time is the punishment of choice.
Being an "old guy," it still seems odd to look at a video game as educational. It's still considered good parenting to limit "screen time." I'm slowly coming around to the idea that "screen time" is a ridiculously broad term. Does watching a nature show in 3D count as screen time. If so, than does looking out a window at the bird feeder? The content and level of interaction matters. Is the kid being educated or learning useful skill sets. If so, than I have a hard time getting down on it. During our Minecraft time we have to make long term plans, observe processes in the correct order, balance the need for caution with the drive for exploration.
Is time spent building virtual houses as valuable as building them out of Lego or Lincoln Logs? Probably not, but having the variety of both is probably better than either by itself. I would also argue that the costs that Minecraft imposes on "doing it wrong" (eaten by zombies, swimming in lava...) tends to guide you to think a bit harder about designing your defenses and mining that ore.
It's also interesting to see how our virtual interactions mimic those in real live. I still find myself making dinners and laying out clothes (or armor) for him. He's much more comfortable exploring with Daddy than wandering off on his own, even though we are actually sitting a few feet apart. "Come be with me Daddy," he'd say, and I feel a pang of guilt for going off to mine coal and leaving my 6 year old home alone to ward off zombies and skeletons. I guess that's the cost of being a single parent. Maybe it's time to get Mrs. 'Struction an account.