Every Friday, my six-year-old son, Porter, gets excited. It's stay-up-late, skip-the-bath night, and he can't wait to play Minecraft. If you have a boy at home between the ages of five and forty-five, you're probably familiar with this highly-addictive game. I am opposed to video games, in general (that's a WHOLE other ball of wax you don't want me to go into here), but when a few of my trusted mommy friends began singing the praises of Minecraft and Porter began to beg for us to "just check it out," I decided to cave–literally–and let Porter give it a shot. It seemed creative and something that might require actual thinking with a brain rather than mind-numbing button mashing. For those of you unfamiliar with this game that can be played on basically any platform you can imagine, the Minecraft Web site summarizes it:
Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew, players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things.
It can also be about adventuring with friends or watching the sun rise over a blocky ocean. It's pretty. Brave players battle terrible things in The Nether, which is more scary than pretty. You can also visit a land of mushrooms if it sounds more like your cup of tea.
The game developers release periodic updates. One of the recent updates is a big hit in our house. You can have a pet cat! Or lots of pet cats!
I've talked before about the why I don't have a cat. But virtual cats? I let the kid bring home as many as he could wrangle.
You see, these cats don't start out purring in your hands. They begin their Minecraft existence as ocelots, roaming wild and free. In order to have them as pets, you have to gain their trust through being near to them and offering fish. Lots and lots of fish. Fish = love.
And the best part? No litter box!
So Porter showed me how he trains ocelots to become suitable pet cats. Talk about a fun way to spend a Friday night! First comes the approach, and like any decent cat would demand, you must prove yourself with a delectable offering, getting close enough to the ocelot so he can smell it, but not so close that you scare it. Once you've enticed the creature and gained his trust, you give him fish. More fish means more love, and your new pet cat isn't shy about showing his affection.
After you've earned this kind of devotion. You can't shake it. So Fluffy then follows you everywhere, practically winding between your legs. And if one isn't enough, you can go for more.
Just as Porter had trained his pride, the rain set in. And we all know how much cats like to stand out in the rain.
So in order to keep his feline family happy, Porter had to quickly build a structure. He has gotten very good at building, so he threw something up rather quickly and baited the cats inside.
Everyone needs something to do in the rain, right? It was then that I noticed the kitten. It appeared as if the cats had already gotten busy entertaining themselves in the inclement weather. I asked Porter where the kitten came from. He explained it well: "Well, Mommy, when you have two cats, you get a kitten." I didn't probe for additional details. Cute kitten, right?
In Porter's rush to create a shelter for his new cat family, he skimped a bit on the windows providing only bars as a barrier to the open air.
What happened next is too graphic to show you, and it happened so fast that I was unable to capture a photo. As the virtual storm grew to a crescendo, the lightening began to strike. Porter started to block up the windows, anticipating the inevitable. In a split second with a flashing crash, two of the cats were struck simultaneously and went up in flames. It was heartbreaking.
As the duo burned in a meowing fury, Porter summed up the whole experience: "Oh, NO! Cats are much more harder to take care of than dogs."
We can't replace our beloved pets in real life, but, thankfully, Porter can spawn new kittens in Minecraft. We don't want the cats who have passed to feel as if they have been replaced. But they've been replaced.
Minecraft demands a lot of animal interactions, but this new cat training update is proving to be a fun challenge both to play and to watch.