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TRY SOMETHING NEW
17.10.2016 / words: Rich Lee / image: Fiona Digby - Jones
We visit the Guildford club and LAN party that lets children’s imaginations run riot in the world's biggest digital playground...
Despite my many years as a hopelessly addicted gamer, the phenomenon of Minecraft had, until now, eluded me. The award-winning sandbox videogame that first released in 2009 has captured millions of player’s imaginations all over the world since. But as a casual observer, the appeal of those rough textures and blocky vistas remained something of a mystery, especially compared to the glossy graphics and Hollywood-budget games I tend to waste my days on.
But upon visiting Club Minecraft at G Live last month, the true creative potential of Minecraft was revealed to me by the sight of 58 children, ranging from infants to teenagers, conjuring vivid, interactive worlds and colossal landscapes, exploring each other’s creations and having adventures both grand, intimate or plain silly. And doing all of it together. “It’s ‘Lego Infinity’,” explains one of the adult volunteers, succinctly. And then the penny finally dropped.
“I like Minecraft because you can make whatever you can imagine,” said ten-year-old Mia, as she put the finishing touches to an eerily evocative haunted house with the flick of a mouse. “You decorate houses and places however you want to. I’m here with my friend Erin but we usually play together over the internet. But it’s much more fun to play in the same room.”
The room at G Live, with its rows of tables, cables and monitors and children animatedly clicking and swiping away on laptops, tablets and phone, looks like it might be a trial for the volunteers as little arms shoot up every couple of minutes begging help when a connection fails or the game grinds to a halt. But these techy firefighters, including four cub leaders, a basketball coach and Club Minecraft founders, brothers Matt and Adam Ward, look like they’re having as much fun as their charges.
Matt began hosting Club Minecraft when his son Bailey first showed an interest in the game in 2015. A lifelong gamer, Matt saw an opportunity for his son and his friends to experience the fun of the LAN parties that he and his brother had enjoyed growing up.
Six parties later and Club Minecraft’s numbers have swelled, with parents dropping off their kids on one Saturday a month for hours of fun, collaborative play. “I used to go to similar things when I was younger,” said one of those parents, Warren. “So it’s nice to see them having a go as well. It’s very creative, they learn each other’s names and show each other what they’re building.”
The volunteers are all Minecraft enthusiasts (all DBS checked and include first aiders and fire marshals) and have seen first-hand the staggering playgrounds these kids have crafted out of such a deceptively simple playset.
“It’s just limitless,” says Adam. “Every time we’ve held Club Minecraft, I’m just astounded by their creativity. It’s the grandeur of their creations as well. You’ll ask them to build a ship, and they’ll build destroyers, submarines, rowing boats, space ships, pirate ships – with full sets of firing cannons. And that was all built in half an hour.”
With Minecraft merchandise donated by the club’s sponsors, the children can take away prizes for, say, building the best haunted castle or London landmark. But perhaps the greatest prize is the opportunity to just let their imaginations run free and have fun building together. Everyone’s a winner at Club Minecraft.
Club Minecraft currently runs at G Live. Several events have been confirmed for 2017 with the next event due to run in December. Be sure to visit
for further details
How One Guildford Mum Found a Crafty Side to Minecraft that Kids Can't Get Enough Of...
During our visit to Club Minecraft at G Live we met Ruth Stone, founder of
and “a real Guildford invention.” Her company is the world’s only manufacturer of blank box heads for kids to design, decorate and play with.
This fiendishly simple idea encourages kids to happily abandon the console to craft and enjoy imaginative play, together or with the family. While boxheads, costume pieces that mimicked the iconic block characters from Minecraft, had been available before, Ruth’s great idea was to provide cardboard templates that kids could design themselves. They can use pens, paints, paper and stickers to decorate their BoxHead Craft boxhead any way they choose.
Every BoxHead Craft box head comes with six handy templates to enable kids to plan and design a scaled down version before they decorate the full-sized head.
“My son was really into boxheads,” said Ruth, “and I was always making up fancy dress for him to take to school but he was never satisfied as they were never the perfect cube shape or colour. I thought there must be a plain one I could decorate for him but there wasn’t. So I developed it, registered the design and now sell them online to the UK and beyond.
“We made them for his birthday party and saw eight-year-old boys intently colouring in for two hours, which is practically unheard of. The kids just entertain themselves.”
Ruth told me that she sells more Boxheads in the US than anywhere else, from California to Massachusetts.
“I don’t think I’m going to retire on it (laughs), but I’m just a mum trying do something a bit different. It’s a bit of fun, but it would be nice to see where the business can go.”
To find out more visit
or call 01483 538710
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