Minecraft vs. Roblox: How These Games Stack Up for Kids
Minecraft and Roblox are incredibly popular sandbox-style games. Both let you design games, meet other players, and of course, play for hours. They also each have supportive online communities that are always available for help. But Minecraft and Roblox are actually quite different when you get into the nitty-gritty. Here's how they stack up on five key elements:
Minecraft. Best for age 8+. An open-ended, exploration and creation-focused environment that lets players create items and buildings from scratch using materials they harvest from the world around them.
Roblox. Best for age 10+. A game-creation site where users design and upload their own games, as well as play other games in a multiplayer environment.
Minecraft has a higher initial cost ($26.95 for PC and Mac), while Roblox uses a "freemium/premium" model.
Roblox lets you play games and design a small number for free, but you need to subscribe to do the really fun stuff, such as customize your avatar, buy and trade weapons, and create additional games. You can buy Roblox's in-game currency, Robux, à la carte, but it's worth signing up for the entry-level membership ($5.95 per month for Builders Club), which eliminates ads, lets you manage more games, and buys daily Robux.
Ease of Use
Both are pretty challenging, but that's part of each game's unique fun. Minecraft offers no instructions but provides three levels of difficulty. You learn to play through exploration, experimentation, watching YouTube videos, and reading other fan-created content (there's a lot of it online).
Roblox offers two modes: playing and creating. Playing other people's games offers a lot of variety, but it can be frustrating since the games are user-designed. For kids who are interested in creating their own games, Roblox offers a lot of instructions, a wiki, and a helpful player community.
This is the biggest wild card. While both games allow multiplayer action, Minecraft lends itself more to solo play, while Roblox is social from the minute you sign on -- and friending and chatting are a huge part of the game. (Review our social media rules for elementary school-age kids.) Both Minecraft and Roblox involve lots of user-generated content, with players of all ages -- including teens and adults -- contributing and competing. With any user-generated content, your kid can get exposed to strong language, sexually suggestive imagery, and violence. Managing some of this can be done through each game's built-in controls -- Roblox lets you turn off chatting, block people, and report bad behavior, while Minecraft doesn't restrict what you say but lets you "ignore" other players.
Both games have had incidences of inappropriate predatory behavior in multiplayer and chat mode. In response, Roblox has beefed up its child safety initiative to include more human moderators, parental controls, and other features to rat out offenders. Since Minecraft can be played solo or only with specific friends, contact with strangers can be severely restricted. But if your kid wants to play on a public server, find one that's kid-friendly.
Both Minecraft and Roblox have huge online followings, so kids can find a lot of additional content -- wikis, YouTube videos, even Reddit forums -- that could expose them to mature topics when they're searching for information on the games. Also, Roblox lets users embed ads in their games, so kids will encounter in-game marketing. Violence can be an issue in both games, but while Roblox's user-uploaded games tend to be more of the shooter/explosion/disaster variety, Minecraft's leans more toward hand-to-hand combat, even though it's depicted in a cartoonish way.
Learning and Creativity
Yes and yes! Both games can teach the rudiments of computer coding (Minecraft uses a Minecraft-adapted Java, and Roblox runs the Lua programming language), though Minecraft has the edge when it comes to being education-friendly. They also both promote math skills, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, and collaboration. Both games are cropping up in after-school classes, computer camps, and even teachers' lesson plans because the abilities you can gain by creating digital content and interacting with others online are essential 21st-century skills.
Our advice? Given the Wild West nature of both of these games, consider sitting with your kid while he or she learns to play and checking out the related online forums and videos to find out which game is the best match for your kid's age, experience, and interests.