A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Minecraft: Story Mode is an interactive TV series that lets viewers use a remote or computer control to make decisions for the characters in the story inspired by the Minecraft: Story Mode game. As such, it's less hands-on than the Minecraft games themselves (you're not in charge of building or strategy, just the direction of dialogue and some of the characters' choices) but a novel format for traditional TV. Kids who haven't played Minecraft offerings might be compelled to want to after immersing themselves in this blocky universe from a merchandise-heavy franchise. Violence is a mild concern; it's frequent and poses some worry for the characters in the oversized monsters they face, but there's no blood or gore. The show's language should also be considered if your kids tend to repeat what they hear, as the characters call each other names like "losers" and "jerks," and there are suggestive terms ("freaking" and "f-bomb," referring to a weapon) in the mix as well.
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What's the story?
MINECRAFT: STORY MODE is an interactive series that prompts viewers to direct the characters' actions and dialogue as well as other aspects of the story as it unfolds. The show begins by asking the viewer's preference for a central character -- male Jesse (voiced by Patton Oswalt) or female Jesse (Catherine Taber) -- who, with friends Axel (Brian Posehn) and Olivia (Martha Plimpton), is part of a team competing in the EnderCon building contest. But destiny, and Petra (Ashley Johnson), changes their course when they're challenged to unite the four heroes of the legendary Order of the Stone -- Gabriel the Warrior (Dave Fennoy), Ellegaard the Redstone Engineer (Grey Griffin), Magnus the Rogue (Corey Feldman), and Soren the Architect (John Hodgman). Only then can the old and new orders help save the world from a dangerous threat.
Is it any good?
This show's unique format bridges traditional entertainment and interactive play that Minecraft fans are used to. You at home can't control the characters' movements or builds like in the game, but you can make decisions that alter what they say and where they go. When they're on a quest and have a series of locations to check, you get to select where to send them first. When one character poses a question to another (Would you rather face zombie-size chickens or chicken-size zombies?), you are the one to make that call. It's much like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book brought to the screen.
Minecraft: Story Mode may struggle to find a target audience. It's an obvious draw for established fans, but they have to get used to relinquishing control they're used to having in the game for it to be a winner with this group. On the other hand, viewers who aren't Minecraft junkies might find the pixelated animation, constant background soundtrack, and assuming gaming jargon (Overworld? Nether? Wither storms?) somewhat off-putting for a TV show. In either case, though, this series feels more like a marketing tool for the Minecraft brand than anything. If your kids want to watch, keep in mind that it's better for older kids and tweens than it is for younger kids because of language and a fair amount of violent clashes between the characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about this show's role in the Minecraft line. Does it advertise the video games, either directly or indirectly? Does it enable character development that's mostly missing from the original games? Is Minecraft more effective with or without plot and a story?
Who among the characters is a true leader? Does that role change as the story evolves? What traits are important in a leader? Who among the cast demonstrates courage or integrity? Does Minecraft: Story Mode set out to teach a lesson of any sort?
In what ways can video games help you develop skills like strategy and creativity? Are all video games worthwhile? What rules does your family have about screen time and gaming? What are some screen-free hobbies you enjoy?
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