Minecraft Weather Cover Photo

Minecraft Weather

Curbing Minecraft Addiction of Kids Without Compromising Creativity

In the "Defense Against the Dark Arts" class, we were tasked by Professor Tad Hirsch to design a product or service to defend against the dark arts that we chose. We were thrilled about the project soon after we learned that we have the opportunity to reveal the ugly faces of dark strategies and tactics that are currently employed in the wild to achieve selfish or evil goals. However at the same time, we are overwhelmed by the variety of interesting options that we have since the project is open-ended, and thus, we are given lots of freedom to explore a broad ranges of topics to defend against existing known dark arts.

Minecraft Weather is our respond to this unique challenge. Minecraft, the popular sandbox independent video game developed by the Swedish company Mojang, later bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion, is is nothing short of a phenomenon. So far, around 20 million people have bought the game. In the Minecraft world, players can create anything imaginable with blocks of material mined from the ground. Players have made everything from working computers to full-scale models of the “Lord of the Rings” city Minas Tirith. It is the virtual Legos that scaffold a joint imagination through a common rule set.

Minecraft Weather aims to help kids to curb their addiction to Minecraft without compromising their creativity. Minecraft Weather consists of a Minecraft mod that utilizes weather to encourage and reward children to take breaks during the in-game experience, whereas the companion app helps parents to input and manage the time limits effortlessly.

We conducted Minecraft Weather's user research by visiting a 4th-grade classroom

Minecraft thinking ≠ Minecraft

We conducted a user research by visiting a 4th-grade classroom and led them through a series of design research exercises. Talking to kids opened our eyes: they provide us surprising insights that not only most children have exposure to Minecraft and the game is immensely addictive and popular regardless of gender, but most importantly, kids’ imagination extends beyond the screen. For example, we found out that many of the recess games took the shape of the Minecraft game. Even though the kids have already left the virtual world of Minecraft, they create their own versions and additions that they can play in the real world.

We also talked to 8–11-year-old parents in order to understand how they perceive their kids playing Minecraft. Recognizing that the creativity aspect of Minecraft is an important value to preserve and foster in kids, we came up with a set of design principles that balance the values of creativity and privacy, benefiting both parents and children:

  • The stopping mechanism should exhibit some level of choice to reduce the conflict between parents and children.

  • Parents should not be able to directly surveil the in-game activities of their children to prevent parents from using Minecraft Weather as a babysitting tool.

  • No long-term effects, dying, destruction or negative implications of stopping the game because that will hinder the creativity of the kids.

Kids’ imagination about the Minecraft game extends beyond the screen

Why Using Weather as an Intervention?

Weather as an Indicator

The weather already exists in the current Minecraft game, but it is being underutilized. For instance, rain and snow appear approximately every 3–4 days in Minecraft. Furthermore, weather changes the visibility of the gameplay because light level goes down by 3% for most weather events.

By amplifying the weather condition, it provides cues to the kids that it is time for them to take a break, rather than the implementation of those pesky settings that just lock a device after a certain amount of time. Weather is an indicator to push kids out of the in-game experience and take breaks.

Using Positive Reinforcement to curate good habits

By using weather as a design intervention, Minecraft Weather mod not only give cues to kids to end the game session earlier and more often, but also create a benefit to stopping more often. This approach enables kids to gradually discover that the earlier they stop playing in a session, the shorter is the break interval, and the earlier they can resume playing Minecraft. This gives some freedom and flexibility to the kids by incentivize them to practice self-control, thus curating good habits over time.

“The earlier the kid stop playing in a session, the shorter is the break interval, and the earlier the kid can resume playing Minecraft.”

Our team decided to take on the style of Minecraft screen-captured videos in order to communicate the look, feel and the experience of Minecraft Weather mod for the Youtube community.
Different types of weather in Minecraft Weather

Weather Changes In a Session

Playing in a session
Weather changes in a session Weather changes in a session

How Incentives Are Created

Incentives, Reward Phase, Target Phase and Consequence Phase

Post Break Weather

Minecraft Parent App Hero Shot

Minecraft Parent App

We discovered common patterns among parents that most of them are busy and have little interest in Minecraft, but they are concerned about the habits of their children, especially the frequency and length of gameplay. Our insights guide us to create Minecraft Parent, a companion app that bridges the expectation gap of parents and kids' gaming activities.

Minecraft Parent serves the following purposes:

Dashboard Screen

Shades of color from dark to bright on the dashboard helps parents to differentiate the daily limit used and better track their kids playing habit of Minecraft.

Setting Daily Limit, Session Limit and Range

Minecraft Parent functions as an interface that allows parents to set their kid’s daily and session limits effortlessly, alleviating the tension and friction between parents and kids.

Range setting allows parents to change the default daily and session limits for a temporary period, in order to customize to the kids’ schedule – for example, school holidays or special occasions.

Minecraft Parent App Hero Shot

My Role

Design Thinking

Design Thinking Process

I actively participated in discussions with my teammates from identifying the domains, framing the problems, studying the overall system of digital media distribution to kids and how dark arts are implemented, and looking at the current products or methods that are in place to break addictions.

User Research

User Research Process

My teammate Robin and I visited Apple store to investigate the behavior and interaction of kids with tablet apps. During our visit to an elementary school for a user research, I helped facilitate the design research exercises. I also talked to parents and teachers in order to get a more comprehensive perspective. By observing and immersing myself in their lives and communities, I have a better understanding of the people I am designing for and empathize with them.

Rapid Prototyping

Rapid Prototyping Process

After understanding the product goals of Minecraft Parent, I worked individually for creating the app, from the process of sketching, wireframing, paper prototyping, user validation all the way to the final visual design of the interface.

Final Thoughts

Today designers are making products visually pleasing and easier to use. But there is a strange tension here: what if products are so easy to use that they have dark arts but people never realize? Minecraft Weather allows me to learn to speculate and be more aware of dark arts of design that can degrade the human experience. I have the opportunity to reflect on what are my intentions of becoming a designer and what can I use the skills for good. The project is a defense mechanism we created to challenge the status quo and systems that there are in place and do things differently with good will.

One of the aspects that we can improve on Minecraft Weather given a longer timeline is the narrative of the game. Currently, weather provides cues to kids to leave the game, but there are definitely ways we can explore to make it a forked storyline, such as a video component in Halo, rather than a controlled experience. Storytelling can reinforce the concept of weather and be part of the game experience by getting the kids to take a break and transition them back into the game smoothly.



Robin Yoo
Ian Fike


Professor Tad Hirsch

Project Duration

4 weeks

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