Minecraft is an independently developed video game that allows users to explore a chunky three-dimensional world, "mining" for resources and constructing various structures out of little blocks. Despite its crude graphics and somewhat free-form style of game play, it has become one of the world's most popular video games since its release in 2009.
This week, according to reports in local media, Turkey's Family and Social Policies Ministry decided that Minecraft should be banned.
Aysenur Islam, Turkey's family and social policies minister, ordered an investigation into Minecraft after being told by a journalist that players get points for killing other characters, including women. Now, according to the Turkish newspaper Habertürk, the investigation has concluded that the game does encourage violence in children.
In the report sent to the ministry's legal department, it was noted that the game allowed users to build homes and bridges but that "mobs" had to be killed to protect these structures. "In short, it is a game based on violence," the report noted. Minecraft may also mislead children into thinking animals don't feel pain, the report found, or lead to "social isolation" or online bullying.
All this may strike anyone even casually familiar with Minecraft as strange. Although it is true that there are some very minor elements of violence in the game, it certainly doesn't have a reputation as a violent game.
For example, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which assigns age and content ratings for video games in the United States and Canada, recently gave a version of Minecraft a rating of "Everyone 10+," which means the game is suitable for players older than 10. "Though not encouraged, players can engage in violent acts such as lighting animals on fire and harming animals with weapons," the description of the rating reads. The Pan European Game Information, which also assigns ratings to games, didn't make much of the violence, either. "Non realistic looking violence towards characters which although human are not very detailed," the report explained.
If Turkey does ban Minecraft, it will be the first country to do so. In fact, as journalist David Lepeska notes on Twitter, in places such as New York, Stockholm and Britain, the game has been taught in classrooms. It's an absurd situation: As Andrew Przybylski, an experimental psychologist and research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, put it in an interview with Newsweek last month, "Investigating Minecraft for being violent is the equivalent of ordering an investigation into violent Lego playing.”
The Turkish government has made headlines for all sorts of odd moves recently. Some, such as a plan to take a former Miss Turkey to court over an Instagram photo or last year's ineffectual-yet-high-profile plan to totally block Twitter, can be attributed to concerns about public criticism after a corruption scandal hit the government in late 2013 and Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the controversial move from prime minister to president. Others, such as the investigation into Minecraft or the Turkish military's preoccupation with "Game of Thrones," are harder to explain.
Turkey appears to have a sizable community of Minecraft players – according to Hurriyat Daily News, a children's book on the video game is one of the most popular in the country, selling out of 80,000 copies in seven months. Turkey's courts will now decide whether the game should be banned. It's unclear what will happen next.
"This is Turkey," Alper Yuksel Anderson of the Turkish gaming web site LeaderGamer wrote Tuesday, "At any moment, anything can happen."
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