On 21 October 2016 a parenting blog published an editorial penned by a guilt-ridden mother about her purported discovery of “sex mods” for the massively popular Minecraft sandbox video game:
Take a minute to Google “Minecraft + sex mod.” I’ll wait … not only did my brain explode, but my heart did as well. Unfortunately, it was my kid who filled me in … I suddenly found myself looking into the tearful eyes of one of my babies who was telling me that, not only was this kid playing Minecraft when she saw this, but she was also propositioned in this “creative mode” room by another player … This child was crushed. She opened up, and told me about the things that appear in apps. She shared a lot about how she was feeling as a result of this experience that made me want to weep and weep.
The virtual world is so real to our kids. She felt like it had actually happened to her in real life. It could not be shrugged off. She actually wanted me to take away her phone, the portal to this hurt. There were many tears, half of them from me. All I could do was apologize for not protecting her better.
Because the truth is, it’s all my fault.
I thought I was doing my due diligence in the technology department. We pay attention to how much time they spend online and limit it as well, even detoxing completely from time to time. We keep the apps they used restricted to the 10 and under age range, and Minecraft falls into this category.
And still this happened. Because, sadly where the kids are, the creepers will follow. (Minecraft pun intended.) And the creepers found my baby.
The post rattled off purported “stranger danger” statistics unrelated to Minecraft or “sex mods” and advised parents to take the standard steps of “locking down” and/or monitoring their children’s Internet time. (Tips of that sort are standard advice given to parents about Internet safety and have nothing to do with Minecraft specifically.) The mother in question stated she “did a little research,” but that research didn’t pertain to the existence of Minecraft sex mods.
The popular parenting blog Scary Mommy tackled the topic on 24 October 2016, also presenting information largely unrelated to the functions of Minecraft:
After I dropped my kids off at school, I took a deep breath and googled “minecraft sex mods.” And fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck.
A ton of hits come up, mostly YouTube videos. Apparently, in the app version of the game, there is a way to “craft” such cringe-worthy things as pixelated characters getting it on with each other.
I could only bring myself to watch a few of the videos. (OK, just one.) I couldn’t get past the “gangsta” Minecraft dude banging a bikini-clad chick in the back room of a Minecraft whorehouse. (Yes, really.)
I’ll spare you the rest because I’m a decent human being.
At first, I was just happy that my 9-year-old, a Minecraft aficionado for many years, doesn’t use the app version of the game. But then I realized, duh, the kid spends a million hours watching Minecraft YouTube videos.
The Scary Mommy writer similarly reported that she engaged in some “research,” which appeared to consist of viewing YouTube videos about (but not hosted by or affiliated with Minecraft). The writer was appalled that some of the videos were not age-protected, although since those videos are not official Minecraft media, responsibility for their policing rests with YouTube.
Few things in 2016 have captivated children like Minecraft (software lauded for its ability to operate as a covert educational platform), and few things have terrified parents more than “sex perverts on the Internet.” Moreover, Minecraft’s popularity with children is often matched only by their parents’ lack of understanding of the game. The confluence of these circumstances means that if a Minecraft rumor about sexual predators were to spread unchecked, children could be deprived of one of the most enjoyable learning experiences available to them.
Neither of the articles referenced above explained what a Minecraft “sex mod” might be, nor how the process of modifying Minecraft works. We contacted both Minecraft maker Mojang as well as Bec Oakley, the owner of a popular Minecraft web guide for parents called MineMum. Mojang did not respond to our inquiry, but Oakley was aware of the viral rumors and explained how mods work for Minecraft players:
Here’s the deal. Mods are bits of unofficial modified game code that users can create that add items to the game or change the things that a player can do. They are then made available for anyone to download in user forums and gamer websites. They’re not an official part of the game, are not supported by Mojang (the makers of Minecraft), don’t come packaged with the game and must be added voluntarily and manually.
There are thousands and thousands of these mods around, most of which are not inappropriate. But given that it is user-generated content that is not under any kind of controls or censorship, there are inappropriate mods available (there are also other types of modified content like skins and texture packs). These have been in existence for a long time, and probably since Minecraft was first released years ago.
On YouTube there are thousands of videos of players playing modded games of Minecraft, and some of these involve players playing with a sex mod applied to the game. Usually these videos are age restricted but there are ones that slip through the YouTube age protection cracks.
- There is no sex level in the official game of Minecraft.
- There is no sexual content in the official game of Minecraft.
- Mods are not supported or endorsed by Mojang.
- Mods cannot be added to the game automatically.
- There are mods that contain content considered inappropriate for children.
- Mods can be downloaded and applied to the game by any player who has access to the internet and knows how to google for ‘minecraft mods’.
- There are no ratings or censorship controls for mods.
- There are YouTube videos of users playing Minecraft with inappropriate mods.
We asked Oakley whether it was possible for players to encounter Minecraft sex mods without having gone through the lengthy process of specifically installing those mods themselves. Surmising that YouTube videos (not Minecraft content) was responsible for web-wide parental alarm, she responded:
No you can’t encounter a sex mod in the game (or any mod) without having installed it. Kids aren’t going to accidentally come across this mod without someone having installed it — either in their own game or on a multiplayer server that they’re playing on.
You can encounter YouTube videos of people playing with sex mods installed, I think that’s a large part of where parents are freaking out.
In short, the Minecraft “sex mod” frenzy is likely borne of a combination of fears about Internet predators, ignorance of the manner in which Minecraft works, and the universal popularity of articles warning that a common and popular children’s pastime harbors a hidden danger. There are no “sex mods” or “sex levels” in the official Minecraft game, and such mods can only be accessed after an intentional installation of them or on a multiplayer server. The majority of Minecraft mods are non-sexual in nature, and parents concerned about their children being exposed to “sex mods” are likely better served by restricting their YouTube access than by taking the game away from them.