It’s hard to believe it’s been 8 years since Minecraft hit the internet and became a true gaming sensation worldwide, especially among young players. Although the game has had its challengers such as Roblox, Fortnite and others, it’s proven its resilience by standing tall long after the fads of other games has subsided.
I remember 8 years ago when my oldest son and his friends discovered Minecraft. He was one of the first in his class to play it, and from there he found himself bonding with other kids that had found the game as well and shared in its creativity. He borrowed our iPhones and our iPads, to play it as much as he could, enjoying every minute of it. Two years later he decided he wanted the full PC version and and spent two hot summer days selling lemonade to raise the $25 for the Mojang card that would get him access. Since then the game has followed him to more powerful PC’s, and consoles like the Xbox 360, and his Minecraft Edition Xbox One. In the meantime he’s passed the love of Minecraft on to his brother, who like him at that age plays with great vigor and gives flight to his imagination in a world where building blocks come to life and adventure is around every corner. Although big brother has moved on to other games, as so many of his age tend to do, he still enjoys playing Minecraft from time to time especially with his little brother.
With both budding and waning Minecraft fans in the house, we had heard about something called Minefaire last year. Sadly though it was on the weekend of, and we had no time to go. So we decided if the Minecraft status quo in our house remained the following year we would try to go. So after organizing and reorganizing the weekend we found the chance to go this year. Making this the 4th “Con” my youngest and I have been to this year.
What is Minefaire?
Minefaire is more or less the name of a Minecraft convention franchise, that occurs annually but on different dates and in different cities across the United States. The official description is that its “A Minecraft community event licensed by Mojang (Microsoft), but not organized or promoted by Mojang”. Basically it’s Officially-Unofficial?
As for the event itself its what you’d expect from any convention, guest panels, entertainment, merch, and demo’s, but with a major difference that this con is more heavily aimed at Minecrafts younger audience. So expect a lot of kids between 5 and 10 to be there.
How much are tickets?
I’ll start out by explaining that Minefaire is a weekend long event (yes, like MGC), going from 10AM to 5PM both Saturday and Sunday. The Chicago Minefaire is held at the Schaumburg Convention Center, as part of the Renaissance Hotel there. So if you honestly wanted to, you could stay there the entire weekend and go both days. With that said though there is no weekend rate (like MGC has), so you’ll be paying for both days on their own, which you will find out shortly maybe an expensive proposition.
As for the ticket prices keep in mind that 2 years old and under are free, everyone else pays a normal prices. The cheapest priced ticket was $39.95 for entry between 1PM and 5PM, on Saturday or Sunday. For $49.95 you get access on Saturday or Sunday all day, this is the Gold pass. From there they get more expensive going up the the Diamond Pass at $89.95 for the day, with each increment tier between gold and diamond including special access to areas, seating, and swag. Depending on what you pay.
Whats Minefaire Like?
We went with the Gold passes, and also went on a Sunday. If Minefaire is like MGC I can only guess the Saturday was probably the crazier of the two days, so I’m glad I got Sunday tickets. Basically, you walk into a large convention center, and are guided to one of their larger halls. For the sack of those of you who’ve attended MGC I will say the hall is easily ¾’s the size of MGC’s vendor hall, with the exception of having two concession stands and four sets of bathrooms in it (yeah I know thats a really nice feature). As we entered we were greeted by a stand giving away sample beverages, mostly health stuff but nice to get greeted by anyway. Immediately beyond that was the “Official Store”. To the right of that was the “Inspriation Stage, a very small stage where they gave a number of talks on education in Minecraft, like coding, and starting a YouTube channel. Beyond the “Official Store” was the Minecraft themed escape room which was one of the big attractions this year. The line was always super long so we never made it in. Off to the other end of the hall was the “Diamond Stage”, a large stage meant to hold big draw speakers like YouTubers, and entertainment like the Dance-off. To other side of the stage where autograph booths to meet favorite YouTubers, and get pictures and autographs. We hadn’t heard of any of them so there was no need for us to go seeking any of them out. The rest of the hall was filled with enclosed areas with multiple computers, or Xbox’s setup and Minecraft and of course on all of them.
To be honest never having attended before, at first we found ourselves a bit lost as to what was going on. Walking in it looked like it was nothing more than a few stages, and tons of kids just showing up to play Minecraft with each other. It left my oldest and I scratching our, and my youngest got overwhelmed quickly forcing us to do a strategic withdrawal to get him calmed down. When we came back in after the 15 minute or so break, we decided to sit down and listen to a few YouTubers talk at the Diamond Stage, and this gave me enough time to peak through the companion app Fan Guru and figure out what was going on. Essentially the enclosed areas with PC’s or XBox’s with Minecraft on them, were in fcat being used to play Minecraft but in unique ways. Many of these were free or demo classes on how to do unique things in Minecraft like build mansions, or trade with villagers, some even gave basic classes in Minecraft coding. One area was called Capture the Wool was essentially a competitive capture the flag event within minecraft, I encouraged my oldest to enter the competition but he seemed too shy too.
After the Diamond stage event we decided to attend another talk at the Inspiration stage that did a simple introduction to using Scratch and its agent program for coding in Minecraft. This gave us an even better lay of the land, and guided us towards some other interesting talks and resources. We also attended another event at the Diamond stage were actual Mojang developers talked about Minecraft’s development, the new education module, and some cool new things to come.
Is It Worth It?
All said we spent a little over three hours at Minefaire. At a cost of $49.95 a ticket, plus the convenience fee of $2.50 a ticket it was a little over $157.50 for all three of us to attend one day, or 7 hours. Of course we could have stayed longer but after three hours and with my youngest son not up for classes we felt as if we had exhausted the show. Sorry, for another MGC reference but keep in mind that a general admission pass for the entire weekend at the upcoming 2020 show is going for $60 a person, with my youngest still able to get in for free. So using that as a point of reference, I did have some issues with the nearly $50 a head pricing for general entry at Minefaire, with no discounts for kids at certain age brackets, or access to any value packages. So I found the price point for general admission to be a bit higher than it should have been.
With that said though, I will again point to my youngest son’s age and interest in Minecraft mainly as a place to mess around and build whatever he feels, so perhaps he hasn’t reached the maturity or interest enough in the game to build mansions, or do something special within the game via coding. I will also point out my oldest son and his age, in saying that kids his age have grown up playing Minecraft, yet Minefaire offered nothing that would attract veteran players such as him. As a matter of fact Minefaire seemed devoid of anything that would be of interest to anyone older than 10. So with both those factors in place it was a little hard to get the full 7 hours worth out of Minefaire.
To me it wasn’t worth the $50 per person entry, and although it was cool to go to, I really don’t feel like I got $50 per person worth of entertainment value and excitement. Than again as I explained, perhaps it’s just that my kids weren’t the type to get full value out of it.
Would You Go Again?
Thats a tough call, my youngest said he’d like to go again and my oldest gave a strict no. I would have to say I would only go again if prices were a bit more on point, so that I felt as if I got value for what I paid.