Minefaire isn’t just for those obsessed with Minecraft. It’s for their parents (and grandparents), too.
Sweden gave you the game, but the Philly area gave the country the fair.
Elsewhere in the Delaware Valley this weekend, parents may have been ferrying their kids to the mall, dropping them off at soccer, or bribing their cooperation through the weekly supermarket run.
But Saturday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Franklinville father Chris Gordon was his two young daughters' escort to an alternative digital universe of biomes, precious ores, the Creeper, and other creatures well-known to youngsters around the globe as Minecraft.
"I love it — just to see the creativity. This one's 2 years old," Gordon said, nodding to daughter Charlotte, "and she can build her own world."
"I like that you can do creative stuff," agreed sister Elizabeth, 9.
Indeed there was lots of creative stuff and as many worlds as there were kids at Minefaire, a celebration of one of the world's most popular computer games that continued Sunday at the expo center in Oaks, Montgomery County, and was expected to draw more than 10,000 people.
Although the game is the brainchild of a Swedish game developer, Minefaire, first held in 2016, is the creation of two Central Bucks County fathers, Chad Collins, an engineer, and Gabe Young, who had a career in corporate project management. Their own kids helped spark their enthusiasm for gaming, which led to the two friends creating the first Minefaire locally and expanding it to 10 other U.S. cities. They've long left their day jobs, now also operating Brick Fest Live, inspired by Collins' daughter Jordyn's love of Legos, and their Young Innovators Fair.
"Not only do we have an opportunity to share this with our kids," said Young, "but they actually help us."
Minefaire is very much a family affair.
Mary Ann Elliot came all the way from Myrtle Beach, S.C., to bring her grandson Dominic Becker, who lives outside Reading, to the fair to celebrate his 13th birthday. Elliot was also giving the digital realm a whirl herself Saturday on an event-provided PC.
"Oooh, it did something!" Elliot exclaimed as a cube creation rotated on her screen. "Being a grandma, you're always learning something."
She wasn't alone on the learning curve. On hand helping was Steve Isaacs, who teaches game development at a North Jersey middle school. Isaacs said he is one of about 300 Minecraft education mentors around the world who help teachers learn how to adapt the game to the classroom. He said it's been used in just about every curriculum, including teaching Shakespeare.
Meanwhile, some of the game's young practitioners could teach older heads a thing or two about being entrepreneurs. At this weekend's Minefaire, there were YouTubers who have developed their own Minecraft channels with their fans.
Take Jack Beck, 20, who started making videos of his Minecraft adventures and creations when he was a sophomore at Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem. Not long after, the videos and the game became a refuge of sorts. He said his little sister Mary was stricken with cancer; the videos became a way to help cheer up her and himself.
But then Beck started showing them on YouTube and getting paid. Now, he and his avatar BeckBroJack travel around the country with Minefaire. His YouTube hobby is now a full-time gig.
"He's getting ready to hit a million subscribers," said his father, Bill, helping out Saturday along with Jack Beck's younger brother Adam. Mary, now healthy and strong, was expected later. The elder Beck said his son's YouTube channel earns him about $20,000 a month — that's a month — pretty good for a kid who only did a semester at Temple University's business school.
Abaigeal Wallace, 8, and her YouTube Minecraft channel, Cake Longtail, aren't quite there yet, but give her time.
"She's got 32 subscribers!" said Bradin Roberts, 10, of Sea Isle City, boasting on behalf of her quieter cousin.
Abaigeal and her mother, Margaret McGrogan, traveled from Virginia Beach to attend Minefaire with their South Jersey relatives who own Shoobies restaurant in Sea Isle and also love Minecraft.
The young YouTuber may not be making a bundle on her channel yet, but in the meantime there are other rewards.
Abaigeal is on the autism spectrum, her mother said. She shies away from social settings and is measured with her words.
"But when she turns the camera on, she's like a different person," McGrogan said. "She's like an actress. It's a positive outlet."
Abaigeal piped up in agreement: "I love everything about Minecraft."