Friday, September 14, 2012

Minecraft Party- Games, Favors, and Decorations

We didn't decorate too much for our Minecraft party, but my son spent the anxious days before the party making these very cool paper decorations for the table.  We were inspired by an awesome party we found online, through which we found directions for the paper crafts
I snuck in a party craft without the boys noticing that it was a 'craft'. (Insert evil Party Mom laugh here.) Each boy decorated a soda holder to look like a Minecraft character or scene.  We mostly did this so that we wouldn't get drinks mixed up during the party or the 'after-party' when the families came together.

In this house, we can't resist an opportunity to make something from fuse beads. The pixelated look of all things Minecraft is a perfect match for fuse bead fun, so my boys made a cake for each guest. It gave the boys something else to do in the days leading up to the party when they seem to enjoy asking me when the party is, what time it will start, who will be get the idea.

To make the goody bags, we printed an screenshot of Steve's face (Steve is what most people call the main character of Minecraft) and glued the face to plain brown paper bags.  I love of making goody bags from plain old lunch bags!
We added the fuse bead cake, a sheet for making a cute Creeper, and any candy we could find that was cube shaped, to match the pixelated images that make up Minecraft.
Most boys would resist the idea of birthday party games, but our games were geeky enough to win over our guests.  We started with a game that was really a snack, Digging for Diamonds, explained here. Naturally, we played it outside, since it was a bit messy with all that scraping.
I've learned over the years that no birthday party is complete without a Pin-the-____-on-the-_____ game (think: tails on donkeys), so the boys indulged me with a very goofy game of Pin the Armor on Steve.

My son drew Steve and some other Minecraft characters on a poster. He even threw in some characters from other computer games. (See a little guy from Portal below.)

Then he made some armor and weapons out of another piece of poster board, cut them out, and we let blindfolded guests try to tape the pieces on the poster.  [Did I mention that these kids are 12? They are a very fun group of boys to go along with this; it was hysterical!]

But I won't lie to you.  This is a Minecraft party, after all. Once the boys indulged my Party Mom need for goody bags and party games, the real fun (for them) began: a game of Minecraft!

My son and my husband spent a few days before the party setting up a special game for the boys to play. The game was designed to take a little over an hour. We hooked up a laptop for each guest (the boys brought their own) and even had a few cousins and other friends play remotely from home since they couldn't be at the party for one reason or another.
At certain points in the game clues, maps, and directions needed to be read from secret envelopes. In the days leading up to the party, my son decorated the numbered envelopes and I emailed all the clues to the cousins who would be playing from remote locations.
The game was not without technical difficulties, especially at first while we tried to get everyone online (imagine horses in the starting gate...that is sort of how the boys acted while waiting for everyone to get online!) but once the game got started, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed listening to their conversations...and enjoyed the opportunity to finally sit down and relax at one of my kids' birthday parties!


Minecraft Party- Cake and Food

In the computer game Minecraft, players can craft a cake if they have a crafting table and the right ingredients.  In order to make my son's birthday cake for his Minecraft party, we first needed a crafting table! We made ours by adding electrical tape to a flat wooden cutting board.

I made a favorite cake recipe using two square cake pans.

I iced the top of one, but not the sides. Then I added the next layer and iced both the top and sides of the top layer of cake so that fondant would stick to it. Look at the picture below to see me 'crafting' a cake on the 'crafting table'-- when virtual life becomes geeky reality!

I added uncolored fondant to the top layer and used kitchen scissors to cut the edges. I had tried lining up the fondant and pre-cutting the sides, but then found it was just SO much easier to put the fondant on top and cut it to shape. Finally, I added some red dye to a little leftover fondant and added the squares.Wetting each square helped it to stick to the white fondant.
We were planning on having watermelon anyway, but once I got into my Minecraft-mindset, I was seeing Creepers and pixelation everywhere...

(That is a Creeper face, if you can't tell!) My son drew the face for me and I etched into the melon rind with a knife. We made melon balls to fill the rind and the boys loved saying they were eating Creeper brains. (Did I mention that the boys are 12? Could you tell?)
Another snack also acted as a game for the party: Digging for Diamonds!
Starting a few days before the party, we put plastic 'diamonds' in the bottom of several plastic cups. We added a different color juice or soda every day. On the day of the party, each boy got a cup that held several colorful layers of ice. You see, in the game Minecraft, one way to gather resources is to dig. (I guess that is why they call it Mine-craft!!)
We had a race to see who could mine the diamonds fastest.

After the kid party, we had our guests' families join ours for dinner and more fun. For that
 'after-party party' I made cupcakes, or "cut cakes" as some people call them.
When I first started Googling 'Minecraft party', I was inspired by the Creeper face cupcakes I saw on many blogs and Pinterest sites. 
A good friend who would be at our party has food dye intolerance, so we tried to make sure he'd be able to enjoy the party foods as much as anybody else.  The sodas and juices we used for the Digging for Diamonds snack used natural coloring, and the Minecraft cake had only a few spots of red dye that were easy to remove.  These Creeper cakes presented more of a challenge.
Thanks to the amazing Internet, though, I found my new best friend: avocado icing!
It sounds gross, but it was the hit of the party.  Believe it or not, the avocado icing doesn't taste at all like avocados or guacamole (which gets most of its flavor from garlic, after all!). Instead, the high fat from the avocado makes a fantastic butter replacement and the green color can't be beat! It stayed bright green for days, too.
I found my inspiration recipe from Alton Brown, but after looking at several variations on the web and experimenting the week before the party, I learned that adding some vanilla, lowering the amount of lemon, and halving the amount of avocado gave the best results for what I wanted.
My Creeper cakes aren't the most beautiful things in the world (if you want those, try Candy Bar Cupcakes' method--they are fantastic looking!!) but they were quick to make and our guests ate them ALL.
I used a favorite chocolate cake mix, baked in a glass baking dish. When cool, I cut them into equal squares, iced them with the avocado icing, and decorated them with leftover chocolate icing from the Minecraft cake.  I cut a plastic yogurt lid to be my template (see picture below) and smeared the icing with a spreader. The green icing needed to set for several hours before adding the chocolate icing.

Minecraft Party

Like so many birthday parties in this family, the story of this one starts with an enthusiastic child announcing grand plans for a really fun party. It always sounds easy enough. But then I look into where I can buy decorations, cake toppers, goody bags, and invitations-- and it hits me that no party supplier makes the theme my child wants (at least not in the US, as with the Doctor Who party)!
So, the challenge this season is: Minecraft party for a boy turning twelve!
Luckily, this time, a Google search brings forth many creative party ideas from talented people all over the world who also have children interested in Minecraft.
So, even though I can't go to Party City for this one, we can have a great time.
And even though I don't really play Minecraft (often) my son is a fantastic resource and an eager helper.
I'm not sure about your kids, but every once in a while, my kids get obsessed with memes. We turned the Minecraft Creeper meme into our invitations. Using the meme generator site, we got a great screenshot that we pasted into an invitation.  It is apparently common for a Creeper in Minecraft to compliment you and then try to steel something from you. For instance, it might say something like, "That's a nice pick ax you've got there. I think I might take it." We played on that saying: That's a nice party face you've got there; I think I might...invite you to my birthday party! We invited friends for a few hours and then had their families join ours for an evening party.
Have I ever made a better looking invitation? Absolutely (in all modesty, of course)! But please remember these boys are all 12-14 years old. They love things to be simple. I can live with that!