■ The Minecraft author, 46, talks about VR, robot vacs and giving up on online privacy
Why did you add a VR element to your Minecraft tie-in novel?
I read an article about a dentist who found that when his patients use VR goggles he can do dental work on them without causing discomfort. So I thought what if you could use VR as a means to heal people, which gave me the idea for the book. The main character has been in an accident, she is left with severe injuries and enters this VR world, which ends up causing her more troubles.
Why is Minecraft so popular?
It appeals to a really wide range of people. Kids who wouldn’t usually be interested in video games enjoy Minecraft because of the building aspect. I have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son who both used to play Minecraft together even though they have very different tastes. They both play Fortnite now but my son still plays Minecraft. I played the VR version when I was preparing to write this book. If you’re in it for a while you feel completely cut off from the real world.
What did you play when you were younger?
Pac-Man. I played it for hours and for so long I broke the controller. It just stopped working. My mother said, ‘Well, you broke it,’ and we never got a replacement.
Does too much screen time for kids mean they read less?
It’s hard to avoid it, everyone has a phone. As a parent you can just give them a set amount of screen time and that’s it. I don’t have to make my daughter read any more, she does it herself, but I still do with my son.
How ‘smart’ is your home?
We have Google Home Assistants and a Neato remote-controlled vacuum cleaner. We can say ‘do the vacuuming’ and it starts by itself. It does it at night-time if we forget.
Does it get stuck?
It does sometimes but my husband has discovered that if you put magnetic strips around the things it gets stuck on then it avoids those areas. That was a good discovery.
Are you concerned your home assistants are recording everything you say?
I think we’re beyond that now. I’ve given up the idea there is any privacy anywhere. It’s very obvious we’re being tracked just from looking at the adverts we’re shown. There’s nothing I can personally do about it other than refuse to use anything and who is going to do that? Without hard legislation, this is the world we’re going to be living in.
What’s been your most disappointing tech purchase?
App-enabled mugs to keep your coffee warm. I’ve only had them for two weeks and they’ve already stopped working.
Minecraft: The Crash (Century) is out now