A pixelated landscape featuring dinosaurs and a medley of evolving structures filled the movie screen as around 100 kids and parents gathered at the AMC Loews Boston Common Monday afternoon for a virtual building extravaganza. Laptops in hand, some munched popcorn as their eyes darted back and forth from the big screen to their own devices.
They were there to play Minecraft, a collaborative, construction-based online ecosystem with more than 100 million registered users. It’s one of the most popular video games in the world, not only to play but to watch others navigate and narrate on YouTube.
Parker Coppins, 20, who goes by the username ParkerGames was one such YouTube celebrity there to promote the event.
“A lot of gamers, they’re used to being shut in, sheltered,” he said. But when they walk into the theater, “their eyes light up like it’s Disney World.”
With its choppy, colorful graphics, the game’s premise is quite simple: characters walk, dig, build, and battle their way through different worlds, choosing either to play in “survival” or “creative” mode.
Monday’s event, featuring a red carpet and 100-minute gaming session, was hosted by a new in-theater gaming league, making its way across more than 80 cinemas in a 25-city summer tour.
Brett Morris, Super League Gaming’s president, said the idea came as he and a group of dads reminisced about their days playing Pac-Man and Asteroids at the arcade, and a desire to reintroduce a social aspect to gaming.
“There’s this stereotypical gamer that I think people associate with being an introvert ... but you realize pretty quickly that they don’t necessarily want to game by themselves. That’s their only option,” Morris said. “Once they’re around a bunch of like-minded kids it’s a different story. They come out of their shell.”
Alex Barnett, 15, of Easton, said he usually plays in his room and has met at least 20 people he considers good friends through Minecraft -- Skyping fellow gamers as far away as Singapore. But sitting next to his competitors and watching everything unfurl on the big screen offered a different experience, one he said he appreciated.
Sporting a Minecraft-themed hat and hand-painted sneakers with a game design from Etsy, Ryan Gildart, 9, of South Portland, Maine, came Monday ready to build.
Dubbed an “all-day” gamer by his mom, Gildart has his own YouTube channel and said he enjoys making statues, recalling one of SpongeBob.
For many parents, Morris said, the event is a chance to see their kids in a different environment, one slightly more akin to Little League than the solitude of a screen in a bedroom.
This fall, Super League Gaming is expanding the model and launching a six-week tournament, which Morris said he hopes will connect gamers beyond the screen.
Jessica Arsenian, 10, of Wakefield, R.I., spends her time building brown and pink houses, complete with gardens, pools, and secret apartments — some modeled off things she sees on HGTV.
Her grandmother, Carol Stuart, 72, said Jessica often sits on her lap and plays on her iPad, and has mentioned wanting to be an architect.
Girl Scouts and 4-H were popular when she was young, said Jessica’s mom, Sherstine Arsenian, 46.
“Now you get together and play Minecraft,” she said.
The game tour stops in Braintree on Tuesday and Danvers on Wednesday.