“Can you teleport me?” “How do I fly?” “I need a sword.” “What are you building?” These eclectic exclamations are the sounds of a room full of teens playing Minecraft (www.minecraft.net). We play every other Wednesday in Chicopee (MA) Public Library’s computer lab, often filling all ten computers, and are occasionally joined by teens playing from home. They play freely, building whatever suits their fancies. As I’ve watched these teens discover skills in the game, I’ve been thinking about Minecraft’s potential for both structured and unstructured activities.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft (sample pictured) is an open-ended, creative game where players roam a landscape made of different kinds of blocks that can be used to build just about anything. Clicking blocks breaks them and adds them to your inventory. Then you can craft items and place blocks to build structures. Animals and monsters, or mobs, also made of blocks, roam the landscape and provide resources and adversaries. The simple graphics, reminiscent of video games from 20 years ago, create an immersive environment in their blocky aesthetic. The game has a broad appeal—it’s as interesting and appropriate for eight-year-olds as it is for their parents and anyone in between.
Developed by Swedish programmer Marcus Persson, also known as Notch, and his company Mojang, the full version of the game was released in November 2011 after several beta versions. The object of the game, in as much as there is a specific object, is to explore, create, and survive. An individual license for the game costs $26.95. With one license you can download the launcher as many times as you want and multiple users can play single-player games simultaneously. In order to play multiplayer games, each user must have their own license.
How Educators & Authors Use Minecraf:
Joel Levin, The Minecraft Teacher: minecraftteacher.net.
Andre Chercka, Digital Game Based Learning: www.gamebased.tumblr.com.
Massively Minecraft Network: a community for educators, parents, researchers, and volunteers: http://www.minecraft.jokaydia.com (requires sign up).