Digital Materials/Resources and Emerging Technologies
I originally purchased the popular game Minecraft over a year ago, after observing it being played by children I know. Not long after, I began observing children in the library I work watching instructional Minecraft videos on YouTube. In effect, I wanted to see what the big deal was, and why this game seemed so popular amongst preteens and young teenagers. Until now I had not actually had a chance to play my copy of the game (due to other commitments – life!), and maybe this was because it seemed slightly out of my comfort zone and quite unlike the games I usually do play.
Minecraft is a called a sandbox game – where the player creates the game themselves by manipulating the world within it. Each player therefore has a different experience because there are no specific steps or goals, or a stated objective (Cooney, n.d.), which forces you to explore. The game has basic 16-bit graphics and is basically a virtual landscape where people dig holes to collect blocks. What you do with your blocks however, is what counts. This is where your imagination comes in. There is also variable game play as well, with four modes: survival mode, creative mode, hardcore mode and spectator mode (Raven, 2014).
Players begin on any number of randomly generated terrains – blocks that make up mountains, deserts, prairie, or even clouds. Survival depends on creating buildings and items from raw materials in the world around you. These items might include a pickaxe or shovel or even a stove to cook on. Perhaps without being consciously aware of it, children are developing skills in creative thinking, math and geometry and maybe even a bit of geology. However, probably the most obvious are visuospatial reasoning skills—“learning how to manipulate objects in space in a way that helps them create dynamic structures” (The Atlantic, 2014). Children and youth are also learning how to collaborate and problem solve while improving critical thinking skills which support motivation for learning.
After completing this task I learned of the importance of using games to connect, engage and collaborate with young people. By using games such as Minecraft, libraries can facilitate community building activities, engage with young people, and extend the traditional role of libraries. This enables youths to do their gaming in a social environment. The socialisation that takes place around gaming is something often overlooked when assessing the value of video games in the sphere of learning. This is an area that hasn’t received enough attention within libraries. An appropriate investigation should be undertaken that includes hands-on use of video games replicating the experience of the child. Only through such a practical assessment can a decision be made on whether to include video games as a resource within libraries.
Finally, Minecraft helped me to gain an insight into how children think, and consequently how they learn. For me, the game is unusual in that it did not follow my expectations and the thinking patterns that exist in most other video games. Perhaps the difference in playing this game as an adult is that children (and youth) approach Minecraft without fear or hesitation, without second guessing, and all while being creative. The different approach used in Minecraft deserves more analysis that could reveal some new ideas and approaches for instructing children.
Cooney, M. (n.d.). What is Minecraft? Retrieved from http://parentinfo.org/article/what-is- minecraft
Microsoft. (2014). Minecraft: Xbox One edition. Retrieved from https://store.xbox.com/en-US/Xbox-One/Games/Minecraft-Xbox-One-Edition/582e7bcc-11bc-4702-ab1b-b31566f8e327
Raven, D. (2014). What is Minecraft and why are millions of children addicted to it? Retrieved from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/technology/what-minecraft- millions-children-addicted-3970439
TheAtlantic.com (2014). Beyond ‘screen time’: what Minecraft teaches kids. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/04/beyond-screen-time-what- a-good-game-like-minecraft-teaches-kids/361261/