Just Keep Playing:
How Minecraft Can Change The World
Welcome to The Digital Noodle Newsletter, created by Adam Clarke and Victoria Bennett. Digital Noodle is an inclusive newsletter about digital learning, videogames, creativity, and educating at home. It is aimed at supporting those who have minimal experience in gaming and want to discover more about how it can be used positively.
image by Adam Clarke
Often, as we grow older, we lose sight of the joy held in creative play. Life always seems to have something else more important that needs doing. Yet, what is more important than play? Ask any child and they sure won’t put cleaning the loo above seeing what happens when you mix that mud and splash it all about! Until we are conditioned out of it, play, curiosity and creativity are the natural states of being. We do not seek permission or validation to play — we just do! When we give permission for ourselves to engage in our own creative process, our natural and energetic questioning mind pushes forward into new discoveries, inventions and expressions. We discover more about ourselves and our own ability to make positive change happen. We also have a lot of fun. But why focus on Minecraft?
Minecraft gives children access to something that is all too often missing in our outcome-driven culture. It offers a global digital space for play and collaboration. There are many scholarly examinations into the nature of what play is but for us, it comes down to three things:
am I choosing to do this?
is it meaningful to me?
am I enjoying it?
This is what we observe when we watch our son play Minecraft. First off, it is important that he is choosing to play. Because he is choosing to do it, he is more committed to engaging with the experience. His motivation brings meaning to his play. By allowing for the imaginative response, curiosity, and thinking, Minecraft gives him space to safely explore, experiment with, and express ideas. Finally, but of utmost importance, he is having fun. Watching him play Minecraft, we witness him move through experiences of joy, intensity and mindfulness that is similar to the state of meditation. In other words, playing feels good.
image by Adam Clarke
Jane McGonigal, author, speaker and Director of Games Research and Development at the Institute for the Future, summarises this experience within video-gaming as the experience of Flow, and Fiero. Flow, a term coined by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in his groundbreaking work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, is the feeling of intense concentration and efficiency. Key aspects of flow include a challenge with clear goals, well-established rules for action, and the increased difficulty over time. It is a sense of satisfaction and excitement that comes from creative accomplishment and heightened engagement. Fiero is a term often used by game designers to describe that feeling of emotional elation after a huge discovery or victory within a game. According to McGonigal, it is “...a craving for challenges we can overcome, battles we can win, and dangers we can vanquish…”.
Minecraft is very successful in creating a space where these things can be experienced. It is designed to offer a play experience that is both is functional, constructive, symbolic, and rule-based, thus bringing together Piaget’s four stages of play. It also allows for the experience of flow and fiero. It allows us to try out ideas and find solutions to problems, to create from our imaginations as well as pit our skills against threats in order to survive. We can quest and we can create narratives. We can play it alone or be part of a community of peers. We can compete or collaborate. By combining these fundamentals of play, Minecraft, as a game, literally induces a sense that we can achieve whatever we can imagine and a state of intense, positive feeling when we do. No wonder 126 million people are playing it!
But can it change the world? McGonigal also talks about ‘the science of positivity’, and the need as a game designer to ask the following important question: how can this game lead to real and positive impacts? She breaks this down into the following five key points that a game must help players cultivate:
the full range of positive emotions and engagement;
stronger social connections and relationships;
more resilience in the face of challenges and obstacles;
more ambitious and surprising accomplishments;
service to something bigger than oneself.
As a game, Minecraft is leading to ‘real and positive impacts’ and achieving the five points laid out by McGonigal, not only in the personal lives of the players and content creators, but also in the shaping and connecting of ideas on a global, and culturally significant scale, from environmentalism and urban design to heritage and education. More interestingly, it is doing this whilst remaining true to a playful and fun experience. Through its creativity, and accessibility, Minecraft has shifted the framework by which we view gaming, play, and learning and, in doing so, has opened up new ways of thinking and working together. By encouraging the creativity of a huge community of players and inspiring content creators to keep on coming up with more and more ways in which the game can be used to engage audiences, Minecraft is changing the ways in which people engage with narratives. It is also challenging the ways in which we view and understand video-games. Matt Booty, Head of Microsoft Studios, sees its potential within the bigger picture;
“...Just as Microsoft Powerpoint is a fundamental tool for creating presentations, Minecraft is a platform for innovation that encourages player creativity...” (Matt Booty, Microsoft)
We have been lucky enough to be involved in this movement from the start. It has been an exhilarating and inspiring adventure to be part of, as well as an important one — never more so than now. As a global community, we are living in interesting times. Faced with very real threats and challenges across the world, and to the planet itself, there has never been a more urgent time to find creative solutions and pathways to change. In all times of flux and challenge, creativity pushes its way forward to enable us to discover how to do this. When we watch our son and his friends play online together - connecting from all parts of the world to play Minecraft - we see a future generation of makers, thinkers, creators and communicators. As they shout with excitement, or quietly contemplate the solution to a building problem, or collaborate with each other in serious, intense engagement, they are developing the skills needed to build a better future and be the successful citizens of tomorrow. They are doing this, not by sitting in a classroom and being told what they must do but by discovering for themselves what they are interested in, who they are, what they enjoy, and how they can make change happen. They are doing this by playing together and through that play, they are using Minecraft to lead the way.
image by Adam Clarke
Minecraft continues to pioneer and provide an exciting and expansive platform for creative engagement. Through the generation of innovative ways of using the game and through the ever-expanding access to the game itself, Minecraft is continuing to enable people to discover new ways of connecting, sharing ideas, and learning but it is not the end of the story. There will continue to be new games, new platforms, and new ideas that will engage new audiences, and cultivate change and awareness, but Minecraft will always be at the vanguard of that cultural shift. It has secured its position as a game-changer in the ways in which we learn, communicate and play, and the role that video-games have in that process.
What does the future hold for us? As artists and content creators, and as a home-educating family, we work to support the positive movement towards a more open, tolerant, creative, and sustainable world. Whether this is breaking blocks, building code, or making mud-pies, we continue to say yes to the adventure, one playful experience at a time.
© 2020 Adam Clarke & Victoria Bennett. All rights reserved. The moral rights of the authors have been asserted.
Building Memories: An Intergenerational Minecraft Project
Minecraft is a great place to build together. Building Memories is a great project to encourage collaborative, intergenerational learning and is also suitable for solo work. It brings together storytelling, interviewing and interpersonal skills, measurements and dimensions, visual design and architecture, and is an accessible project that gives the power of expertise to the player, not the adult.
image by Adam Clarke
For this project, you are going to build your home in Minecraft. This build is called a Representational Build, which means you need to keep it as accurate as possible. To do this, you will need to draw out a plan of your home by measuring its rooms and making notes of where the doors, windows, stairs and internal features are. You may also want to make notes about the outside of the house.
Using this paper plan and collected data, you are now going to build your house in Minecraft. Using a block scale of 1:1 (1 metre to 1 block is an easy one to use), measure out the home. How many floors has it got? How many rooms? Doors? Windows? Make sure you plan out for the whole house. Remember to think about the blocks you can use. Think about the block types and styles that you might use. These could be the usual house-building blocks such as brick, wood, and stone but think about what other blocks you could use? Think beyond the name of the block and look at colour, tone, texture to find ones that have similar qualities to the things you want to build. What about Polished Granite, Concrete Powder, Andesite, Snow, Pistons and Soul Sand to start with?
Once you have built your house, why not share it with others? You can do this by inviting friends to your world and show them around your house. Or you can take screenshots and print them out to make a journal of your build. You could include real photos and notes from your planning stage in here too, to show your process.
The fun doesn’t stop there though. There are also lots of ways that Building Memories can be expanded to look at community, history or heritage spaces.
Building Memories is featured in more detail in our book, The Unofficial Life Hacks Lab For Kids: How To Stay Sharp, Have Fun, Avoid Bullies and Be the Creative Ruler of Your Universe (Quarry Books, 2019)
Amazon review: My boy is a Minecraft freak and loved this book. We've had some issue with him making friends at school and thought why not let him learn some techniques and tips from a book that uses references from something he likes. My boy is about half the size of others in his age group and he's very much a target to be picked on by others... since reading this book, he employs little things here and there to overcome some of the struggles that come with being different. Now, he has a few friends and he won them over by being himself. In his words, "it was fun and made a lot of good points. You don't have to be big or fast to be a cool person." I recommend this book to everyone with kids, especially school-aged kids.
Cool Free Minecraft content:
Bedrock (pc, console)
MARINE BIOLOGIST ROLEPLAY
Dive into the exciting life of a marine biologist! Explore several ocean biomes while discovering amazing creatures.
Peaceful scavenger hunt based gameplay
20 new aquatic animals
16 hidden collectables
Detailed roleplay lab and aquarium
JAVA (Mac, PC, Linux)
The Library (A Community Dropper Collaboration)
[Note: This map was created in Minecraft 1.4.5 please use the launcher's profile editor to create a profile using that version of the game. I cannot guarantee this works in the latest version of Minecraft]
45 challengers submitted 1 “drop” as part of my challenge
4 additional drops were created by myself and the Map Makers After Hours Podcast Stream (MMAHPS)
All 49 drops were sequenced by me, into a large collaboration map
Bigre contributed a special drop to make a total of 50!
Watch the trailer :
Discuss the map: http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/1174807-Library
Other useful stuff…
Roblox for learning
Roblox is another very popular game that has started to enter the educational arena, check out this link to get you started on learning more about learning!
What we are playing
In Grounded, players are shrunken to the size of an ant and tasked with surviving in the unique micro-world of a suburban backyard. Players must gather, craft and build bases with everyday objects found within the yard, searching for life-saving resources and living alongside giant, peaceful insects while fighting to survive massive hostile inhabitants.
image from https://www.igdb.com/games/grounded/presskit
Grounded provides a mix of environmental and narrative-driven storytelling. Set in a versatile, handcrafted sandbox structure it allows players to create their own experience from the ground up. Tasks that may seem approachable when human-sized become a challenge in this dangerous backyard landscape. This familiar yet fantastical world can be navigated solo or in four-person co-operative multiplayer, where players work together to complete missions or explore the intricately detailed world.
What we are reading
Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster
What we are selling - Wizard and Wyld
ALPHABET DINO-COASTER - Minecraft Marketplace
Alphabet Dino-Coaster is an alphabetized rollercoaster ride with fun, informative and memorable poems about dinosaurs. The ride starts on an amazing research ship and will take you around Dino Island. You can hop off the ride, read or listen to the poems, and learn about each dinosaur.
Book a session with us…
Want to learn more about home-educating, video-games and how to make the most of digital online learning spaces? We can offer bespoke 1:1 video-linked consultancy and small-group webinars for parents, educators and organisations. Email us for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week - A short history of Minecraft and its many versions… what that means for you and why it’s important!