Just Keep Wondering: the birth of a Minecraft Wizard
By 2013, a new generation of children were starting to navigate away from broadcast television to online content. Completely at ease with navigating iPads and using search engines, children had agency over their viewing choices in a way that had previously not existed, and rapidly changing the way YouTube was being engaged with. Up until this point, online entertainment had been largely the realm of teens and adults. It was an exciting time, but it was also a time of great worry for a lot of parents. If their child was capable of advanced digital engagement, how could they protect them from possible threatening situations? How could they ensure that they remained safe whilst engaging in online content? The answer, of course, is two-fold. As in any situation, parents need to be aware of where their children ‘are’. They need to help their children understand the potential risks and the ways in which they can keep themselves safe, and they need to be supported in setting safe and healthy boundaries. Playing and exploring together provides a perfect and natural way of doing this, and allows parents and children the opportunity to discuss and explore these things whilst navigating the online space. There was suddenly a need for family-friendly, trustworthy content and this demand was shaping a new generation of YouTube creators.
At the front of that wave was a certain orange cat, whose daily cry of “Helloooo, this is Stampy!” would be greeted with delight, and sometimes groans, by parents in houses across the globe. Joseph Garrett, aka Stampylongnose was a young YouTuber who became synonymous with the meteoric rise of the new child-driven YouTube movement. Joe Garrett, as his Stampy avatar, became incredibly popular in a very short space of time. With views in the billions, and subscribers reaching over six million, a whole generation of children around the world have grown up with him as part of their cultural reference. He has been as much part of the Minecraft phenomenon as the game itself.
When our son began watching his channel, it became part of our lives too. We were very interested in the way that he used narrative within his Let’s Play videos. With his easily recognisable introduction, his familiar chapters, and his invitation to share in his joy at playing, Joe was managing to combine the familiarity of a favourite story or toy, with the intimacy of playing with a friend. Children connected with Stampy because he was them. His enthusiasm and curiosity, his exuberant and sometimes noisy excitement, reflected back their own. He was them and they were him, and from the first Helloooo, he was taken into their hearts, lives and childhoods. For parents, they knew he could be relied upon to deliver child-friendly, safe, and positive content, day after day. It was magical to watch.
Alongside the Stampy and mega-star YouTube world, existed another layer of content creators. These were the educators - the people like Johann Kruger, aka Dragnoz, who was creating complex and thrilling technical content, that allowed players of all ages access to become experts in Minecraft. Through his videos, our son was able to learn incredible skills in Redstone command blocks, which opened up the world of Minecraft engineering and electronics. Our focus as a family was to create content to inspire ideas. Bringing together play, family, technical tools, stories, and creative experiment, we wanted to get people thinking about was possible. Our early channel, Everyday Minecraft didn’t get the billion-view jackpots, but it grew gently and influenced the ways that people were seeing and playing Minecraft. With play leading the way, paths continued to open up in unexpected and wonderful directions.
At this time, one of our son’s favourite stories was Judith Kerr’s classic book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. As we lay reading it to him, he giggled and said that the Tiger looked a lot like Stampy, so we started to replace the word Tiger with Stampy. He squealed with joy at having these two worlds merge, particularly when the uninvited tiger eats all the cake! Every night, he would ask for the book, and every night he insisted it be Stampy that came to tea. We decided it would be a nice idea to try and make this as a Minecraft parody. We re-imagined this classic children’s storybook in a Minecraft world, with familiar YouTube Minecraft characters and our son playing the parts. We re-wrote the story, storyboarded the script, built the studio sets in-game, and invited some other members of the Minecraft community to help shoot the film. It looked great but we wanted it to be even better. We began to wonder…would Stampy and Squid do the voices of the Tiger and Daddy (or as he had become, Grandfather Squiddy)? We decided to ask if they would like to collaborate. What we didn’t know was that serendipity was stepping in at this moment. Stampy liked the idea and agreed to record the lines and send them over. As we arranged this, he asked about the Everyday Minecraft channel. We talked at length about Minecraft, its value, and what we were trying to do with my work. He went away, recorded the lines and took a good look at my channel.
Meanwhile, our little video was produced and our son was thrilled and amazed that, not only was this a story about him, but it also starred his heroes, Stampy and Squid. He loved it and his enjoyment was shared by many of its viewers. It remains one of our most-watched and treasured videos. For us, it also serves as a reminder of the importance of playing, having fun, and taking creative risks.
Soon after, Stampy got back in touch with a proposition. He wanted to create a new show, something that had not been done before. In this show, he wanted to tell an entertaining story at the same time as delivering educational content. He had imagined a show where children could watch, and learn with Stampy. What he needed was some sort of older, friendly mentor character, who could guide Stampy in that learning. He was in early development with Maker Studios looking for someone to be the mentor character. He had been looking for a teacher but he really liked what we had been doing with our 101 Ideas for Minecraft Learners series. Stampy asked if Adam would like to do a screen test to see if I would be a good fit with the mentor character.
Adam joined Stampy in Minecraft and together, we developed a lesson about getting Barnaby to the vets in the quickest possible way. The educational intention was to illuminate the distance, speed, and time formula. Speed is a measurement of how quickly an object moves from one place to another. It is equal to the distance travelled, divided by the time. So, basically, to find the speed of the Minecart that Barnaby was travelling in, we measured the distance and time, and from that formula we were able to find the speed. This lesson was deeply embedded in a narrative about Stampy wanting to get his pet dog, Barnaby, to the vets. This was a fantastic way of using Minecraft and storytelling in a creative and playful way to engage children in learning. It was a wonderful moment. This early idea of what would later become Wonderquest was much more akin to a Let’s Play but in the process of its early development, a couple of key people came on board. These were the writers and producers, Ryan Burns, and Patrick Muhlberger, brought in by Maker to work on the show. They would later become the well known voices of Flunkey and Lackey, the forever failing evil henchmen of Heinous.
From the very beginning of pre-production, to the end of post-productions and launch, the team had twice-weekly meetings in Skype - Adam, Stampy, and the Los Angeles based Maker team — to brainstorm narrative ideas. This was an interesting experience as, at the time, we were living in an area of rural Cumbria that was still managing on a broadband speed less than 1/2 MB upload, and 6 MB download speed. We didn’t have a soundproof studio, our recording equipment was non-professional and because of the time difference between LA and UK, the meetings were often interrupted by frequent requests for bedtime stories and goodnight cuddles!
In the early stage of development, Adam was asked to look at the Common Core Grade Two, and select twelve areas of interest that could be used in Minecraft, for example, how plants grow, how to measure trees, and how the solar system works. The range of subject areas gave Ryan and Patrick plenty of scope to start working on the stories. At the same time, our characters received their names and style. Adam’s character went from being Prof. Adam, to Wizard Keen - the most obvious changes being a considerably more flamboyant fashion sense and a rather larger tummy! Stampy acquired a Quest Vest, and Keen’s embittered brother, Heinous, was born, the naming of whom caused several conversations about the pronunciation in English and American (one of which had the potential to result in suppressed giggles and guffaws in pre-teen classrooms). At the heart of the show was the invitation to ‘keep on wondering’, encouraging children to go on their own quests for learning. The show finally had its name: Wonderquest.
Wonderquest existed in a pocket universe called Wonderberg, a place where Stampy’s character could step in to and have educational adventures. It was also home to Wizard Keen, his brother, the Wizard Heinous, and Heinous’ henchmen, Flunkey and Lackey. In Wonderberg, everyone wonders about everything, all of the time. This magical sense of wondering is generated by the Wonder Cube, that Wizard Keen is enlisted to protect. The evil Wizard Heinous tries to steal the Wonder Cube but it shatters in to wonderments, that are scattered across the universe. Wizard Keen and Stampy are called to go on a quest to find all the wonderments. A race against time, this narrative allows Stampy and Keen the chance to visit a wide range of different environments, that posed a challenge or quest that have to be solved through asking questions. By finding the answers, the Wonder Cube can be restored. Each episode would be based on a Common Core subject, delivered through incredibly engaging storytelling.
To support this learning, an animated show, called I Wonder, was also created. It was distinct, and separate, from Wonderquest, but still contained Wizard Keen, Stampy, Flunkey and Lackey. It was primarily developed to be a vehicle for concepts that were seen as too difficult to deliver within Minecraft. Maker Studios had their own animation department that worked on this. We received a weekly script and shot list and then Adam, Stampy, Ryan, Patrick would all meet in the Wonderberg map. What started out as an extension of a Let’s Play concept, became a fully scripted and performed Minecraft narrative show, with music score, post-production, and animation. Wonderquest was officially launched in April 2015. It was groundbreaking. Here was a global entertainment brand that was educational, but not in a formal way; engaging, fun, satisfying, and playful. It brought together lots of talent and skills to work within Minecraft itself, from planning, filming, building, and even playing.
Once again, it gave agency to young people to invest their time and energy in learning. It also gave the opportunity for parents, and teachers, to watch a YouTube video with their children or students that would spark discussion. They could then download the same map that Stampy and Wizard Keen had explored and play it themselves. Through its engaging and approachable space, that invites creative and playful exploration, Minecraft had provided a global platform for interactive education at its very best and fulfilled a need for safe, informative, and engaging YouTube video content.
How to change the world, one block at a time...Let serendipity play its part.
How to change the world, one block at a time...Be open to discovering new things.
Cool Free Minecraft content:
BY EVERBLOOM GAMES
Logic0 is a puzzle game designed to teach you how to think like a programmer. With 50 levels to master, this map is a brainbuster for all ages and skill-levels! * Learn to code using robots! * Fill out the “Instruction Board” using various commands to tell the Logic0 robot how to complete the puzzle * 50 unique levels - Everbloom Studios
JAVA (Mac, PC, Linux)
DESCRIPTION: Wonder Quest Season 1
The Wonder Quest downloadable Map contains the actual map, mechanics and locations used in the Wonder Quest Series. You can now fully explore The world of Wonder Quest and even act out your favourite scenes.
Areas to explore:
Charley Tan's Spaceship shop
The full solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune)
The inside of a tree
Visit StacyPlays farm
Charley Tan's Bee Shop
Keen and Heinous childhood home
Heinous' HAHA Hut
Evan's riverside cottage
Steal the Wonder Gem
Fight Fight Fight googlies as Keen or Stampy
Build the telescope
Arrange the planets in the correct order
Build the spaceship
Travel around the solar system
Stack Giants and Enderman
Try to find Pirate Cakebeards treasure
Shrink to the size of an ant and explore the inside of a tree
Fight deranged rabbits
Have a horse race with obstacles to Wonderburg
Buy and Release BEEEEE's
See the water cycle in action
Release the SQUIDS!!!
About Wonder Quest:
Wonder Quest is a spinoff YouTube channel starring Stampy from the original YouTube channel, Stampylonghead, created by Joseph Garrett. Wonder Quest was launched by Joseph Garrett and Adam Clarke in collaboration with Maker Studios allowing for a professionally scripted and produced series that could be used in classrooms. The channel stars Stampy with his friend Wizard Keen and follows their adventures as they try and save Wonderberg from Heinous, the evil wizard.
What we are playing
Explore a world brimming with life in which you collect pollen, defy dangerous wasps and save your hive. Play with others in three game modes, including co-op and PvP on split screen.
What we are reading
That's Why I Love Minecraft!
Written by Tony Walsh & illustrated by Adam Clarke
What we are selling - Wizard and Wyld
LAND OF LOVE - Minecraft Marketplace
Welcome to Amylee33s's Land of Love, a roleplay ready world for you and your friends to visit and enjoy. Explore all your favourite places, and discover new and exciting secrets and mini-games.
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: email@example.com
Next week - Minecraft and theatre…!