Minecraft for Dummies! April 13, 2013Posted by stem4kidsinfo in Uncategorized.
Minecraft is an extremely popular ‘sandbox’ or open world game, developed starting in 2010 by a small company in Sweden called Mojang. The game quickly grew to a massive player base, with new content being released constantly in the form of free updates. Modifications or just mods can be added to the game in the form of user-created content thanks to the game’s open-source code. The game itself seems quite rudimentary at first, featuring a grassy, natural looking world made entirely out of giant pixels. As my father frequently tells me, “we didn’t suffer through Pong so you could play games with bad graphics too”, but worry not- texture packs and HD patchers can greatly improve the graphics quality (assuming your computer is good enough- Minecraft is surprisingly heavy on the ol’ CPU!). But I’m not going to tell you how to play the game- that’s why you should buy the book. 2. What does this have to do with STEM?
This is a very good point, but I argue that Minecraft serves a large purpose as an educational tool. Young kids naturally gravitate to the simplistic look and feel of the game as well as the open-endedness, while many adults participate in more challenging modes of play, creating devices using an in-game logic system, designing customized maps for others to play, modifying the game code for a different experience, or even adding rules and restrictions to create a competitive mode to play with friends. Minecraft has an appeal to an incredible range of age groups, and that’s what makes it such an amazing educational tool.
The first step (for me at least) in teaching anyone anything is cooperation. If the kids don’t want to learn, they won’t. You can’t force learning. I’ve heard some amazing stories of Minecraft being used to teach elementary school students and kids with learning disabilities (especially autism), by showing them to work together and share resources to survive as a group. Moreover, some of the finer mechanics of the game can be used to teach Math (What’s the most efficient use of my iron? How can I get the most emeralds from this villager?) and programming (a good friend of mine learned computer logic at a summer camp using the in-game circuitry), as well as interpersonal skills, teamwork, and business (alright, that might be a stretch, but those villagers are vicious negotiators). Sadly, many middle schools have started blocking Minecraft from their desktops, laptops, and wifi. Stories are constantly flying around the news about children cutting class or skipping homework to play Minecraft, and honestly I find the response of removing access to the game absurd. The only way to change a child’s focus is cooperation, again- if a child plays a game instead of working, removing that game accomplishes nothing besides forcing the child to find a new game, and makes the student even less interested in cooperating with the school. Remove Minecraft from the wifi, and kids will play on LAN networks. Remove it from the desktops, kids will play at home. Remove it from their laptops, you’re now infringing on their privacy and they’ll STILL find some way to play the game. Seriously, there’s worse things a middle school student could be doing outside of class anyway. Let’s not go there. So: Minecraft for Dummies! Everything you need to know about this game. And I mean basically everything. Those 4 paragraphs you just read up there? Jacob probably covered all of that somewhere in the book with some citations and places to read more. Minecraft for Dummies will walk you through getting started, teach you everything you could possibly want to know, teach you how to make your own creations, how to mod the game for even MORE content, and then give you a plate of cookies and a hot cocoa and ask you not to be a stranger on your way out. There’s really not all that much I can say about the Dummies book that the book itself doesn’t say. I’ve been playing the game for about 3 years now (I received a gift copy just before the game entered Beta, and was playing the free Classic mode long before that) and I still learned things I didn’t know about the game when I read this. The book is current to version 1.4.5, but Jacob provides links to online articles containing information on updates and other things that didn’t make it into the game (what a bro)! The book itself is only about $5, and a copy of Minecraft is just about $25. That’s probably the best $30 you’ll ever spend. Buy copies for your family! Buy copies for your friends! The game is a thousand times better in multiplayer and no I’m not getting paid by Mojang what makes you say that.
In all seriousness, buy the game. Play it with your siblings, play it with your kids, play it with your friends. Just don’t play it in Math class, please, unless you’re working with Redstone that day.