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A friend of mine has a 10 year old boy who is a MAJOR Minecraft fan, so I interviewed her about his obsession and how she feels about it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this clever building game, it utilizes simple graphics and a complex formula for maximum creativity.  The thing I find really interesting is how collaborative the game is, and how committed players of all ages build and share creations.  My friend’s kid spends about as much time watching Minecraft YouTube videos as he does actually playing the game!

Here’s her inside scoop on the phenomenon…

Minecraft invaded my home nearly 2 years ago. At first, when my son started playing, I couldn’t understand what all the hype was about. Creeper, red stone, iron ore, pickaxe – it all looked very boring and senseless. He finally talked me into playing, and I was immediately HOOKED! As a parent of a 10-year-old, I quickly determined I would rather have him creating, engineering, and building rather than shooting and fighting.

No idea what Minecraft is about?  Check out this South Park parody that explains it to adults:

 

What’s the point???

Minecraft is a building game, pure and simple. If your kid is into LEGO in real life, he or she will probably adore construction with virtual blocks.

 

The official angle is that Minecraft is a ‘sandbox’ game that allows players to create their own options for play within a flexible system.

The creative and building aspects of Minecraft allow players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. Other activities in the game include exploration, gathering resources, crafting, and combat. Gameplay in its commercial release has two principal modes: survival, which requires players to acquire resources and maintain their health and hunger; and creative, where players have an unlimited supply of resources, the ability to fly, and no health or hunger. A third gameplay mode named hardcore is the same as survival, differing only in difficulty; it is set to hardest setting and respawning is disabled, forcing players to delete their worlds upon death. [Source: Wikipedia]

 

What’s it all about?

Minecraft is about creating with building blocks, yes, but it’s also about so much more. Minecraft can be played by a single player as well as multiple players simultaneously. It is supported both in online as well as offline mode. The offline mode of play is especially useful for people who get limited time with the Internet. Ideally it should be played multi-player online to enjoy all the aspects of the game. My son plays with his friends, and it’s cool to see how they assign different tasks to each other so that each contributes to the overall construction effort. They spend hours building, foraging, tending – and when night falls, defending their lives against the creepers and spiders.

Minecraft for the beginner

Your first shelter in Minecraft:

 

Planning and creativity

My favorite part of playing Minecraft is building railways and roller coasters. I’m still no “pro”, so to demonstrate the possibilities, I check out Minecraft roller coaster videos. It’s amazing to see all of the detail and work that goes into creating!

Beetle Juice – A Minecraft Roller Coaster

 

The Night Rail Before Christmas: A Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Minecraft and Education

As video game teaching advocate Stephen Reid put it, “teachers can look at the tools and encourage learning from them regardless”. [source: GameSpot]. Reid also pointed to other examples, such as using Minecraft’s large maps to demonstrate population displacement in geography lessons, and its varied biomes to discuss the growth of plant life on earth. There’s also Red Stone, an element in Minecraft that’s been used to create everything from simple railway switching systems, to fully working computer systems. The principles of Red Stone–being so similar to that of real-world circuits and logic gates–mean that some teachers have found it a compelling way to demonstrate electronics to students.

Ways to play

You can buy Minecraft for PC/Mac for a one-time fee of $29.95. Minecraft: Pocket Edition is available for iOS and Android, and Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition is available on the XBLA Marketplace.

Et Cetera

Anybody that dives into this game will get addicted. I’m continually impressed with the organization MOJANG and how they continue to provide stellar updates for players. In addition, texture packs are available to amp up creativity.  Here’s one that is truly inspired:

Minecraft Bikini Bottom Rebuild

Are you a Minecraft fiend?  Show off some of your creations by posting links in the comments!

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