Enjoying Minecraft

File this post as another one under “fun stuff” that I’ve been doing with my oldest daughter while enjoying some vacation time from work.  It’s a wonderful game called Minecraft that is much more than it seems for a number of reasons.

In this day and age of high definition graphics and games that push the technology envelop on systems like the PS3 and xBox, Minecraft on the surface seems like something a decade old.  There are no high end graphics.  No complex controls. No engaging cinematic cut scenes or movie-like storyline.  Minecraft is a game that is about using building blocks.  The whole world/environment in this game is block-like (see the video after the break to see what this looks like).  Your character begins the game with nothing and you must begin to harvest and mine materials that you can use to begin building things.  The first order of business is to build shelter and this must be done before nightfall (more on this later).  As you mine items you can combine things to create new materials.  For example, if I mine blocks of sand from a beach and then put them into a furnace (which also needs to be created) and stoke the furnace with coal or wood – then I get blocks of glass which I can use in construction.

I’d first heard of Minecraft in an article about a teacher who was using it with his students.  He’d created a world inside the Minecraft environment and student who entered it had to work together to complete tasks.  They learned about scarcity of resources (for example coal which you mine out of the ground can be hard to find, precious stones like diamond to make tools is even harder to find), the need to replenish the environment (for example if you chop trees for wood to construct things but don’t replant trees…you will run short of easily available wood).   The game is simple but fun.  It can be challenging as you strive to build more and more complex things.  It also is fun because there is the “race against time” aspect of the game as well because as night falls in the evening, creatures come out that can end your character’s life.  That’s why it’s so important the first day to build a simple but functional shelter and to create a series of torches.  You can turn that element of the game off, but it loses it’s sense of “pace” if you do that we found.

My daughter and I have been having a ball playing together.  I setup a Minecraft server at home on one of our computers, then each of us is able to enter the Minecraft world from our respective computers and work together to create the world we want.  I like it because:

  • first and foremost it’s fun
  • it challenges you to think creatively
  • it challenges you to work collaboratively
  • it presents endless things you can do inside the environment

I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking to introduce your child (or yourself 😉 ) to a new type of gaming experience that goes beyond simple button mashing and lends itself to other creative uses.

To see a well done video on the basics of Minecraft, watch the excellent clip below.  Happy mining!

Categories: Kids

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