Blurring the lines between gaming, education and popular culture, it’s seems as though Minecraft has been around forever, but in fact this extremely popular game has only just reached double figures.
Jens Bergensten and the Mojang team who have developed Minecraft into one of the world’s most famous computer games are currently celebrating Minecraft’s 10th birthday with live events, special competitions, new maps and the release of the much anticipated Minecraft Earth, which enables players to interact with real world using augmented reality.
From humble beginnings 10 years ago, when the first version of Minecraft (then known as Cave Game) was created in just six days, the game has secured its place in popular culture today with over 100 million users worldwide, highly sought after official merchandise, a planned theme park and a Minecraft movie scheduled for 2022.
Minecraft’s popularity has been attributed to a number of factors including, the easy with which new players can get to grips with the game, the ability to explore and that it is the digital equivalent of Lego. But as Michael Fulton, a writer and Minecraft enthusiast, explains Minecrafts’ biggest attraction is, ‘‘the game’s seemingly infinite walls. Having no boundaries in terms of creative limits.”
Minecraft has also given thousands of gamers the opportunity to create their own videos, providing them with an avenue into the entertainment industry. On YouTube there are now hundreds of thousands of Minecraft videos which have accumulated over 436 billion views in total. The popularity of Minecraft videos on YouTube has enabling thousands of Minecraft fans to earn a living playing the game and sharing their adventures with the world.
Minecraft is unique in many ways, but one thing which really makes it distinct from other popular games such as Angry Birds, Pokemon Go and Fortnite, is the game’s popularity among teachers and its role in education. Minecraft is currently used in over 7,000 classrooms, in 40 different countries around the world. Educators’ widespread approval of Minecraft is in stark contrast to the unfavourable opinions most teachers have towards most online games, with some even accusing Fortnite of ‘destroying schools’.
Minecraft’s educational benefits stem from the opportunities the game provides players to develop higher order thinking skills – creativity, problem solving, analytical thinking, decision making, planning and collaboration.
At its most simple, Minecraft is about placing blocks upon one and other to create structures. This simplicity gives gamers the freedom for creativity and self-expression, pushing their imaginations to the limit and allowing them to be creative in ways not possible in the real world.
The application of analytical thinking and problem-solving is an essential part of Minecraft. In order to accomplish what they wish, gamers must apply higher-level thinking skills, solving geometric problems and constructing complex shapes. What’s great about Minecraft is that these skills are deployed and developed enthusiastically – unlike how most of us tackle challenging mathematics problems!
Because there is no way to ‘win’ or even ‘complete’ Minecraft, players are continually required to make their own decisions about what they wish to do. This empowerment develops confidence and a sense of independence as players create their own worlds.
Minecraft is also an excellent way to develop communicative, collaborative and social skills. In survival mode, gamers can work together to build shelter and survive Minecrafts unforgiving nights. In creative mode, players work together negotiating designs, sharing responsibilities and designating roles, activities which help them to realise the importance of clear communication and the benefits of teamwork.
Minecraft is an incredible platform for developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) knowledge and skills. By playing Minecraft, gamers become more familiar with technology and software, gain experience with video game design principles and without even really realizing it, apply mathematics to solve real-world problems.
Having been around for 10 years, a growing number of gamers who grew up playing Minecraft at home have already moved on to successful careers in architecture, engineering, coding and video production.
So, if over the past 10 years you’ve spend endless hours searching, digging, constructing and destroying the Minecraft landscape, don’t worry – you’ve no reason to feel bad, playing Minecraft has actually been preparing you for the challenges of higher education and the workplace!