Edit: Unfortunately I can’t post a direct link to the video (hello monetization!) so I’ll post a link to polygon.com’s article where the video is available.
This is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen done in Minecraft. Two friends, one a designer and one a programer, have decided to recreate the original Legend of Zelda within Minecraft. LoZ is, of course, a two dimensional game. But they have turned the game into a fully functional, 3 dimensional, exact replica of the LoZ map! While this is technically still a work in progress, the map is fantastic!
Let’s take a look at what the actual Nintendo Legend of Zelda map looks like.
And here’s a look at the in-game map showing an overview of the world.
That’s some serious dedication … and keep in mind that buildings, mountains, trees and other in-game objects are three dimensional!
The true beauty of this project is exploring the limits of what Minecraft can do, as well as the incredible ingenuity required to make everything work. On a smaller scale, this has some exciting implications in the classroom. Historical events, real cities and other places can be recreated and characters or historical figures can be programmed to interact with players as they explore the map. Puzzles, hidden treasures and monsters can all be included to make the game interactive, realistic or just more fun!
The guys behind this project have done an incredible job and it’s worth keeping an eye on the project to see how it turns out. Here’s a link to their website and reddit discussion thread:
… it’s so exciting to see the iconic room with the old man and see the words “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this!” appear on the screen.
Regardless of your views of education, learning, gaming, gamification, serious games or any other buzzword that is thrown around, games like Minecraft are proving themselves to win people over for their inherent “fun” factor and potential as a learning tool. Not everyone agrees that games can be useful for learning and sometimes that isn’t even the point that those of us who extol Minecraft’s virtues are trying to make.
One recent article considered how much fun Minecraft was and made the point that has no educational value, yet, still has value as a tool which promotes creativity. Again, that’s the whole point of Minecraft. Whether or not learning is directly implied, Minecraft is fun and has value that is (without a doubt) tangible. Minecraft is a creativity game that allows children to express their creative side through building and construction. It’s a cooperation game that encourages players to work together. It’s a planning game that forces participants to calculate what they need and how big things are going to get. It’s a challenging game that invites users to expand their horizons by building PCs, writing mods, participating in communities that develop Minecraft plugins. It’s an expressive game that inspires its fans to draw comics, paint pictures, write jokes and sing songs.
Minecraft is all of those things … and at the end of the day there’s no test. There’s no essay or assignment. There’s no teacher marking down grades on a rubric. There’s only fun … and through fun comes the learning.
When you play computer games you learn, whether you want to or not … and that’s a pretty good reason to play games!
*For the record: There is a Minecraft curriculum. Minecraft teachers write units and build curriculum around the game and teach it in their classrooms. But that’s not the point. Minecraft inspires people to play, and to learn, and to do amazing things. You don’t need a curriculum for that!
Before I start this post, I’m going to predict a regret to use such a large, vertical image. I bet it’s way too big (thus, impractical) for this page! LOL … Anyway, Project Zomboid is an alpha release game currently available through its website projectzomboid.com or on steam (http://store.steampowered.com/app/108600/). I’ve just started playing this game and, while I’m only doing beginner levels, I can see a lot of potential this game might have as a learning tool.
Wait … what? Zombie game? Learning tool?
Oh … yeah! Project Zomboid is a fun little isometric semi-open world based on Kentucky, USA. In the game you are the lone survivor (single player) in an apocalypse world overrun by the zombie hoard. Your job: survive. I’ve died … a lot! It’s awesome!
Where I see potential in this game links back to another post today about project based learning. Using a multiplayer server, it would be possible to set up situations where learners are forced to work together to survive. They would need to find shelter, amass a storage of food and weapons, fortify their safe house, explore the map and, of course, kill zombies. Even rationing out food, nails, weapons and jobs is a serious consideration. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. The game limits the player by making you scared when you see zombies (shooting accuracy lowers), fatigued when you run, injured when you carry heavy loads, hungry and tired. The player even becomes bored or depressed at night when there is little movement and nothing to do except wait until morning. While not ostensibly educational, it would be an amazing team building exercise. Players work together to survive. One player dies, they all start again!
Beyond the game, there are other opportunities to make custom maps, configure servers, make mods and participate in the community.
Game based learning requires thinking out of the box. Open world games like Kerbal Space Program and Minecraft have a more overtly educational nuance. However, that doesn’t mean first person shooters and zombie survival games can’t be educational too. The game isn’t the outcome it’s the medium. It’s just a matter of how you use it.
As a fun little follow up to a recent post about celebrities playing Minecraft, JK Rowling today tweeted that she’s working on a book but is distracted by other interests – including Minecraft. This, of course, caused a stir amongst the Minecraft fanbase. If I had to guess what Ms Rowling’s favourite activity is while she’s playing Minecraft, my guess would be … enchanting!
American rapper Waka Flocka Flame plays Minecraft on a popular server called Minecraft Universe. It’s inevitable that celebrities and their children are discovering the joy that is Minecraft. Even actors as big as Jack Black have been spotted wearing Minecraft tshirts in the wild. Ostensibly, this has little educational value, but promoting Minecraft using the “celebrity cred” draws more attention to the game and elevates its status as important and relevant. Hopefully, some of that coolness can overflow into education and we can benefit from it too!
I think this story is best left to tell itself. This story happened on a Minecraft server built for people with Autism to find a safe place to play Minecraft and interact with people who understand them.
Angela was on call when a young boy with autism — who I’ll call Tim — came up to her for help. Tim’s friend had recently committed suicide, and it was clear he was shaken and upset. Within minutes of talking, Angela understood that Tim didn’t have a family he felt comfortable talking to. Running through her own mental checklist, Angela suggested that, if comfortable, he should seek out and talk to a guidance counselor or school therapist. But Angela knew Tim needed help right away. “You need to find some help but how can I help you right now? How can we help release all this that you’re feeling?” she asked.
Tim asked Angela if she’d help him build a memorial for his friend and the two began constructing: Tim built a cross out of some stone blocks; Angela planted flowers. Later, Tim fashioned a sign, which he hung on the stone cross. “You will never see the stars if your head is always down,” it read. Angela invited some of the nearby children to see what Tim had built. One by one they offered up their support, taking turns embracing him. The next day, Tim confessed that Angela’s support had helped him feel better about his friend. Tears in her eyes, Angela watched as Tim disappeared from view, heading off to build or join a quest.
Or maybe he simply logged off.
Autcraft, upon its inception, found itself in the spotlight. Administrators received hundreds of emails a day from parents who wanted a safe place for their kids with autism and Asperger’s to play Minecraft and interact with others.
It’s likely, without citing research-based evidence, that children with disabilities might seek out computer games an online worlds as a way to help them interact with the real world. Games like Minecraft become a conduit where the game becomes the purpose for such groups to be formed. Players don’t feel threatened by face to face interaction, but can instead use their avatar as a mask. Servers like Autcraft also provide safety from bullying and administrators are trained to help players deal with problems in their real lives.
While not overtly educational, there’s a lot of learning happening. Children with difficulties socialising can learn how to be part of a community, participate in events and talk to others. Whether those skills can transcend the gaming world and help children in their real life interactions is something worth further research.
Why the indie success should continue to be used as a learning tool in schools.
A lot has been mentioned about Minecraft’s benefit in learning. However it’s rare to hear about Minecraft and learning from a students’ point of view. Students are starting to see the potential of combining their love of gaming and the opportunity to learn in a way which is both motivating and relevant. What does the future hold for games like Minecraft? Is it possible that Minecraft will one day be a part of the common core, or government mandated national curriculum?