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Blog of Kip McGrath Education Centres - Holdfast Bay

Jack, Frankie & Minecraft

May 11
by Annie 11. May 2014 18:31

The other day I overheard two of our students chatting outside as they waited for their lessons to begin. The conversation was about Minecraft, a game that has captivated millions of kids around the globe and mystified an equal number of parents.

Jack had brought with him a manual to Minecraft, something Frankie was eager to see as it might finally explain why Jack was consistently able to destroy his carefully crafted Minecraft creations. I quickly realised that this was not a brief chat about the latest computer game, this was serious discussion between two ‘kings’ about the relative strengths of their kingdoms and the strategies they would employ to improve them. In other words, it was an eerily adult conversation.

It started Mark and I thinking about the Minecraft phenomenon. If you are a parent and the title of this piece annoys you, makes you groan or, worse, fills you with the dread of the gaming illiterate, you are not alone. For every child addicted to mining, creating and bashing their way through a make-believe world, there is at least one parent struggling to understand the attraction of a game that visually at least appears to be stuck back in the 80’s.

Which raises a simple question: what is it about this game, which to adult eyes appears clunky and unrefined, not to mention bewilderingly confusing, that attracts the relentless attentions of millions of kids around the world?

To understand this perhaps we need to consider not how it appears, but what it is. To use references that ‘older’ generations can connect with, Minecraft is Dungeons and Dragons, Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Meccano, Lego, an adventure playground, a trip to the beach with a bucket and spade, the first time you watched Star Wars or read Lord of the Rings, dress up games as a child when you were a King or Queen, a knight in shining armour or the first man on the moon. In other words, it is imagination unleashed, a limitless landscape of opportunities with the tools to quite literally create anything that pops in to a young and fertile mind.

Looked at from that perspective, how could a child not be captivated by the possibilities? When everything else in their lives is limited by parental authority, teachers rules, age and height restrictions, difficulty or boredom, or simply unattainable, and as an alternative they are offered sovereign rights to their own kingdom, it’s not really difficult to understand the attraction, is it?

Now, before you write Minecraft off as ‘simply a game’, you may be interested to know that a school in Stockholm has added it as part of their standard curriculum for 13 year olds, as it helps them learn about planning. And there are many other educators and schools around the globe who now appreciate its benefits and are including it in their planning.

Spend ten minutes with an avid user, as I have, and really pay attention instead of umming and saying “yes, interesting” before turning your attention back to the news, and you will quickly end up with a tick list of the skills they will need as adults. Strategy, planning, patience, numeracy, literacy, short and long term memory, the ability to prioritise, negotiate and organise, multi-tasking (more men should play this game!), keyboard skills, IT skills, visualising; the list goes on and on.

And now, amazingly, Minecraft has added social awareness to the list. Another of our students, Jaymie (yes, girls play Minecraft too!), is part of a peer group that creates and sells papercraft Minecraft characters at school and donates the proceeds to charity. Thanks Jaymie for the pink character your drew for us yesterday too!

I am sure the arguments, pro and con, will continue to swirl around the virtual land, but I am staggered at the number of ‘adults’ who argue against Minecraft and dismiss it as simply a ‘computer game’ without properly researching it. I challenge them to spend ten minutes playing it and not come away bewildered and confused and at the same time impressed by the sheer skill and determination demonstrated by the eager young minds that dance around this ‘second home’. 

What to older eyes appears to be a game of limited appeal, with poor graphics and clunky controls, is arguably not a game at all but instead a proving ground for the next generation of adults-to-be. Think back; most of the classic ‘instructional’ toys from the past, including Meccano and Lego, were solitary in nature, whereas Minecraft is online, global and highly interactive. They may not realise it, but they are already the ‘peacekeepers’, ‘UN’ and ‘global corporates’ of the future. Adults shouldn’t be concerned about Minecraft because it is a ‘video game’, but instead because it is training them to be more adaptive, inventive, articulate and adventurous than we are!


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technology, imagaination,

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