Are your kids playing Minecraft yet? ….or should I say “Are your kids addicted to Minecraft?” This game by Mojang (www.minecraft.net) is a creative game where you put your imagination and creativity to work to build your own “world” using square blocks that you construct or dig and destroy to make tunnels, walls, caves, houses, mountains and more. The square blocks themselves represent many elements (stone, iron, coal, etc.) and in combination, lead you to the discovery or building of new things that you need to expand your empire. You find blocks of iron ore as you are “mining” (basically blowing up blocks of earth as you create new paths) and in combination with coal that makes a stove, you can obtain iron and gold utensils. Of course, to keep things interesting there are monsters and spiders that can kill you as the game turns from day to night, so you need to construct various shelters in order to survive.
I may have some of the facts incorrect — I have only watched the game, not played it, but am amazed by the phenomenon and how “catching” it has been for 10 to 13 year olds around the world. Nearly every parent I speak to has to remind their children to put down their iPad or iTouch or iPhone when they’ve played Minecraft for too many hours, or to turn off their Xbox or other computer that is running other platform versions of the game!
What makes this game so addictive? My only reference is our own creation of mini-worlds when we were kids. What kept us outside for hours, with our toys, designing private and public spaces and sharing them with our friends. For me it was Matchbox cars and trucks and Hot Wheels, with an occasional GI Joe, platoon of plastic soldiers, or Tonka truck mixed in. My best friend and I would build elaborate “villages” in and around the garden, with pachysandra posing as giant palm trees. We used sticks and pebbles to mark parking lots, driveways, and highways, and a small patch of sand at the other end of the garden served as our “remote gravel pit.” This was our own “mining” operation where our special mission trucks would go on “expeditions”. Mojang has clearly tapped into that same experience, only now it is on a touch screen, able to be played anywhere, and shared over the web between children who teach each other new things and proudly show off their new designs. It can also be played anywhere and at any time. Video games exist with far more spectacular graphics and intricate plot lines but bravo to Mojang for delivering a platform that inspires the imagination with basic simplicity while allowing for an infinite array of unique and challenging experiences.
Why write about this on “this” blog?
Watch some youngsters playing this game for awhile. It won’t be long before you are amazed at the speed at which they build/destroy/re-build/tear down and continue to evolve their world. All the time looking out for dangerous spiders or avoiding “Creepers” that will blow up and kill their game character if they step too near. Players make quick decisions about where to dig, what to build, or whether to leave a cave without knowing if it is nighttime (players learn early that monsters come out at night). How do they achieve this speed? Practice of course, but also through collaboration with their peers. They can play on the same network and play within each other’s worlds. They learn a whole new vocabulary and continually learn from others where to go (within their own groups or on the web). Some will accuse me of making a leap here, but purely for fun, this is governance in action. New terminology is shared by everyone in the Minecraft community (do you know what “Creepers” are, or how to get Glowstone and Blaze Rods out of “The Nether”?), helped along by Stewards (check out YouTube — there are 100’s of tutorials and videos out there from experienced “guides”) and metadata galore as players manage “Chests” full of artifacts collected and made, along with accurate counts of their inventory. Lineage is a bit of a stretch and not a concept you can directly apply to Minecraft, but there is a cottage industry for recording software that will let you create videos of a trip through your world or a fight with monsters.
If you are still reading this blog entry and don’t know anything about metadata, I hope you enjoy watching or playing Minecraft with your kids, providing it doesn’t push every other important activity out of the way! …and if you are into governance, I hope you had fun with the analogy and enjoyed a brief respite from metadata and governance in our technical realm.