Minecraft, whats the point?

minecraft_iconI was asked today why I “play a stupid game like Minecraft” well its fun and simple but minecraft also teaches, creativity, planning, and project development methodology.  When I play other games like Planetside or Guild Wars I enjoy them but they can really really frustrate me. Minecraft is game I can sit and relax and just enjoy a simple fun adventure game. You might ask but Minecraft has violence too! There is no blood and dead mobs simply turn red, fall over, and then disappear in smoke. There is combat, but it is in the context of survival, not gratuitous killing and is not graphic.

Minecraft can have a huge educational benefit for children; it can help teach numerous subjects both with and without adult involvement. Learning in Minecraft can be faster than traditional methods of education, as children are often far more motivated, get more practice, and feel that what they are learning is useful.

Reading  – The names of items in the inventory are a great place to start teaching children to read, since each item has a tooltip and image which go together. For older children, reading the wiki and online guides can extend their skills.

Math – The crafting system can help in teaching basic math (e.g. I need 3 Sugar Cane for Paper), which transitions to multiplication (I need 3 Paper and 1 Leather for a Book, and 3 Books for a Bookshelf, so I need 9 Paper and 3 Leather all together) and division (When I create Paper I get 3 at once, so 9/3 = 3 times per Bookshelf I’ll have to create Paper).

Geometry – While the Minecraft world is only made up of cubes, the creations a child makes may resemble other shapes. Parental involvement can help teach children to recognize these shapes (cube, cuboid, square based pyramid, etc.). Also, counting the number of blocks that were dug out when making a 6x6x3 cave can help multiplication skills and understanding the of concepts of volume and area.

Music – With the preparation of some Redstone circuitry, experimenting with Note Blocks can teach children about notes, octaves and chords.

Social skills – By setting up a private server, parents can provide a safe environment for children to interact with friends and make playing Minecraft a cooperative event. Using a Local Area Network (LAN, or “home network”) will allow children to play in the same room with their friends. By using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP, or “voice chat”), a phone call, or the in-game text chat, they can play together wherever they are. Either method allows children to work together to build, explore, and learn as they develop their social skills, especially teamwork. For older children, contributing to the Minecraft Wiki can be a chance to learn about Internet etiquette and collaboration.

Basic Computer Science – Redstone circuitry provides an interactive environment to build basic logic circuits and combine them for more sophisticated purposes. Feedback is immediate, and the mistakes don’t destroy expensive electrical components.