Minecraft is cool, undoubtedly. But what about the indie “sandbox” game’s educational – and entrepreneurial – value?
“I see the future of our youth and they are playing Minecraft.”
This according to Joe Pulizzi’s recent article posted on LinkedIn “Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs Are Playing #Minecraft Today.”
With almost an entire summer’s worth of tech camp fun as evidence, I have to agree.
This year was our first to feature summer camps with Minecraft at iD Tech Camps, iD Programming Academy, and iD Gaming Academy, unveiling four new courses based on the Minecraft platform: 3D Game Design with Minecraft, Minecraft–Game Modding & Java™ Coding, and two offerings for teens—Modding & Programming with Minecraft and Game Development–Minecraft. Depending on the specific class, students had/have the opportunity code, design, and develop with the insanely-popular game as their setting.
As I pointed out in a previous release about Minecraft in the classroom, and later confirmed through multiple visits to our summer programs held at Stanford, kids and teens learn from both playing the game and recreating it. They program through Java™, and implement concepts into their own Minecraft worlds. Using variables, operators, and data types, students develop knowledge of control flow using conditional statements, loops, and functions. This is the stuff a career as a developer is made of—and this is just one course. Participants in all classes leave camp with a portfolio of their mods to play at home.
The educational value cannot be overstated.
“Minecraft is an open-source software game, which means that "minecrafters" can take Minecraft code and create their own versions of the game, or use special add-ons, known as "mods,” as stated by Pulizzi. “To create mods, you have to have some knowledge of java code.”
Minecraft’s value and the skills learned from mastering the game doesn’t end there. Media entrepreneurs are using YouTube to leverage their creations; some even garnering a million views per Minecraft video. Pulizzi goes on to say “These future (I should say current) media entrepreneurs are learning the formula for successful media business models: amazing niche content delivered on a consistent basis leveraging a subscription component.”
With all of this, the line between video games and education (and entrepreneurialism) is hazier than once traditionally believed. Students can attend summer tech camps to explore the free-roaming virtual worlds of Minecraft. In doing so, they learn and play. The beauty of it all? Game-based curricula makes it difficult to decipher which is which.