We've been pleasantly surprised at the boom in Minecraft popularity in the last few years. Minecraft is a refreshing change from the violent and uncreative video game trend that has dominated for over a decade. This open-ended game encourages creativity as players build there own lego-like worlds. There are many skills children are practicing while playing (spacial awareness, engineering, maths, problem solving etc.).* One might not expect social skills to be huge on the list.
There is, however, a very large social componant to this game. Gamers communicate through Minecraft messaging, forming virtual groups, playing games and building worlds together. There is no doubt that these vitual communities do provide a social learning environment.** An even richer environment occurs when you get a bunch of children in the same real and virtual space. We ran a recent Minecraft holiday program and were in awe of the complex social interactions between our program participants. We were thrilled to see all of the questioning, helping, cooperation, idea sharing, mentoring, goal setting, strategizing, problem solving, joking and laughter.
What's next? We're thinking something reminicent of LAN parties, where people gather and set up a "local area network" and play multiplayer video games. These used to be all the rage. Now, you can gather a group of people and play a multiplayer game on the cloud instead of the local network. The point is to get a group of gamers together and get them into a common world. The creative, learning and social possiblities are really endless.
*Minecraft Is Shaping A Generation, And That Is A Good Thing. http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2014/04/26/minecraft-is-shaping-a-generation/#5aa9f8fb34db
*How Minecraft Actually Builds Social Skills: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/darwins-subterranean-world/201506/how-minecraft-actually-builds-social-skills
The benefits of Minecraft for children: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/benefits-minecraft-children-160600445.html