The first assignment in the “Video Games and Learning” MOOC (now in week two) was to reflect on ways that a digital game of choice structures learning, ideally a game one has never played before. As you can see, I chose Minecraft. In my two previous posts I used a journal format to record my newbie experiences. For this post I use the same format to illustrate six ways in which Minecraft structures my learning.
DAY 5 IN PEACEFUL. (1) Learning through Discovery (aha!): During Day 4, I went on a long search for stone and died in a lava pool on my way home. Today, newly respawned and looking for my little spruce-plank shelter, I stumbled upon a cave, practically in my backyard, filled with cobblestone. Good deal. I’d had an adventure and afterwards found a handy place for replacing the resources I’d lost upon my death. I crafted another wooden pickaxe and went as far into the cave as possible with only the entrance light, but far enough to mine stone and coal.
(2) Learning by Crafting (and being rewarded for it): Along with wood planks in my chest, now I had everything I needed to craft a stone pickaxe (to make mining easier), as well as torches (to light up the cave and my shelter). As I arranged sticks and stones in the workbench crafting grid, icons of objects appeared. Not only could I make a stone pickaxe (for which I got upgraded), I could also make a shovel and hoe. I did so and earned the “Time to Farm” achievement for the hoe.
(3) Learning through Exploration (to see possibilities): With my new pickaxe and torches, I was ready to explore the cave. The cave is quite large, with squeaking bats fluttering around. The chamber at the bottom of the entrance steps forks into two separate tunnels. I took the left one first, broke though a few overhead obstructions, and soon saw stone flecked with rusty rectangles. I’d found my first iron ore. I was digging for more when water gushed over my head and pushed me back to higher blocks that caused the water to flow underground. Time to explore the other tunnel.
The tunnel on the chamber’s right goes steeply down, with a waterfall soon appearing on one side. At the fall’s base, water covers the floor but it’s shallow. I slide through it, turned a corner, and heard eerie music when I saw a small room containing two chests and a spider in a cage, spinning and sparking fire. The chests held a variety of goodies – gunpowder, a saddle, bread, buckets, string, wheat, and nametags. Whose room was this? I wondered. Is someone else sharing my single-player world? It was getting late, so I left everything as it was and went back home. Most curious, indeed.
DAY 6 IN PEACEFUL. (4) Learning through Research (wikis, forums, videos, blogs, etc.): Before I logged back on, I searched the Internet to learn what I could about the caged spider and chests. Yes! others had asked the same question on several Q&A sites. I’d discovered a dungeon. The fiery, spinning spider was a “mob spawner,” but since I was in Peaceful, no spiders rained and no bosses spawned. The chests were mine for the taking. Great! I returned to the dungeon, looted everything in the chests, grabbed the chests too, and spared the spider’s life.
(5) Learning by Solving Problems (often through trial and error). To leave this part of the cave, I had to push through the waterfall’s stream, and it pushed back. Although I knew I could jump my way up the side, I created a block bridge to ease future forays into this area. That was when I spotted blocks of iron on the other side of the waterfall. From previous research, I knew I would frequently need iron. I wanted that iron. Going through the waterfall wasn’t an option; perhaps by jumping to the top of the waterfall and carefully maneuvering my little guy from one dry block to another I could get there. With considerable effort, which included taking down low-hanging dirt, I made it and mined four blocks of iron. Back home, to smelt my ore I made a furnace and earned the “Hot Topic” achievement. Time for bed – except I didn’t have one. I’d solve that problem another day.
DAY 7 IN PEACEFUL. (6) Learning Self-Sufficiency: My little guy’s experiences are rather like Robinson Crusoe’s after his shipwreck near an island. As it was for Crusoe, I’m darn lonely on my island, but so far there’s plenty to do. Crusoe scavenged from his ship before it broke up (I found goodies in chests); then to survive he had to explore, hunt, gather, and craft with whatever resources were available. In short, by necessity he had to be self-sufficient. By necessity my little guy has to provide for his own needs.
And he needed a bed, not just for décor but to quickly switch from night to dawn by sleeping and to spawn back to the shelter upon dying. A bed is made of wood planks and wool. Wood I had aplenty; however, during my explorations I hadn’t spied a single sheep. I’d have to go farther afield for wool and try not to get lost. I suspect Crusoe had a compass. I had the F3 key, which, as I recently learned, tells me what biome I’m in, what direction I’m facing, and my coordinates. I stowed most of my valuables in a chest and set off due west with a pickaxe, torches, and a newly crafted sword. No need for food; you never get hungry in Peaceful.
After traversing my Taiga biome, I came to the Taiga Hills, climbed one, and in the distance saw a different kind of place, mostly flat with lily pads in the water and vines hanging from trees. I swam over and found myself in a Swampland biome – with mushrooms and sheep! Reluctant to kill the gentle sheep, I gathered mushrooms. A wiki informed me that without shears I’d have to kill sheep for their wool. I needed only four blocks of wool, so I killed only four sheep and headed home to make my bed. Darkness came. I went to sleep. Poof! Good morning, all :-).