Saturday, February 16, 2013

Minecraft and World Builder

Minecraft and World Builder

The short film "World Builder" that we watched for week 3 of the EDCMOOC made me think of my 13 year old son. For him, the ability to create a 3-D world like the one in the film is something that he currently engages with for hours each day as he plays the game "Minecraft" on the computer.

In case you're unfamiliar with Minecraft, it is a massively popular game with teens and pre-teens. The main objective in either Survival or Creative mode is to build a world out of blocks of various substances. It's more difficult than it might sound. Recently I read that schools are using Minecraft in the classroom to teach various problem-solving skills.

So for my son, imagining a scenario where someone could create a town like World Builder would be nothing extraordinary. He does that all the time.

This film got me thinking about what it means to be human in this context. In the film, the man creates the town for his wife. It's unclear if the woman we see walking around is a memory he has of her, or if she is able to participate via technology even though she is in a coma. If she is engaging with it, then why wouldn't he interact with her? That is unclear.

Back to my son, in the Minecraft game there are no other people with whom to interact. In some settings there are 'villagers' but they are basically unable to communicate and they just walk around. Unlike other games on the X-box or other platforms, he doesn't join in with friends to build this world.  So essentially my son is building and living in a virtual world alone. What does that mean for him? How will he view humanity? Or how would he define what it means to be human if as parents, we didn't also engage in various other settings; school, sports, church.

One final thought. For me, being human is defined by our creativity. We are able to create various items, some practical and immediately useful (chairs, houses, cars) and some imaginative (novels, movies, theories). Will my son be more creative in the rest of his world after spending hours on Minecraft? I don't know. But I do know that as he engages with this game he is engaging in a creative process.