Are you worried about Minecraft?

Minecraft has grabbed the attention of parents and educators alike due to its phenomenal appeal to kids, and now it’s international news in this BBC story today. One of my favorite bloggers, Bianca Hewes, has even suffered through battles as her own son has worked to educate the world on the awesomeness of Minecraft as an educational tool. In fact, Minecraft, now owned by Microsoft (never the slouch in identifying a great opportunity) is marketing itself as a teacher’s secret weapon.

With ten-year-olds making YouTube channels for sharing their creations, setting up home servers to make it all go, and building virtual Lego worlds with their friends, if you haven’t paid attention to this growing world before now, I suspect it’s time to start. I’m rather looking forward to having a little time to spare to get into it myself. I’m told it wasn’t created exclusively for kids. Heh heh.

minecraft

Gaming to save the world. Not kidding.

Last September brought us the news that the online game Foldit had produced actual real-world solutions to a biochemical puzzle, leading to advances in medical research, specifically in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. The news of the discovery was good, but the fact that it was brought to us courtesy of the gaming culture those of my generation have long feared and disparaged was the real earth-shaker here.

Jane McGonagal, Ph.D., takes this news to the next level, and we need to pay attention.  For my entire professional career I’ve begged my students to become participants in the salvation of their deeply at-risk world.  With a number of stunning exceptions to the rule, for the most part the response has been, “Uh huh, let me get back to my X-box if you don’t mind, Mr. Storm.” For me, and most of us, this channeling of our brightest minds into (what we perceived as) mindless gaming was ample cause for despair, portending no less the end of civilization and perhaps the species.

In this TED talk linked below and in her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Dr. McGonagal sees not only hope, but cause for actual excitement arising from this enormous body of talent and passion growing from the gaming culture.  Have a listen, and see if you don’t find yourself allowing for the possibility she just may be onto something.