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An "Educational" Video Game Has Taken Over My House  

Minecraft inspires creativity and problem-solving. But my daughters are obsessed. 

Have you heard about Minecraft, the computer game that uses virtual building blocks and teems with opportunities for creative problem-solving? Have you yet been swept into the myriad Minecraft conversations by today’s tweens and teens about rocks and minerals, sand and glassmaking, jungles and deserts, urban planning and railroad lines, nighttime zombies and daily survival?

Have you been warned that you may rue the day you let this time-sucker into your household?

Minecraft is an open-ended video game that lets players build virtual houses and communities with a few simple keystrokes. Since it officially launched last November, Minecraft’s website has recorded more than 36 million registered users, with 6.8 million purchasing a copy to run on their own computers. Look for Minecraft tutorial videos on YouTube and millions of entries pop up.

The game, which can be played on a computer, on Xbox 360, or on a smartphone app, doesn’t rely on high-resolution graphics or keep track of earned points. It’s nothing like those road-race games that favor fine motor skills and quick reaction times. Think of it as a SimCity with treasure hunts and lost-in-the-jungle adventures of infinite possibilities. First-time players of Minecraft enter a blank “natural” landscape of trees. Discovering that the sun will soon set and darkness is nigh, they must gather wood and build a shelter or risk being extinguished by the monsters of the night. As the name of the game suggests, players mine the environment for materials then craft things like pickaxes, fishing rods, even chocolate-chip cookies. (When Conan O’Brien reviewed Minecraft recently as part of his series “Clueless Gamer,” he said: “Taking things out of the ground and then building things. … So it’s like we’re in Wales in the 19th century and we’re desperately poor. What a fun game for kids.”) Once that task is mastered, other opportunities beckon: Mine for diamonds, tame cats, stock chests with found objects, create glass windows by building kilns and gathering sand, make bows and arrows out of spiderwebs (but be careful—vanquish those spiders first!), lay out railroad-like roller coasters, design wonderlands for friends to visit. There is no end to the options.

 

 

Source: Slate

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