January 2017, Wrocław: Matters of Construction

Website: enmattersofconstruction.wordpress.com

12 January 2017, Institute of Journalism and Social Communication, University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland.

From the conference website: “…an open seminar devoted to the subject of world-building in video games.

Video games available on the market today are introducing abstract worlds and implementing advanced mechanisms that enrich the interactive entertainment, transforming it into a unique medium possessing its own poetics. However, regardless of their size, budget or complexity, video games possess common formal features, one of which is the virtual world around the player.

Virtual landscapes, depending on the genre and platform in question, can have either marginal or crucial importance for the player, facilitating the process of immersion and further expanding the narrative sphere. Importance of the game world is even more vital when considering productions spanning several titles and platforms. Thus, importance of research dedicated to the process of world-building in games is becoming more important as creating games is further complicated by such factors as developer’s decisions, marketing factors, consumer demands, cultural texts and social trends.

Hence, we would like to focus our attention on the subject of world-building in video games. In particular, we intend to explore existing game worlds, world-building techniques, mechanics, theories and methods for analysing the aforementioned components in order to deconstruct utilized game-building methods and decipher why virtual worlds are so alluring to players.”

Microsoft purchase MinecraftEdu

As reported in a thousand newspaper articles, a million blog posts, and seemingly a billion edtech tweets, Microsoft have now bought MinecraftEdu, the, well, education version of Minecraft. They seem happy, TeacherGaming seem happy, edtech commentators and journalists have something to write about, and future uses of Minecraft in schools especially seem more likely.

As the website now says:

Microsoft will release an entirely new version of the game called Minecraft: Education Edition that will have many features inspired by MinecraftEdu. Microsoft will also use their impressive resources and reach to bring Minecraft into far more classrooms than ever before. We believe that Minecraft’s educational potential has barely been explored and that there are exciting times ahead.

THE journal digs a little deeper on this and mentions the enhancement of OneNote to make development within Minecraft a little smoother. Which sounds like a good thing; one of the enduring problems with game, simulation and virtual world use in classrooms is the fragmented timetable, and lesson blocks of an hour or even less. The pupil or student needs to be up and quickly progressing with something on-point, relevant and constructive, rather than spending a significant proportion of each lesson block undergoing initialization routines, or using laborious tools and routines that suck time away from useful activity.

How will Minecraft sit within the roll-call of digital games, environments and simulations used within education?

Thankfully, we should be getting a clearer picture by now. The early days of speculation-oriented writing on the use of this specific technology have given way to an increasing proportion of articles, papers and reports containing data of Minecraft use in formal and informal learning situations. I’m looking forward to seeing quality research and meta-analysis of these works over the next few years.