Go talk about Minecraft to a room of 3rd graders – I dare you

2017-10-25T14:54:27+00:00September 19th, 2014|Musings|

Last week, Corey visited the students at Western Row Elementary School in Mason, Ohio, where his sister teaches, to talk about video games. Here’s his account of the experience.

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They herded three classrooms of third graders – about sixty 8-year-olds – into one room to hear me speak. They all knew beforehand that “Mrs. Gholz’s brother” was there to talk about video games, so I was already an interesting curiosity to them. There were high fives, some requests for free games and stories about my sister. I went in with the intention of talking about the important skills to learn if you want to make or work with games someday: reading, writing, working together. I also had some vague theme prepared about pursuing creativity, but that all went by the wayside the moment I started asking kids to tell me their favorite games, and nearly all of them replied with the same thing:

MINECRAFT!

So I made an effort to talk more deeply about the Minecraft phenomenon. I was overwhelmed by some very specific gameplay questions to which I had no answer, but there was also a lot of interest in the potential educational value of Minecraft from the teachers, which I hadn’t been prepared for either.

What stunned me the most were the questions about “the Minecraft company being sold.” “Is Notch still going to work on it?” These are third graders. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, especially given Mojang’s meteoric success and the media’s coverage of Minecraft’s family-friendly nature, but I was still blown away.

Here was the next generation of gamers: incredibly passionate about a visually simple game that never marketed to them on Saturday morning TV. So engaged with an experience that challenged them creatively that they even had a basic sense of its important as a business and a news item. Minecraft is special for them – it’s not something they play for a few minutes on a phone before moving on. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how that experience will (ahem) craft their gaming tastes going forward in the same way the original Zeldas shaped mine.

On a side note, one boy told me his favorite game was “Spore,” which no other child had even heard of. I was taken aback a little, so I asked him why. “I like to play God,” he explained. Impressive… and terrifying!