30 Days of How-To #23: Minecraft

I’m cheating a little because I haven’t actually played Minecraft with teens on the brand new multiplayer server space I just rented. ‘ But I do play a lot of Minecraft with my friends, I have talked a lot about it with teens, and I am going to offer the game as a regular teen program starting next week.’  Here’s what I’m doing to bring Minecraft to the library, and links to some interesting ideas about things you might do with it.

But first, what is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a game where you roam a landscape full of different sorts of blocks that you can move around to build anything you want.’  You can dig deep to find different resources, and explore to find a variety of environments.’  At night, zombies and other monsters come out, so you need to protect yourself.’  The game was created by Swedish programmer Markus Persson, and is being developed by his company Mojang.’  It’s still in beta,’  so there are new updates all the time.’  Minecraft is getting prettier and more involved with each new permutation.

I love this game because it demands creativity.’  You have a world, and you can do anything.’  It’s even more fun with friends, where in building your world you find yourselves cooperating by sharing resources,’  planning building projects,’  helping each other and showing off for each other.’  I can’t wait to see what happens when I turn my group of teens loose in their new world.

Here’s a video for you to take a look at Minecraft.

Click through for more.

You can buy the game here for $21.95, a discounted price while it’s still in beta.’  There is an outdated free version that you might try to see if you want to buy the game.’  I also recommend watching YouTube videos or looking at screenshots to get a feel for the environment.

Once you decide to play, your first task is to survive your first night.’  You need to find a way to protect yourself from zombies, skeletons, spiders, and other monsters, which in Minecraft parlance we call mobs. Ideally, you want to build yourself a shelter, but in a pinch, just stack yourself up on a tall stack of blocks, dirt or sand will do, and wait for morning.’  When the sun comes up you can search for more resources to strengthen your fortifications.

After you’ve tried it out for yourself, or at least done a bit of research, ask your teens about it. ‘ Are they playing Minecraft? Would they like to?’  You may find that some of them are already familiar with the game.

To play single player, you can buy one copy of the game, download the launcher to any computer, and let teens sign in with their own accounts.’  If you want to play together, you’ll need to set up a multiplayer server. There are instructions for how to host your own server available, which may appeal to some of your technologically inclined teens.’  You can also to rent space from a number of services. I’m renting space from Minecraft Box.

You may want to purchase a few copies of the game for your library, so that teens who don’t own the game can play. This might be tricky if you are bound by institutional orders because at this point, Minecraft can only be purchased with a credit card.’  It took some repeated queries’  for me to get permission to buy the game myself and get reimbursed.

Once you have interested teens, access to the game and a multiplayer server, the possibilities are limited only by your collective imagination.’  Plan a city, spread out and work on your own projects, explore the intricacies of the game, or make modifications.’  Let the Minecraft Wiki be your guide.

Here are some examples of a librarian, a teacher and a parent playing Minecraft:

Our own fellow blogger, Gretchen Kolderup, hosted a fabulous afternoon of Minecraft at her library.’  Teens were instructed to design and build a structure for surviving a zombie apocalypse.’  Prizes were awarded for the best constructions.’  Read her post about the day here.’  She also mentions some ideas for future Minecrafting programs, including an idea for a Minecraft Hunger Games.’  (If you ever do this, Gretchen, I’m so in).

Joel Levin, also known as the Minecraft Teacher, blogs about his experiences using Minecraft to teach computer skills to elementary school students. He also has an after school group for teens.’  I followed his instructions for managing a group of accounts. (It looks like his website is down this morning, but you can catch him on Twitter here).

David Pakman, a dad, and digital media entrepreneur , wrote this lovely detailed post about playing Minecraft with his sons.’  He gets into some of the technical aspects of hosting a server, and muses about the future of this type game.

I’m almost ready to play, I just need to test the server and do a bit of prep work in the game world.’  I plan to begin our adventures with minimal structure.’  I want to build a fort near the spawn point in the multiplayer world so that new players’ first objectives can be exploring rather than surviving.’  Our world will undoubtedly come to need rules and goals,’  but I want to give those room to develop on their own as we play and talk about the game.

So, here goes.’  This will be fun.

A screenshot of the world where I play Minecraft.

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