recentpopularlog in

robertogreco : markuspersson   1

The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times
"Seth Frey, a postdoctoral fellow in computational social science at Dartmouth College, has studied the behavior of thousands of youths on Minecraft servers, and he argues that their interactions are, essentially, teaching civic literacy. “You’ve got these kids, and they’re creating these worlds, and they think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity,” Frey says. “They have to solve the tragedy of the commons.” What’s more, they’re often anonymous teenagers who, studies suggest, are almost 90 percent male (online play attracts far fewer girls and women than single-­player mode). That makes them “what I like to think of as possibly the worst human beings around,” Frey adds, only half-­jokingly. “So this shouldn’t work. And the fact that this works is astonishing.”

Frey is an admirer of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize-­winning political economist who analyzed the often-­unexpected ways that everyday people govern themselves and manage resources. He sees a reflection of her work in Minecraft: Running a server becomes a crash course in how to compromise, balance one another’s demands and resolve conflict.

Three years ago, the public library in Darien, Conn., decided to host its own Minecraft server. To play, kids must acquire a library card. More than 900 kids have signed up, according to John Blyberg, the library’s assistant director for innovation and user experience. “The kids are really a community,” he told me. To prevent conflict, the library installed plug-ins that give players a chunk of land in the game that only they can access, unless they explicitly allow someone else to do so. Even so, conflict arises. “I’ll get a call saying, ‘This is Dasher80, and someone has come in and destroyed my house,’ ” Blyberg says. Sometimes library administrators will step in to adjudicate the dispute. But this is increasingly rare, Blyberg says. “Generally, the self-­governing takes over. I’ll log in, and there’ll be 10 or 15 messages, and it’ll start with, ‘So-and-so stole this,’ and each message is more of this,” he says. “And at the end, it’ll be: ‘It’s O.K., we worked it out! Disregard this message!’ ”

Several parents and academics I interviewed think Minecraft servers offer children a crucial “third place” to mature, where they can gather together outside the scrutiny and authority at home and school. Kids have been using social networks like Instagram or Snapchat as a digital third place for some time, but Minecraft imposes different social demands, because kids have to figure out how to respect one another’s virtual space and how to collaborate on real projects.

“We’re increasingly constraining youth’s ability to move through the world around them,” says Barry Joseph, the associate director for digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History. Joseph is in his 40s. When he was young, he and his friends roamed the neighborhood unattended, where they learned to manage themselves socially. Today’s fearful parents often restrict their children’s wanderings, Joseph notes (himself included, he adds). Minecraft serves as a new free-­ranging realm.

Joseph’s son, Akiva, is 9, and before and after school he and his school friend Eliana will meet on a Minecraft server to talk and play. His son, Joseph says, is “at home but still getting to be with a friend using technology, going to a place where they get to use pickaxes and they get to use shovels and they get to do that kind of building. I wonder how much Minecraft is meeting that need — that need that all children have.” In some respects, Minecraft can be as much social network as game.

Just as Minecraft propels kids to master Photoshop or video-­editing, server life often requires kids to acquire complex technical skills. One 13-year-old girl I interviewed, Lea, was a regular on a server called Total Freedom but became annoyed that its administrators weren’t clamping down on griefing. So she asked if she could become an administrator, and the owners said yes.

For a few months, Lea worked as a kind of cop on that beat. A software tool called “command spy” let her observe records of what players had done in the game; she teleported miscreants to a sort of virtual “time out” zone. She was eventually promoted to the next rank — “telnet admin,” which allowed her to log directly into the server via telnet, a command-­line tool often used by professionals to manage servers. Being deeply involved in the social world of Minecraft turned Lea into something rather like a professional systems administrator. “I’m supposed to take charge of anybody who’s breaking the rules,” she told me at the time.

Not everyone has found the online world of Minecraft so hospitable. One afternoon while visiting the offices of Mouse, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that runs high-tech programs for kids, I spoke with Tori. She’s a quiet, dry-­witted 17-year-old who has been playing Minecraft for two years, mostly in single-­player mode; a recent castle-­building competition with her younger sister prompted some bickering after Tori won. But when she decided to try an online server one day, other players — after discovering she was a girl — spelled out “BITCH” in blocks.

She hasn’t gone back. A group of friends sitting with her in the Mouse offices, all boys, shook their heads in sympathy; they’ve seen this behavior “everywhere,” one said. I have been unable to find solid statistics on how frequently harassment happens in Minecraft. In the broader world of online games, though, there is more evidence: An academic study of online players of Halo, a shoot-’em-up game, found that women were harassed twice as often as men, and in an unscientific poll of 874 self-­described online gamers, 63 percent of women reported “sex-­based taunting, harassment or threats.” Parents are sometimes more fretful than the players; a few told me they didn’t let their daughters play online. Not all girls experience harassment in Minecraft, of course — Lea, for one, told me it has never happened to her — and it is easy to play online without disclosing your gender, age or name. In-game avatars can even be animals.

How long will Minecraft’s popularity endure? It depends very much on Microsoft’s stewardship of the game. Company executives have thus far kept a reasonably light hand on the game; they have left major decisions about the game’s development to Mojang and let the team remain in Sweden. But you can imagine how the game’s rich grass-roots culture might fray. Microsoft could, for example, try to broaden the game’s appeal by making it more user-­friendly — which might attenuate its rich tradition of information-­sharing among fans, who enjoy the opacity and mystery. Or a future update could tilt the game in a direction kids don’t like. (The introduction of a new style of combat this spring led to lively debate on forums — some enjoyed the new layer of strategy; others thought it made Minecraft too much like a typical hack-and-slash game.) Or an altogether new game could emerge, out-­Minecrafting Minecraft.

But for now, its grip is strong. And some are trying to strengthen it further by making it more accessible to lower-­income children. Mimi Ito has found that the kids who acquire real-world skills from the game — learning logic, administering servers, making YouTube channels — tend to be upper middle class. Their parents and after-­school programs help them shift from playing with virtual blocks to, say, writing code. So educators have begun trying to do something similar, bringing Minecraft into the classroom to create lessons on everything from math to history. Many libraries are installing Minecraft on their computers."
2016  clivethompson  education  videogames  games  minecraft  digitalculture  gaming  mimiito  robinsloan  coding  computationalthinking  stem  programming  commandline  ianbogost  walterbenjamin  children  learning  resilience  colinfanning  toys  lego  wood  friedrichfroebel  johnlocke  rebeccamir  mariamontessori  montessori  carltheodorsorensen  guilds  mentoring  mentorship  sloyd  denmark  construction  building  woodcrafting  woodcraft  adventureplaygrounds  material  logic  basic  mojang  microsoft  markuspersson  notch  modding  photoshop  texturepacks  elinorostrom  collaboration  sethfrey  civics  youtube  networkedlearning  digitalliteracy  hacking  computers  screentime  creativity  howwelearn  computing  froebel 
april 2016 by robertogreco

Copy this bookmark:





to read