Minecraft and computer science are a match made in heaven. Well, computer science made Minecraft come together, actually. It comes into play with a lot of games but because of the “open world” nature of Minecraft, the player has almost as many options as Markus did when he made the game. The man who created the game initially (Markus Persson or, “Notch”) had been computer programming since he was 9, over a decade before he thought of Minecraft. Back in his day, (he’s 36 now) this would be seen as sort of rare but because of him, it may not be so much in the future. Here are the critical reasons why Minecraft could be the essential thing for any kid that turns them on to the wonderful and beneficial world of computer programming.
STEM education is an essential part of understanding the game completely.
The game allows kids of different ages (the game is most popular with elementary and middle schoolers) to learn basic coding techniques in order to create dynamic events in the game. The parts of the game that kids love most are the parts wherein they combine elements and different orientations of “blocks” to learn more about the environment and their possibilities. In addition to the block combinations and mining, there is a bit of alchemy in the game that promises a similar experience with just about every object in the Minecraft world. STEM education really comes into play when the player begins to apply this to other things, or learn to mod the game. There’s even something called “red stone” that works a lot like electric circuits! From here, a person could even build their own, functional hard-drive in the game, given enough time and encouragement.
Mods (short for modifications) are ways for players to program the Minecraft world.
Modding means manipulating the underlying code of Minecraft. By learning how to put together a set of logical steps (i.e. an algorithm) to achieve goals in the game, players begin to develop an understanding of the basic principles of computer science. There are a million different ways for a child to learn about organizing and executing on their ideas, but nothing compares to the creative learning environment that the Minecraft platform provides. By invigorating players with a sense of power and limitless potential, it helps them come up with ideas as to how they would improve on things or make their experience in the game more personalized. These are great skills for any good programmer to learn about early on; optimization and preference are at the core of every successful application developed by a talented programmer. Mods are a great chance for kids to begin to learn about the science of computer programming, using their specific interests to direct them on their journey.
There are already awesome solutions for making Minecraft into a lesson-plan for teaching kids to code.