“Minecraft” is for learning? In COVID time, 50 million downloads of free educational content

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With schools closed and many parents plunged into the difficult role of managing a job, a household, and raising a child, here’s some unexpected positive news to emerge from the coronavirus epidemic: Video games are good for you. brain. Good, at least some games.

“Minecraft,” the Microsoft-owned game known for its user-focused content, creative use of blocks and monsters that pop out at night, has been at the forefront of mainstream games using educational content. The studio’s ‘Minecraft: Education Edition’ has hosted virtual programs in recent years that have allowed students to visit and learn about world monuments, hone their math skills, understand coding, or do some explorations. filled with puzzles in places as diverse as humans. body or a NASA-approved getaway to the International Space Station.

Much of this content, which was first fed by educators in the ‘Minecraft’ community before Microsoft brought it internally in 2016, was previously only available to schools and teachers and worked in tandem with Microsoft educational accounts. In March, however, Microsoft made an assortment of popular “Minecraft” educational tools available for free, with easier access for all players through the “Minecraft Marketplace”.

And the players flocked there.

Microsoft reports that there have been more than 50 million downloads of educational content worldwide since it was made available for free on March 24. digital events. This weekend, for example, “Minecraft” hosted a mock debut ceremony for UC Berkeley, which featured remarks by Chancellor Carol T. Christ alongside musical performances. It was one of the many “Minecraft” graduation ceremonies that took place around the world.

The UC Berkeley event, said Helen Chiang, the studio manager of “Minecraft” developer Mojang Studios, went organically. When seen alongside more commercial endeavors, such as The Rapper Travis Scott releasing a single in “Fortnite” Thanks to an interactive experience that has attracted over 27 million participants, this moment of pandemic is arguably accelerating a cultural and entertainment landscape in which persistent and evolving virtual worlds do not coexist only with content designed by media custodians. traditional, but are becoming just as vital.

How all of this evolves is something unknown, as evidenced by the fact that ‘Minecraft’ ‘own educational sequel was born through the gaming community rather than the company behind it.

“The current example of universities and college campuses,” says Chiang, of the “Minecraft” degrees at schools around the world, “It would have been really difficult for us to recreate all these colleges. The fact that we have a tool for passionate Berkeley students to build their campuses and for passionate MIT students to build their campuses, that is where the magic happens. It’s not that we do all of these things. “

Among the “Minecraft” educational tools, there is a look at ocean life.

(Mojang / Microsoft)

While no one knows yet how the gaming audience will change when the world begins to emerge from the clutches of COVID-19, it has become clear that interactive entertainment is uniquely positioned for this moment. Almost every day we find out some inventive tactics that users are using – not just through ‘Minecraft’ or ‘Fortnite’, but also ‘Animal Crossing’, Nintendo’s user-friendly and task-filled game that has become a phenomenon of the coronavirus era.

‘Minecraft’, which turns 11 and is considered by many to be the best-selling game of all time, has sold over 200 million copies, says Chiang, and has 126 million monthly active players . In April alone, the game saw a 25% increase in the number of new users compared to the previous month. People also play together – “Minecraft” multiplayer sessions jumped 40% in April.

While the popularity of “Minecraft” has never been in doubt, as Mojang Studios deepens in the game’s second decade, the company has was looking to develop the “Minecraft” brand. Mojang recently released the augmented reality mobile game “Minecraft Earth” and on May 26 will launch the hack-and-slash game “Minecraft Dungeons” on multiple platforms. For high-end PC users, the studio is also tinker with graphical improvements for “Minecraft”.

But the studio also has to adapt to a work-from-home lifestyle. While complications from the current health crisis have caused a brief delay in the release of ‘Minecraft Dungeons’, Chiang is optimistic that there are lessons to be learned from the remote working environment that can be learned. translate in the office.

For example, says Chiang, while office life can offer big companies a lot of savings, remote working has also brought some democratization. Online tools can provide participatory options for those who don’t feel comfortable raising their hands in a meeting room.

“One of the things I love to see is how more inclusive a lot of conversations can be. I think when you’re in the office and trying to fit into a boardroom, different team configurations come into the conversation, ”Chiang explains. “But one of our big teams did a planning exercise where the whole team pretty much left the site to plan for the next year. This is something that would have been quite difficult to do in person as it is difficult to hear 100 different voices when you are in the room together. But doing this planning exercise together online in a remote location was actually more productive. You can hear more voices in this situation. “

Going forward, “Minecraft” is committed to keeping its educational resources free and available to non-educators at least until June 30. Chiang also sees the company continuing to experiment to bring “Minecraft” to players outside of the main game, as evidenced by “Minecraft Earth” and “Minecraft Dungeons”.

“It’s definitely something we’re very deliberate and focused on,” Chiang says. “Our players have told us for years that they want more versions of ‘Minecraft’. The most popular question is, “Where is ‘Minecraft 2’? “There really is no” Minecraft 2, “but options like” Minecraft Earth “and” Minecraft Dungeons “are ways of continuing to develop the” Minecraft “franchise.”

Video games and interactive entertainment

More immersive gaming and entertainment stories from reviewer Todd Martens.


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