Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Mining Learning and Crafting Scientific Experiments: A Literature Review on the Use of Minecraft in Education and Research

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Mining Learning and Crafting Scientific Experiments: A Literature Review on the Use of Minecraft in Education and Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

When analyzing educational videogames, researchers can observe that games, which cannot be described as designed specifically for educational purposes (Connolly, Boyle, MacArthur, Hainey, & Boyle, 2012; Ritzhaupt, Gunter, & Jones, 2010), have been used. Off-the-shelf games like Civilization III (Squire, 2004; Squire, DeVane, & Durga, 2008), Making History (Watson, Mong, & Harris, 2011), Massively Multiplayer Online-Role-Playing Games like World of Warcraft or EVE Online (Clark, Nelson, Sengupta, & D'Angelo, 2009; Rausch, Fasshauer, & Martens, 2012; Reeves, Malone, & O Driscoll, 2008), simulation-based videogames like Sim City 2000 (Tanes & Cemalcilar, 2010), and narrative-focused adventures like The Walking Dead (Staaby, 2014) have been used in education or educational research. Even software that was never intended to be used as a game at all (e.g., Power Point, Siko & Barbour, 2013; Siko, Barbour, & Toker, 2011) appears in this context. These examples show the growing interest of researchers and teachers in using very different software as educational tools. Thus, we conclude that educational videogames are not only games that have been intended to be educational tools in the first place but also games that can be utilized as such. This can be elucidated even further when observing the impressive success of Quizkampen (http://www.quizkampen.se/), a mobile-based trivia game that includes online duels between friends and strangers. The players have to answer questions that address very different topics such as politics, geography, movies, or film stars. Thus, a stable learning process within topics that are not entirely entertainment-based is needed to improve in the competitive scenario.

The German version Quizduell has been downloaded more than 10 million times (SpotOn, 2014) and was extended to other media since the game is the center of a nationwide TV show (Das Erste, 2015). The success of a game that combines educational elements and competitive videogame mechanics is an appropriate example of the potential of videogames with entertainment-focused intent. Another videogame, Minecraft (https://minecraft.net/), had a significant impact not only on videogames in general but also on education and research. More than 19 million copies (Mojang, 2015a) have been sold for PC, 12 million copies for XBOX360 (4J Studios, 2014), and more than 21 million copies for mobile phones (Bergensten, 2014), which places the game on the all-time best-sellers list. Since its developer Mojang has been taken over by Microsoft for $2.5 billion (Owen, 2014), the game is known to the public as this was addressed in news around the world. In addition, millions of hours of gameplay footage and let's plays are available for interested users who are either too young or do not have the technical or financial capacities to play the game themselves.

What is Minecraft?

In 2009, independent developer Zachary Barth created Infiniminer (http://www.zachtronics.com/infiniminer/) in his spare time. Within this game, he invented a new way of representing the game world with simple independent, block- shaped entities and added a procedural generation of the environment. Users who enter this randomly generated game world mine and place blocks, and thus recreate anything that can be constructed within this block-based structure. This process can be compared to a square pixel and low-resolution pictures. Based on a simple element, like a pixel, one can create almost every image he or she wants. Although the game includes player versus player gameplay, the simple but ingenious building mechanics and the world creation method inspired Markus "Notch" Persson to create his own Java-based version that eventually became Minecraft. This multiplayer sandbox building game (Ekaputra, Lim, & Eng, 2013) is simply "a game about braking and placing blocks" (Mojang, 2015a), but the game's complexity has drastically increased since then (for a more extensive description see: Duncan, 2011). …

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