Reflections on Minecraft Halloween/Samhain Extravaganza

So the portal opening was slightly less epic than I was hoping. I often imagine things being quite grand occasions as I plan them and they don’t always pan out. In the end one other student showed up, so there wasn’t exactly a full adventuring party to get to the Nether with. In any case there are some plus sides to the experience. My colleague who was present didn’t know how to do much at all in Minecraft yet. I am wondering if it was an act to teach me a lesson about the ‘learning curve’ challenge, because in the end my take away was that to have the sort of event I was planning a great deal more preparation would be required. There are steps to learning and a certain series of learning events must occur to arrive to an appropriate “zone of proximal development” before a crew of students is likely to be ready to get a lot out of delving into the Nether. I still had fun despite there being a small turnout, I was able to guide my colleague down the roadway I built from the spawn point to the Castle of the Undercommons, equip them with proper golden armor and weaponry, craft them a special diamond helmet, and teach a variety of basic skills for getting around and doing stuff in Minecraft. I also gifted them the diamond axe that I had crafted, so I hope they take good care of it! When combat came up they just kind of stood there and watched despite having a diamond axe, so it strikes me that a challenge of survivor mode in Minecraft is to learn the skill of killing undead creatures, which is a lot of left clicking with the mouse to strike your enemies and moving around with W (forward) A (left) S (backwards) D (right) and jumping (space bar).

All of the in-game teaching through typing was quite tedious, so it would have been very helpful to give folks proper instruction on installing and getting together on Discord for active voice communication while in Minecraft. In class we use Blackboard Collaborate, as we will be doing tonight. That is not ideal though because I think it is necessary to cycle back to BBC to click the “talk” button whereas Discord is set up for gaming and allows the user to simply press whatever button or key they assign any time they want to speak, like a walkie talkie. Discord is a more recent program that in my opinion is better than TeamSpeak and Ventrilo (its predecessors which started out free as well but which now cost money). Discord also recently came out with video chat, so it could be used in lieu of Skype or Google Hangouts or Facetime. The Intergalactic Multiversity for Magic and Wonder uses it to host regular virtual encounters. Discord FOR THE WIN!

I finally spotted the tower where I built the Nether Portal from the Obsidian I mined several hundreds of feet below the tower. We ventured up the mountain and I climbed to the top using a ladder I built on the spot. I had to mine through the cobblestone to break through the bottom of the platform at the top of the base. Just after I got to the top my colleague disappeared from the server and never made it to the top. I am not sure if they were bored, if I was somehow offensive, or if there were technical difficulties or personal responsibilities AFK that took precedent. In any case I activated the Nether Portal in a not very grand fashion, without any in-game audience or ceremony or theatrics. I then built out the platform more which I haven’t quite finished. I plan to build sets of bunk beds in at least a few separate structures at the top. I also want to put some basic crafting infrastructure and storage chests there. The beds are important because people have to venture from far away to get there and will need to rest. Also whenever you die in survival mode, I learned you respawn next to the last bed that you slept in. This way people can sleep before venturing into the very dangerous Nether realm, where I hear there is a dragon. The crafting infrastructure and chests will be used to cultivate and store an abundance of goods in common that adventurers can use before heading into the portal. There will also be smaller chests next to each bed for personal storage and one large chest in each room for party storage, that is it will be marked as the common property of people in a specific group who are utilizing that sleeping quarters but not just for anybody and everybody who happens through. There will be a separate storage facility for the commons that anybody can contribute to or take from. We shall see if this becomes an attractive enough idea for others with access to the server for it to go anywhere before we lose the server at the end of the semester. I am hoping so, but we do all have lives outside of Minecraft including myself despite how it may look!

Part of what boosted my already pretty high enthusiasm for Minecraft after first starting to play this semester (I never played before our class session last Wednesday), was watching this amazing film  Your Place or Minecraft by Gina Hara which was shown at Concordia in 2016. It covers various educational institutions use of Minecraft for research purposes which has encouraged me to start thinking about developing it as a core aspect of my research methodology for my dissertation. I plan to reach out to the Institute for Indigenous Futures, who does the type of work I am talking about but I think mostly with Second Life and Unity. Maybe they use Minecraft too but they are based at Concordia University as well, so maybe there is some connection. In any case I will leave you now with the archives of the “grand opening” of the Nether portal from last night.

Thank you for reading and please comment or contact me directly with any thoughts!

Session 1 – The Opening

Session 2 – The Vigil

Oh, and as well as being a n00b to Minecraft, this is also my first endeavor into Twitch. Here is the tutorial I used to figured out how to do this, thank you Chris Hoffman! It strikes me that Open Broadcaster Software (OBS), the free and open source software, as well as Twitch.tv have a lot of potential educational uses in terms of gaming and non-gaming realms.

Also, while you can watch Your Place or Minecraft on their website, I will also embed the whole series of videos directly here in case that increases your chances of watching any of them 😉

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