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Minecrafting with experts

asweeney's picture

My first minecraft experience was quite different than I expected it to be, and likely quite different than my future experiences with the game. I arrived at babysitting as usual, but when I approached the 2 9 year old boys and one 7 yr old boy in the basement, I was greeted by them shouting about minecraft. I explained our class assignment to the boys, and they were eager to help with my "homework" (Jonah--age 7--wanted to know what other colleges have a mincraft class but also a football team:-) and let me play with them on the Xbox......that is after they finished building their "parcore"---which I had never heard of and now understand to be some sort of structure you can build in creative mode of the game. I had to wait basically 2 hours for them to finish the parcore before they started a new world and handed me a controller (watching the game is dizzying!)

The experience of surviving in a new world with 3 experienced players who have spent the past two hurricane days off school playing the game was perhaps too overwhelming for my first experience with the game. I like the concept that we were all on a team trying to survive together. Unfortunately, however, it was very clear that I was the weakest link of our team. 3 times Jack had to seize the controller out of my hands and guide me to where he and the others were sheltered so that I didn't die. Half way through two of the boys "compromised" and decided to take turns "helping Abby" since apparently answering my questions about which buttons to press was an undesirable responsibility for all. I often felt like I was being yelled at as Aiden screamed "Abby press RT! turn around! not upside down! Abby turn around! Don't go there! You are about to drown! ect....." To be frank, I was messing them up. Eventually, my role became to collect wood and supplies for them. Then the hour ended, and I was relieved to have to go upstairs and make dinner. Minecraft was exhausting. 

 This has led me to see that the question of "what are the ups and downs to the ways in which games reward?" can be viewed not only within the virtual world of a game, but also within the so-called "real" world? Do games teach patience, acceptance, leadership, and compromise? Do they help children create rewards outside the game? Do they reward the parents of the "real" world? For example, what is the reward a babysitter recieves when children can not respond to "would you like chicken or pizza?" because they are so absorbed in the game? Is it foolish to think that games should or could reward even those not playing the game?  


emmagulley's picture

Hi Abby, I think your post is

Hi Abby,

I think your post is really interesting--I could really picture myself there!

While I can appreciate your frustration as the babysitter in the situation, it does seem (in some ways) like the children were learning real life "rewards" outside of the game.  It would have been easy for them to A) not help you, or B) not all agree take turns helping you.  Helping you (it sounds like) would sacrifice their individual scores.  Ipso facto, not helping you--at all, or leaving the "duty" of helping you to one person, the first person who volunteered--would have increased their scores.  I was kind of touched by the fact that they all tried to help you.  Maybe they didn't do it in the post patient or pedagogically-friendly way, but ultimately they did make the decision to not be as competitive/cut-throat, and instead to help their teammate out.  

Maybe their level of frustration was, indeed, frustration and anxiety-inducing for you, their babysitter, but it does seem like there are some interesting social dynamics going on in that little group of boys!  Deciding to help a teammate--indeed, an authority figure--in the face of purely "winning" with a higher score has its own interesting dimension to it.  



alesnick's picture

experts who are not also teachers?

It's interesting that the role you eventually settled on during this stressful initiation (!) was rather menial -- low-skill.  Perhaps we learn more about the pedagogical capacities of your charges here than about the game?

I mean it, though.  This post raises a lot of material useful to consider what a neophyte needs to access a new discourse and practice community.