Minecraft is the game everyone is playing these days. It’s really impressive how such a simple game, with so few rules, has gathered such a massive following. There are 40 million registered players, with more joining every day. Many of these players are kids – nearly every student Breakout Mentors works with plays the game!
For those unfamiliar with Minecraft, here is a 1 minute trailer that is sure to pique your interest:
There are many interesting aspects that entices people try the game and then keep playing. But rather than examining what makes the game fun, let’s explore how it makes kids interested in learning how to program.
With so little structure to the game, players are able to build whatever they want. This can range from humongous castles and famous buildings all the way to beautiful scenery. This establishes in the player’s mind that time spent on the computer can be creative.
The game also features “pistons” and “redstones” that allow you to make complex moving contraptions. These can act as a circuit and memory storage of an in game computer. They allow you to make trap doors, elevators, digital clocks, and way more. This is essentially programming, although in a very weird environment.
Those are the in game features that give players an introduction to programming concepts, but just as important is the Minecraft software itself. If you want to play multi-player with your friends and your own rules (more on this in a second), you have to setup a server to play on. This server / client relationship is how the internet functions and gives kids exposure to being a publisher of content online rather than just a consumer.
By far the most obvious way Minecraft entices kids to learn how to program is through mods. Minecraft is written in the Java programming language and anyone is able to mod, or customize, their game to create new rules, objects, blocks, and more. Yes, kids are actually figuring out how to access the source code of the game and tweaking things to change how the game works. They might not understand a lot of the Java code, but the exposure to it makes them want to learn more.
If your student is interested in learning how to make Minecraft mods, let us know by email or leave a comment below. Breakout Mentors is currently investigating offering small classes in the Bay Area that use Minecraft mods as a way to build excitement to learn more programming. We’d love to hear your thoughts!