“Community Garden” by Gumby Blockhead, on Flickr

There have been a couple of very clear examples over the past week that point to how successful Minecraft can be in promoting collaboration among players. Both of the following stories illustrate how players in-game can work together to achieve common objectives, and both reflect how cooperation and shared goals create a wonderful context for learning.

Survival With Friends

While exploring the wilds of Survival the other night, I accidently allowed my health points drop down to about half a heart, and then expired from the twitches just as a Creeper exploded nearby. The net result of the death (or near-death) and Creeper explosion was that when I respawned, I had nothing. None of my belongings had survived, and one of the Youngers nearby commented, “Gee, that’s too bad. You had lots of good stuff.”

Given that we were exploring in Survival together, I decided to just knuckle down and rebuild my Inventory the proper way, rather than warping back to The Castle for a re-supply. That’s one of the joys of playing Survival  — you can choose to explore adversity knowing that you have the skills to recover and rebuild — the “I like the games that let you restart them when you die” reality is a great learning support as you meander through the wilderness.  At any rate, both of us needed resources, and we started to work together.

Before I knew it, HuskyMuddKipper and SkippyMuddKipper and I (as GumbyBlockhead) were going about the process of setting up a brand-new base of operations — starting from scratch. I punched down a couple of trees to fashion a Crafting Block and a Chest, and two hastily built furnaces allowed us to cook the three raw pork chops and four raw chickens that we had managed to scrape together with our bare hands. We coordinated our actions without too much chat — getting some wooden (and then stone) picks with which to mine iron for armor. I wanted to a bucket to collect water for a garden, but one of the others found a nearby pond and planted our grain along the shore so that we could get some wheat. I had some bone meal gathered from a few unfortunate skeletons that had crossed our paths. We were able to use it to hasten the growth of the wheat, and so we stretched our preliminary food stock with a couple of loaves of bread. As we worked, I noticed that the dropped saplings from our tree harvests were being replanted. 🙂   Along the way,  Pepeliamco logged in and joined our group.

After gathering a couple of found eggs, I tried to establish an initial Chickenatorium in our hole-in-the-wall base, but neither hatched a chicken. Nuts! Every good base has a productive Chickenatorium!

“Chickenatorium,” by Gumby Blockhead, on Flickr

Digging down underground in search of minerals, I found myself cut off from my fellow explorers, and was starting to feel lost when the chat announced that a warp had just been created at our base. “Survival_WithFriends.”

Just perfect! Just in time, and a wonderful name, too!

“Survival, With Friends” by Gumby Blockhead, on Flickr

Warping back to the surface, I used some grain to lead a solitary chicken back to the Chickenatorium, but as I approached, I began to hear a clucking noise coming through the wall. Imagine how pleased I was to find three adult and one baby chick already established! Teamwork! For sure!  The steps leading down to our underground mine had been refined with cobblestone steps. Our garden was flourishing. The next thing I knew, we had plenty of furnaces and chests and storerooms and we were accumulating all the supplies that we would need for our next adventure!

Just as in the fable of The Stone Soup, we started with nothing, and by each contributing what little bits and pieces we managed to scrounge together, we came up with a most wonderful meal — and home base.

Creativity with Friends

Now over on the Creative side of the GamingEDUs Professional Play server, another story had been unfolding. I had enjoyed seeing the wonderful Pixel Art that Jack1225 and Phisagrim had created earlier in the month, and last week I was very impressed with the Santa/Elf-Not-On-The-Shelf that Phisa had built. I shared pictures of the builds of Jack and Phisa on Flickr.

“Holiday Adventure Challenge Map,” image by Gumby Blockhead, on Flickr

Well, these guys have just been building up a storm in Creative, and over the past week they have added and extended out from the Santa Elf to build an amazing Holiday Adventure Challenge Map that reflects their wonderful ideas and sense of fun. Toss in some Command Block coding and redstone programming courtesy of CosmicDragon, and the course built by Phisagrim, MikeyTyrant, Jack1225, and Cosmic rocks the holiday season!

"Redstone Circuit," animated GIF by @GumbyBlockhead

“Redstone Circuit,” animated GIF by @GumbyBlockhead

One of the best examples of cooperation and collaboration I’ve ever seen in-game came when the guys were discussing how they might decorate the giant cake that had been built. One was suggesting that lava might be used to provide the flame on the candles. Another was worried that the lava might destroy the (wool) cartoon cake. I suggested that flaming Netherrack might provide an option, and in the end the cake’s builder indicated that he wanted to maintain the “cartoon look” of the cake and so we all deferred to his wishes. It was a great example of shared, collaborative decision-making that clearly took into account the voices of all of the participants and resulted in a most excellent looking cake. Not only is there a wonderful result from the process, but the kids are practicing the process as they collaborate.

Cake-Outside,-and-In

Not to mention that in addition to being part of the obstacle course, it is also FILLED inside with real, edible Minecraft Cake!

The work that these young men have undertaken together in building their Holiday Adventure Challenge Map is part Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, part Parkour, part Obstacle Course, part Seasonal Celebration, and it features such elements as trap doors, lava, distance and timed jumps, a gauntlet with fireworks, powerups, speed boosts, a maze, and even a hockey rink.  In addition to the Holiday theme, there is also a very beautiful and moving remnant from Remembrance Day in the form of a very respectful cemetery replete with poppies.

The following still images really don’t do justice to the thought and effort that these friends have put into this construction over the span of the last 5 or 6 days — just know that the results are very engaging (you really need to play it to fully appreciate it) and that this is only one of the many builds these players have built on the Creative side of the server.

I’ve still not mastered the standard double-jump (I just build a bridge in Survival), but these guys have replicated the kind of physical and coordinated challenges in Minecraft that I’ve experienced in games that cost the big bucks. Check out CosmicDragon demonstrating this part of the obstacle course in the animated GIF below. He’s timing his jumps just perfectly to leap to a block that’s not even there yet from a block that’s about to be retracted. I can’t even hit the first block, let alone get the timing right to make it across all three. And oh, the lava!

"Cosmic Takes a Leap of Faith," animated GIF by @GumbyBlockhead

“Cosmic Takes a Leap of Faith,” animated GIF by @GumbyBlockhead

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of great learning going on here. Dig deeply, and you can see the wealth of imagination and creativity that comes out when learners are engaged and collaborating in their own projects.

What a great sandbox to Play ‘N’ Learn in!

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Put TUESDAY EVENINGS AT 7 PM ET on your calendar. Join us on the GamingEDUs Professional Play server for our weekly Play  ‘N’ Learn evenings.