There aren’t any express objectives or any real way to win in Minecraft. It’s a “sandbox,” in gaming speak—offering free play without a specific goal and currently used by more than 18.5 million players, with some 20,000 more signing up every day. Users may choose between Creative Mode, in which they can build using unlimited resources by themselves or with friends, with no real danger or enemies, and Survival Mode, where they fend off enemies and other players and fight for resources and space. They can trade items and communicate using a chat bar. Modifications (or mods) can add complexity by creating things like economic systems that let players buy and sell resources from in-game characters using an in-game currency system. These downloadable mods can also add computer science concepts and thousands of additional features.
Minecraft’s worlds and possibilities are truly endless—and increasingly, so are its educational adaptations for school use. Available on multiple platforms (Apple, Windows, Linux, PlayStation, Xbox, Raspberry Pi, iOS, Android, Windows Phone), the game’s flexibility and collaborative possibilities make it a favorite among devotees of gamification.
“Minecraft is like LEGOs on steroids,” says Eric Sheninger, a senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education. “Learners of all ages work together to ultimately create a product that has value to them,” he adds. “The simple interface provides students in the classroom with endless possibilities to demonstrate creativity, think critically, communicate, collaborate, and solve problems.” A Swedish student research study also showed that collaboration in Minecraft provided a more immersive problem-solving experience than group LEGO building.