Understanding the Minecraft Generation: 5 Things to Know About Kids This Week

  • minecraft_traffic1. Understand the Minecraft Generation (kid help required). The New York Times Magazine’s epic look at why kids are so attracted to Minecraft is a must-read for any parent of a digital-world builder. This massive piece digs into the history of kids and construction play, and it includes a Minecraft world created just for the article with these notable instructions: “To play, you’ll need a computer with Minecraft and a child who’s familiar with the game. Once you have those things, just log on to the nytmag.hypixel.net server (your child will know what this means).” The article by Clive Thompson posted to the Times’ digital edition on Thursday, and it will also run in the upcoming Sunday Times Magazine. (The Minecraft Generation: How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children how to master the digital world)
  • 2. Education is more than reading and math. U.S. Education Secretary John King wants schools to “focus more on science, social studies, arts and world languages,” and reduce pressure on math and reading performance, according to an article this week in U.S. News and World Report. In written text pre-released from his upcoming speeches, King says educators and families tell him that “key elements of what makes up a well-rounded education have been neglected in favor of too tight a focus on math and reading.” He asserts that if kids spent time in school learning about a broader range of subjects it would “make the difference between disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning.” (Education Secretary to States: Ease Up on the Reading and Math)
  • white_house_science_fair3. Young scientists wow at White House. President Obama hosted his final White House Science Fair this Wednesday, bringing an end to a tradition he began in 2010 to bring attention to the amazing work of kid scientists. According to The New York Times, “White House officials say the fairs have drawn some 450 students in kindergarten through 12th grade; this year’s was the largest, with 130 attendees.” (A ‘Big Science Guy’ Named Obama Hosts Young Innovators One Last Time)
  • 4. Is nature a natural right? “All children need nature. Not just the ones with parents who appreciate nature. Not only those of a certain economic class or culture or gender or sexual identity or set of abilities. Every child,” wrote Richard Louv, Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the the Children & Nature Network on the organization’s blog this week. “If a child never sees the stars, never has meaningful encounters with other species, never experiences the richness of nature, what happens to that child?” Louv raises this and 12 other questions that explore how culture, economics, education and other factors affect kids’ access to nature. (All Children Need Nature: 12 questions about equity and capacity)
  • 5.  Highlight Haiku. Sunday, April 17, is International Haiku Poetry Day, when poetry enthusiasts of all ages celebrate this ancient Japanese art form. Kids learning about syllables and poetry structure are often fascinated by these brief poems, which typically include three lines consisting of five syllables, then seven syllables, then five syllables. The content in haiku are traditionally based on topics related to nature, something else many kids find fascinating. Encourage your kid to write a Haiku on Sunday about their favorite nature spot and write one yourself. (How to Write a Haiku)

From Spectator to Star Player in the Press of a Button

The year was 1990. There I was, 10 years old with a killer side-spike, in the living room helping my dad point our family video camera at the TV. I needed to document what was about to happen. I hit the record button and picked up my Nintendo controller to capture one of my greatest childhood achievements — beating the end boss on Mega Man 3.

Sure, I was a bit of a fanatic. Why I ever thought someone would actually want to watch my 10-year-old self play video games is a mystery. But I knew I needed the ability to share and relive that moment.

Twenty-five years later, the idea of recording and watching gameplay is a little different. But that magical feeling you get when you share those memorable experiences with others is still there and stronger than ever.

Tools make sharing gameplay easier than ever

Live-streaming, recording and sharing gameplay isn’t exactly a new trend. A few famous videos I remember date back to 2006, just a year after the first YouTube video was uploaded. Today, there are thousands of channels and millions of people spending countless hours watching Let’s Play live-streams, video montages, game-review talk shows and more.

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But the recent explosion of popularity is somewhat new. Faster consoles and user-friendly editing and broadcast tools essentially brought watching and creating video game content beyond the technically savvy. From news about PewDiePie’s $7 million paycheck or even YouTube’s big push to become the leading provider, these new features and technology have opened the floodgates to basically turn video games into a spectator sport.

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A little something for everyone

At any given moment, consoles like PS4 and Xbox One offer live channel streams with everything from Minecraft builders giving exclusive tours of their giant castle creations to football fans re-enacting last year’s Superbowl matchup in Madden. You’ll see big events like Street Fighter competitions or community join-ups for “easter egg” hunting. Nearly every channel is filled with gamers and fans of all ages, from all over the world. Host personalities and awesome soundtracks build subscribers and keep viewers coming back for new videos.

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Personally, aside from the occasional “funny moment” montage videos, I find a lot of value in taking a peek at live-streams featuring newly released games. Since usually I’m on the fence about buying a new game and I can’t stand overproduced (and sometimes biased) YouTube review videos, I find this is great way to see real footage and help decide if I need to own it or not.

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Sports meets storytelling

You could make plenty of comparisons to watching sports in general.

  • Within each game, everyone has a common understanding of what the playing field is and knows what the standards of performance are.
  • Friends and foes are made over (virtual) high-fives, inside jokes and endless trash talk.
  • Unlike professional sports, you can mute anyone unruly or go from spectator to star player by just pressing the start button.

Competition can get heavy here with points and objectives, but each game still has its own unique story. Every human player you add to the equation adds a level of surprise and unpredictability within each adventure. Experiencing those unique moments together provides that same level of excitement and thrill you might get watching the Sunday game with friends.

Spectating can lead to deeper undertanding

It only takes a little passion before gamers start to seek out content and new ways to engage in their favorite titles. Spectating others’ play will lead to discovery and can build a deeper understanding of a game you’ve already put hours to. With open-world or sandbox style games, sharing or streaming becomes a “visit the world I’ve built” type of experience. There’s plenty to learn with all the creative minds out there when you just dive in.

As these games and play experiences become more complex — in both story and technology — streaming, sharing and gameplay spectating will continue to evolve and open up the world beyond just being a player. No side-spike required.

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