By building a new Minecraft mod,
Researchers found a way to turn
A world that was both fun and odd
Into a place where Steve could learn.
Replacing wood with elements
And buildings with experiments.
A learning tool that rewards skills,
That people want to play for thrills!
The interdisciplinary research team (which included a materials scientist, two chemists, and a games design expert) developed a ‘mod’ for Minecraft, a game about placing blocks and going on adventures in which the default protagonist is a character called Steve. The ‘Polycraft World’ mod enables players to use material science and chemistry to complete specific in-game activities. These activities range from the harvesting and processing of natural rubber to make pogo sticks, to the conversion of crude oil into a jetpack via chemical synthesis and distillation techniques. The students are also provided with instructions on how to complete these activities and the underlying theory behind them via an accompanying Wiki.
During this research, the college students demonstrated a great aptitude for understanding and synthesising complex materials science knowledge, whilst the nature of the digital learning environment meant that the researchers could easily monitor the students’ enjoyment and engagement in an effective manner. This research presents new possibilities for the communication of science and for the successful incorporation of gaming into educational learning. By developing a modification for a highly successful game that allows students to learn in a playful environment, the researchers have potentially struck upon the holy grail of educational gaming, i.e. games that teach AND which people want to play because they are fun.
An audio version of this poem can be heard here.
You can find out more about the research of gaming by visiting the Games Research Network.