If you have come upon this article, chances are it is because your kid will not stop talking about an outrageously popular boxy video game called “Minecraft” and you are investigating whether or not to believe them when they tell you it is educational.
While there are many ways to play Minecraft, some more educational than others, there is widespread agreement that there are ways to play the game that teaches kids problem-solving skills, encourage them to be self-starters, and even expose them to architectural principles.
Read below to learn more about the infamous video game, and how exactly it can teach your kid architectural concepts.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is an architecture-based “sandbox” type video game in which players, rather than pursuing a single objective or passing through levels, have a great deal of creativity to explore different worlds and pursue their own projects.
The game can be played either in survival mode or creative mode. In survival mode, players collect materials and build structures to protect themselves and stay alive, meanwhile, in creative mode, they do not have to focus on sustaining their needs, and can rather use the game's infinite space and resources as building blocks to bring creative visions and communities to life.
Minecraft and Architecture
Minecraft, which was launched in 2011, had more than 140 million active monthly users as of 2021, and is capable of provoking fascination and delight among everyone from kindergarteners to professional architects, who have praised its user friendly interface as a way to make their field accessible. Some architects have even incorporated Minecraft into their profession as a serious design tool which offers “walk-through” views from any possible perspective.
How does Minecraft Teach Architectural Concepts?
Minecraft begins teaching about architecture by presenting a relatively realistic portrayal of different materials, where they come from, and how they can be used.
In survival mode, players must collect the materials they need to survive from their natural sources. In order words, they must seek out sheep to get wool, trees to get wood, and mine for stones and metals. Just like in the real world, some materials are harder to obtain than others, which needs to be taken into account when planning and building.
Once raw materials have been collected, they must undergo changes in order to be transformed into useful elements for building. For example, scaffoldings, which are useful in creating tall structures, are fashioned from bamboo and string, and glass for windows must be generated by heating blocks of sand. Before reading that last sentence, did you know that glass is made from sand? You may not have, but if your child plays Minecraft, chances are they did.
Then, once your child is ready to build, they need to consider structural principles to keep their creations from collapsing as they are made, as well as to consider which materials are the most appropriate for a given use. While it may initially appear that different materials in Minecraft are only distinguished by their visual color and texture pattern, they also have different properties within the game that mirror the properties of those materials in real life. For example, you cannot build roofs from gravel or sand (they will collapse) and structures made from wood are susceptible to catching on fire.
In addition to teaching your child about the provenance and use of different materials, Minecraft can also teach your child core architectural concepts such as utility, beauty, and durability.
Kids can learn basic lessons in utility, the idea that a structure must be appropriately built to carry out its purpose, through building structures like a bridge. For example, if your child sees a material they would like to mine across a river in survival mode, they will need to construct some way to cross the river, be it a boat, a raft, or a wooden bridge.
For more advanced learners, there are also far more nuanced lessons to be learned.
For example, imagine your child is building a mansion in which to host an “epic” Minecraft Party to which all their friends will be invited (yes, that’s a thing).
In this situation, your child will face the classic architectural dilemma of beauty vs utility, and learn how to maximize them both.
They are building a mansion? Well, it needs to be large enough to accommodate all the people they intend to invite, but also it should look fun and interesting so that the party seems “epic”. There needs to be a functional way to get around the different rooms, and each room should be aesthetically interesting, so that visitors will want to see them all. There should also be abundant light sources so that visitors can see what is going on in the room, but just like in real life, these light sources shouldn’t cause a fire hazard.
They are building a pool? It needs to be large and deep enough for multiple characters to “swim” at the same time, but also can’t be so large that it impedes the pathway of other characters on their way to the mansion.
While building a bridge or a manion are indubitably excellent ways for your child to learn about architecture, they may need some guidance to verbalize the concepts they are learning. Ivy Camps USA offers a 5 and 10 week Minecraft & Architecture: Turn Pixels into Castles class which will give your child an explicit introduction to different architectural principles, and provide them with the chance to experiment with these principles in the game through the creation of a final project. Learn more on our website, or schedule a free consultation to further discuss the Minecraft class, or look into which other programs are a good fit for your child.