Have ever played with Legos?

Last week on of my friends showed me a game called MineCraft. At the beginning I looked at him and I could not believe he could play this game. It simply looked horrible. The graphics looked like the game was created twenty years ago. However, since my friend could not stop playing that game I started watching him play to understand what was so exciting about it.

The whole idea of the game is to build your own world, by using resources that you can find. If you want to create more sophisticated items such as signs made of wood you need to cut trees to get wood and the necessary tools. You can play alone or you can play with friends.

Because I have never played that game, it is kind of hard for me to tell anything more about it. However, by looking at it kind of made me think of little kids playing with Legos; since the MineCraft world is basically build of blocks like Legos.  I started thinking about it in categories of educational games that can teach kids not only how to use computers because of it simple interface, but also how simple items are created; that you need resources that are found usually in a forest or in the field such as wood, sand, and tools to create them. I think it can be a really fun educational resource especially if played with other kids, to understand how civilization was developing. Also it lets you be creative by trying a lot of different combinations of resources and tools in order to create something new.

I bet that some of you have played that game before so maybe you can share more….

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Elaboration on a Minecraft Comment from Digital Ops

I already made a comment about the awesomeness of Minecraft on the class blog earlier this semester. Anything that can be so simply created, lacking many of the detailed visuals and complicated plotlines that we associate with successful, high-end games today, but can still reach out and snare the minds of so many people has something very special. How does Minecraft manage to motivate people to spend so many hours playing it? The first day that I logged in to Minecraft and created my world, I spent almost eight hours exploring, much to the detriment of visiting my long-distance boyfriend, although he had to have understood how much fun I was having exploring and fighting monsters, as he had just done the same thing a week before. However, Minecraft, at the time, had no badge systems and has only a rudimentary system currently, has no clearly prescribed goals, and is very open-ended. Why did I, my boyfriend, and so many others find it so engaging?

At Digital Ops, one of the members made a comment that young children playing Minecraft will often spend the first hour using cheats to make large structures and to go around the rules of the world, and, that, after this first hour, these young children will transition to actually working within the confines of the world to create their own structures, even if they are much smaller and less impressive than the structures made using cheats. Although Minecraft is fairly easy to manipulate cheats in, these young children are intrinsically motivated to play within the confines of the game and build and explore on their own. The game creates a sense of unknown, arousing curiosity within the player, and it creates varying levels of difficulty as the player progresses through different adventures that encourages the player to gain new materials, create new things, and face new challenges. If this level of intrinsic motivation could be harnessed within other settings that young children engage in, such as school, much more successful outcomes might occur.

Does anyone else have any ideas what might make Minecraft and other sandbox games like it so successful and engaging?

Females in Video Games (And a Random Rant!)

As I was writing my Game Selection Paper, I was thinking about the tripartite identity mentioned by Gee and by Professor Fishman in lecture, about the identity of the player in the real world, the character in the virtual world, and the blending of the character and the player into an integrated identity. I chose a role-playing game for my video game for class, and one of the things that I am most interested to learn this semester is how developing the blended identity between the player and the character in the game facilitates learning and motivates the player to try new challenges in the game and encourages the player to play the game differently. However, I realized that this is going to be a slight challenge in the game that I chose for class. Although I have played other characters in similar games with the same challenge and have still formed a connection with the character, the main character in the game that I chose, Final Fantasy Tactics, is male. I am female, and I wonder how this impacts my connection with the character. Would I be able to connect with the character on a different level if the character was the same gender as me? It will be interesting to consider how I may have played the game differently this semester if the main character was female.

Considering how I connected with a character in a video game who is a different gender with me made me consider gender dynamics in video games in general. Although the number of females playing video games is only slightly smaller than the number of males playing video games in general, many gamers assume that other games are mostly male. One of my favorite games currently is Minecraft. (To read more about Minecraft and consider getting it because it is awesome and will take up all of your freetime, visit: http://www.minecraft.net/). I was on a forum about Minecraft and was discussing one of my current projects with another player. At one point, I mentioned that my boyfriend was helping me to design the roof for the giant cathedral that I was building, and the player paused for a moment before typing, “Wait…you’re gay?” According to current research, only ten percent of the population is homosexual; fifty percent of the population is female. Why did he pick the less likely of the two options? One of my closest female friends is an avid World of Warcraft player and she has stopped telling other people that she is interacting with that she is female because she either gets, “Wow! You must be really good if you are a girl and play this,” “You must be pretty bad. Girls aren’t good at WOW. You shouldn’t raid with us,” or receives an offer for a date or a certain popular derogatory message (I imagine many people are aware of the phrase that I am thinking of.) Even video game designers appear to assume that most gamers are male when designing protagonists. There are few powerful, independent female protagonists in video games. The main example that I can think of is Samus Aran from Metroid. Although women do exist as main characters in other video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness, these women are often highly sexualized and may not have well-developed, independent characters. As a female gamer, I would like to have more independent, powerful women to play as and experience games through. Does anyone see a shift in this perception of female gamers occurring? Does anyone have any recommendations of games with a strong female protagonist that I could try? Does anyone have any other feelings on this subject?

Although this is not exactly video game related, I believe that this two blog posts from Epbot (one of my favorite blogs; the woman who writes it is so spirited and funny!) is also highly appropriate to this topic:

http://www.epbot.com/2011/12/three-cheers-for-little-girl-spock.html

http://www.epbot.com/2010/11/geek-girls-activate.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+epbot%2FfOpU+%28EPBOT%29

I don’t understand why there are people who tease others for their choices in entertainment or in their interests. Whether it is as a female gamer, a girl who wishes to dress up as Spock for Halloween, a boy who decides that he wants to dance ballet, or anyone else who chooses to defy societal norms is alright. Sorry that this post started as “I want more strong female protagonists in gaming!” and ended as “Let’s accept and support everyone!” I think that this is an important message that this class will teach us, though. We are attempting to understand and potentially pioneer a new method of learning. There will be stigma associated with it, just as there is currently stigma to a certain extent against females who play video games, but we must work through the stigma and fight for what we believe works and is important. This is an important lesson in perseverance, whether in learning, in changing the world, or just in finally beating the final boss of that one horribly hard game.

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