A Look Back at Our Summer of Minecraft Celebration

Last August, we celebrated the conclusion of our first Summer of Minecraft, an online Minecraft summer camp that took place over 4 weeks last summer and included more than 2,000 campers, as well as camps based at community partner organizations, such as the LA Public Library and LA Makerspace.

The celebration, held at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, California, showcased the work of Summer of Minecraft counselors and campers and included discussions with experts and artists from the tech and game-based learning worlds.

Joining the celebration were top innovators, including Flint Dille, Creative Lead at Google Ingress, Elan Lee, Founder of Exploding Kittens, Tara McPherson, Associate Professor of Media Arts and Practice Division at USC School of Cinematic Arts, Philip Messina, Production Designer for The Hunger Games, Rob Pardo, Lead Game Designer for Starcraft: Brood War, Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, Luz Rivas, Founder and Executive Director of DIY Girls, Jeff Watson, Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Games Division of USC School of Cinematic Arts, Lili Cheng, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft Research, and Joi Ito, Director at the MIT Media Lab.

During the event, counselors pointed out some of the major takeaways from programs like Summer of Minecraft.

“We’re teaching it [coding] in the form of a game so the campers still really treat ComputerCraft [coding within Minecraft] and learning programming like a game,” Julian Boss, Lead Counselor, said. “Because every single program that they make truly does affect their game play.”

Another counselor, Catherine Fox, Lead Counselor, added that Minecraft’s lack of a predetermined objective and emergent game play – complex situations that can arise during interaction in simple video games – allows players to determine their own goals.

Lead Counselor Travis Grady described how a group of his campers created a full-functioning democratic society in the game. The group built an island where they held elections, made their own rules, and created their own job board where they listed their roles and responsibilities on the team. Since this group was working as a team, they were a force to be reckoned with.

Flint Dille, Creative Lead at Google Ingress, added that he was fascinated by this type of ‘coopetition,’ cooperation and competition working hand-in-hand, since it often brings about such creativity.

Elan Lee, Founder of Exploding Kittens, said that games where players are just experiencing the environment and not creating it can have a lot more griefing, irritating other players by destroying their space or creating obstacles, because the main goal is being competitive and winning. In games where players created like Minecraft, there is less griefing, because all players feel a sense of authorship and pride.

Any griefing was controlled by our counselor moderated servers, which Jeff Watson, Assistant Professor of Interactive Media and Games Division of USC School of Cinematic Arts, said were really very innovative and allowed the facilitation of creativity, community, and collaboration.

To hear more about the campers’ experience and thoughts from leading thinkers, check out our new video below of the celebration event.

The event was made possible by a generous gift from Microsoft Research.

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