Yes, we let our boys adventure with Minecraft, the award winning, addictive video game used by over 100 million people worldwide. Including many of our children’s classmates. And they savor the limited time they are allowed to explore this creative platform. In a recent article in the New York Times, Clive Thompson explores the history and appeal of Minecraft, from its development by a once-obscure Swedish programmer, to its recent purchase by Microsoft.
Thompson notes that, unlike many modern computer games, Minecraft encourages users to delve into the code behind the program to create innovative options. (When was the last time you wrote a line of code?) At its essence, the program provides a clean slate for users to create imaginative, interactive environments out of simple building blocks. Indeed, Thompson points to the similarities between Minecraft and playing with wooden blocks, activities that are thought to cultivate abstract thought. That the application ships with essentially no instructions further promotes active learning. Players have to learn how to play, inspiring exploration, and information sharing with other users.
Perhaps we need to be more open minded about a healthy balance between (constructive) video games, and more traditional activities, such as reading and play. Indeed, there is compelling evidence for the value of some video-based activities, as reviewed here, and here.