The anti-Minecraft

Lots of Second Life-people don’t like Minecraft. They consider it too primitive, too childish or whatever. I disagree, I think it’s a fantastic game helping young and not-so-young people all kinds of digital literacies. Joseph Flaherty Wired made me discover another game with Minecraft-like aesthetics, but with themed worlds which can be fully destroyed. It seems the worlds are not persistent, they are generated anew by starting a new session, yet no two sessions can ever be the same.

The new game is called Moonman and was funded via Kickstarter.

Microsoft’s HoloLens delivers a new level of augmented reality

Dieter Bohn and Tom Warren at The Verge had an amazing mixed realities experience at Microsoft. They tried out the HoloLens, a headset that projects holograms into real space. They report about having Minecraft on a coffee table and about an amazing experience during which an engineer who was communicating via Skype helped a reporter to fix a light switch, not only by talking but also by actually drawing on ‘his reality’. Sounds very weird but have a look at the video:

The applications go far beyond gaming of course: all kinds of support and learning situations could benefit from this.

Progressive and emergent games / online courses

I’ve been looking into an interesting course going on right now, Understanding Video Games, at Coursera by Leah Hackman and Sean Gouglas (Alberta University). It’s a rather institutional Massive Open Online Course, not the connectivist style we experience at connectedcourses, but I’m very interested in the subjects they teach.

The three main parts of the course are developing the terminology that enables us to talk about video games,
exploring how these terms are used in theoretical frameworks to interpret games, and turning these theories toward cultural aspects of games in order to understand how the medium has impacted society.

I’m not much of a gamer myself, but I do think game culture can teach as a lot about web culture in general and about some of the basic inspirations of connectivist MOOCs. More specifically I think that open-ended, sandbox-like games and Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) are somehow among the ancestors of online, learner-centric open-ended courses.

One of the interesting concepts we study at the Video Games course are “emergent” and “progressive” games.
“Progressive” is not a political term here, it simply describes games that have little freedom of choice within the game, and “emergent” describes games with much freedom of choice within the game. This reminds me of the distinction between this Video Games course (progressive) and the connectedcourses (emergent).

Anyway, games and virtual environments seem like an interesting topic today, as Microsoft just bought Minecraft for $2.5bn (and not long ago Facebook acquired Oculus Rift for $2bn). Let’s hope Microsoft will not turn out to be a giant Creeper for the Mincecraft community…

What does the success of Minecraft mean?

‘Could Minecraft be the next great engineering school?’ Scott Smith asks at Quartz.

He explains that Minecraft can be considered as a particularly interesting MOOC – and an example of peer2peer learning.

Minecraft has become a kind of anarchic massive open online course (MOOC) all on its own, without developing courseware or costly new program licenses. Part of the proliferation is due to user-created video, particularly on YouTube, where a quick search yields 7.5 million mentions. Video podcasts, recordings of building in progress and most importantly, walkthroughs, or videos of players demonstrating how to master levels or particular construction techniques, keep the global Minecraft horde digging and trying to impress or teach one another, forming a key part of the informal player-to-player education that makes the game a fascinating phenomenon to observe.

Let’s have a look at this game and engineering:

Minecraft is spectacularly popular, even though it’s an open or ‘sandbox’-game. Wagner James Au at the New World Notes reported a while ago that the game is more popular than Call of Duty on Xbox Live – as it became the most popular game.

Which contrasts with my conviction that these open ended, sandbox-like games only cater for a niche audience. Is Minecraft a unique success story or is there a wider trend in favor of these open games? Linden Lab is launching Patterns which seems to be heavily inspired by Minecraft, so they seem to believe in the wider trend.

Another question is why Second Life – as another open environment – seems to stagnate if such a trend exists. Could it be that sophisticated graphics are of lesser importance?

Read also my post about Minecraft in Layar and Minecraft Reality.

Apps on top of the world: another Minecraft-in-Reality

In an earlier post about MetaMeets I briefly mentioned the Dutch artist Sander Veenhof with his eye-opening and often subversive usage of augmented reality. In yet another post we referred to Minecraft Reality, an app which allows you to position constructions built in the virtual Minecraft-environment into the physical world. Sander however is more radical: he lets you create Minecraft-styled constructions immediately layered upon the physical world through an augmented reality app.

Download the “Layar” app on your smartphone, then click ‘layers’ button and search for “virtual sculpturing”. Or have a look at the virtual sculpturing page.

Follow Sander Veenhof on Twitter and also have a look at the Twitter lists he follows.

Apps on top of the real world

This seems to be pretty cool, but as you’ll see in the ‘read more’ section, it’s much more than just ‘cool’:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=2pOpcR7uf5U?version=3&hl=en_US”>< And here is how it works: https://youtube.com/watch?v=lmKYVUemS_M?version=3&hl=en_US">< It's build by Stockholm-based 13thlab.com and it’s an app available on iOS.

Using advanced computer vision, Minecraft Reality maps and tracks the world around you using the camera, and allows you to place Minecraft worlds in reality, and even save them in a specific location for others to look at.

Minecraft Reality is built on our PointCloud SDK. For more information, and examples of what people are placing, visit http://minecraftreality.com.

Just like the Google ARG Ingress, this is yet another example of the crumbling walls between the digital world and the world formerly known as the real world.

The guys of 13thLab claim: “We think the camera will replace the GPS as the most important sensor to interpret and make sense of the world around you.”

Hat tip for Bruce Sterling on Beyond the Beyond for posting about this.

Read also:
– If the world were your platform, what apps would you build, by Janko Roettgers at GigaOM. He asks the fascinating question: “If your apps aren’t just running on a phone or a tablet anymore, but essentially on top of the real world — what kind of apps do you build?”
– The World Is Not Enough: Google and the Future of Augmented Reality by Alexis C. Madrigal at theAtlantic.
-Minecraft creations meet the real world through augmented reality iOS app by David Meyer on GigaOM.

Minecraft, that strange 3D game in our browsers

I saw this fascinating video about Minecraft (via Kotaku). Wikipedia explains:

Minecraft is a sandbox game which allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D world. It is currently in development by Markus “Notch” Persson on the Java platform. The gameplay is inspired by Dwarf Fortress, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Dungeon Keeper, and especially Infiniminer. Minecraft was developed for about a week before its public release on May 16, 2009 on the TIGSource forums, where it gained a considerable level of popularity. It has been continually updated since then.

There is now a multiplayer version. I just ran the game in a browser on an office computer – no download was necessary. The game is pretty addictive, the fact that it’s clunky and in some early development phase seems to add to its charm.

It’s another example of how much more is possible in browsers, apart from the usual text/2D animations/video – and also how an individual can create something beautiful and inspiring, going viral.