Beyond Button Smashing: Utilizing Minecraft and Other Video Games as Synchronous Learning Tools for Science Learning

Beyond Button Smashing: Utilizing Minecraft and Other Video Games as Synchronous Learning Tools for Science Learning

Sherry Yi
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7567-2.ch010
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This chapter is a literature review on synchronous learning in science classrooms primarily focused on the video game Minecraft (MC). The author argues that video games can and have been used as synchronous learning tools and as a means of live communication in the classroom. First, the author briefly discusses the historical foundations that has led to the modern video game industry to what it is today. Second, uses of MC and other video games in science classrooms are reviewed. This chapter also provides practical advice to education practitioners on ways to utilize video games and available lesson plans as a tool in science classrooms and offers researchers valuable insight on using video games as a means of expanding on their own research interests and projects.
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One could argue that America had been prepping for the video game industry since the 1880s and 1890s. In an examination of public amusements, Nasaw (1993) documents that the once prominent amusement parlors of the late nineteenth century were rebranded as penny arcades. The primary audience of these establishments, once sophisticated adults, were replaced by young men and boys who gathered around a peephole machine to watch How Girls Undress (Nasaw, 1993, pg. 155). The early twentieth century entertainment exploded with the emergence of penny arcades, nickelodeons (movie theaters that cost a nickel), vaudeville (a theatrical show featuring variety entertainment) and lecture halls, amusement parks, and summertime fairs; the working class now had ways to relieve stress like never before (Nasaw, 1993, pg. 155-173).

In 1966, companies Namco and Sega introduced Periscope, a submarine simulator and shooter game that cost a quarter to play (Kent, 2001). The invention of Periscope was only the beginning of coin-operated entertainment and made way for games such as Duck Hunt, Grand Prix, and eventually Space Invader, credited as the starting point of the golden age of arcade video games (Whittaker, 2004; Kent, 2010). By 1981, the American video game industry boasted whopping net worth of $5 billion dollars (Whittaker, 2004, p. 122). Popular entertainment is once again reconfigured in the early twenty-first century, from coin-based arcades to personal electronic devices, from the occupation of the public sphere to the private sphere.

The video game industry is more popular, volatile, and competitive than ever before. The rise in demand and seductive market for video game entertainment drew more than $23 billion dollars in total video game industry revenue, according to Nasdaq, Inc., generating more than both the movie and music industry (Investing in Video Games, 2016), presenting educators an opportunity to capitalize on using video games in their classrooms given the mass appeal of video games and its cultural relevancy. Unlike predecessors, companies are now able to reach consumers through multiple means-- PC’s, consoles, and mobile devices-- instead of waiting for their arrival at a physical location such as an arcade. This fluidity between devices, which most if not all are connected to the Internet, allows for players to maintain one steadfast gamer profile across all platforms, and retain a secure way to pay for games. It is common to find advertisements within games, often from the same company, and witnessing prompts or pop-ups for in-game purchases ranging from a few cents to several dollars.

Research, given its slow brewing nature, is at its beginnings of examining marketing techniques and effects in video games. For example, it has been shown that bigger is better when it comes to in-game advertisements, but the order in which they are viewed, or the level of absorption has no effect (Chaney et al, 2018). The interactivity with games may influence one’s memory of brand names; when players are able to actively control in-game brand content, they are more likely to accurately recall brand names (Siemens et al., 2015). These types of research can only grow in number as the number of people who play video games rises, and as video games continue to be cultural consumption (Banks & Potts, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Server: A computer program that manages access to a centralized source in a network.

Mod Pack: A collection of game modifiers that players can install on their computers at once instead of installing each mod separately.

Minecraft: Education Edition, or MinecraftEdu: An educational spin-off of the popular game Minecraft created by Microsoft.

Game Modifier, or Mod: An add-on to a game that changes gameplay, or how the game functions. An example of this would be adding solar panels and nuclear reactors to MC, as those do not exist within the original game.

Digital Immigrants: A term coined by Marc Prensky referring to those who were not born into the world of digital technologies, but rather introduced to them at some point in their lives and had to change or adapt to them.

Digital Natives: A term coined by Marc Prensky referring to those who have been born into the world of digital technologies and experience the integration of such technologies into their lives as something natural.

Sandbox Game: A video game genre that places minimal restrictions on the player and does not have a predetermined way to win or end the game.

Minecraft: A sandbox adventure game created by Mojang with more than 122 million copies sold around the world.

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