This was the first week of after-school Minecraft Club and it was. . . interesting. There are 26 kids in the class. Six of them are girls, which I'm happily surprised about. It might not seem like a lot, but in the world of middle school computer gaming, it's impressive. About a third of the group is very inexperienced with Minecraft, which also surprised me. Overall, I think this is a pretty diverse sample that should help me extensively as I decide how to adjust this for the classroom.
Before I explain anything, I think the differences between the first and second meetings is summed up pretty accurately by the following two screenshots. Day two went better.
I generated a flat map and used boundary blocks to keep the kids penned in together. The goal was fairly simple: Build a house. I like this activity because it gives the novices a chance to experiment with the controls and the different materials. It's also just a fun, straightforward way to be creative. On the first day, most of the students ran around in circles doing random things. By day two everyone had calmed down and focused on building.
I noticed two trends that made me very happy. In the classroom, some students made a point of sitting beside classmates who haven't played before in order to help them out. In the game, many students sought each other out and worked on building a house together. Hooray for organic teamwork!
By the second meeting, also heard multiple unsolicited apologies when someone accidentally encroached on another player's area.
This cooperation hasn't come completely out of nowhere. We spent the first half of Monday's session creating a "Gaming Code of Conduct" which I've included at the end of this post. All students must sign this agreement. It lists all of the expectations and responsibilities of a responsible gamer in our club. It also includes the consequences of breaking the code, which I have had to enforce several times already. If a student is misbehaving, either in game or in the classroom, I simply teleport and freeze his avatar for five minutes. Virtual timeout is so much more terrifying than the real thing.
I've also been impressed with how quickly the kids situate themselves at the beginning of class. They know that I won't give any instructions until they're settled, so the longer it takes to get quiet and in their seats, the less time they'll have to play the game. Many of them do a good job of regulating their peers.
Next week we finish up the home-building activity and prepare for team-based survival mode (it will not involve any PvP).
Gaming Code of Conduct
I, ___________________________________, promise to uphold the following standards and expectations while playing Minecraft or any other videogame as part of a club for the Super Duper After School Program.
I will not curse or use offensive language, either in the game or out loud.
I will not purposefully kill other plays in-game.
I will not take another player’s materials when they die, unless it is to return them to the player.
I will not destroy someone else’s property or creations.
I will not shout or raise my voice while playing.
I will not type abusive or offensive messages in the game.
I will help my fellow gamers if they are in need of assistance.
I will play the game fairly and without cheats.
I will work to create a safe and fun environment, both in-game and in the classroom.
I will log out of the game in a prompt fashion when it is time to pack up.
I will play the game according to assignments and tasks given by the instructor.
I will be a model of good gaming citizenship.
I understand that failure to meet any of these expectations will result in an in-game time-out. Repeated violations will result in the loss of my gaming privileges.