Week 1 – Orient
This was our brief for the first week of #evomc2017. A simple one but that is the beauty of this particular EVO MOOC – under the stewardship of Vance Stevens, there is no top-down imposed syllabus but rather encouragement to experiment, theorise, reflect and evaluate.
Having not played Minecraft that much since leaving my school and Minecraft club in Gabon about a year ago (where, to be honest, I was either constantly propped up by the support of my students or I was lording it over them in ‘teacher creative mode’ while they struggled to survive), I was a little apprehensive about the usual – being ‘found out’ when dropped into a server with more experienced players. The only time I had logged into the game over the last twelve months was when I interviewed Rose Bard and that had just been to look around.
I needn’t have worried of course. First of all, as I was entering a game world populated by teachers eager to learn in a supportive environment, the chances of getting greifed or trolled were (one would assume) virtually non-existent. And secondly, when I dropped into the game world, no-one else was online!
In a way, that worked out great as it gave me the chance to explore on my own and shake of the accumulated Minecraft rustiness. I had a look around the ‘safehouse’ starting point that the moderators had created. It contained wall charts showing crafting recipes for basic items and chests filled with pickaxes, shovels, sticks, coal, food and other helpful supplies for an early boost. I resisted the temptation to fill my inventory (well, apart from a couple of pork chops) and stepped outside.
What was that? Whoops! I hadn’t even bothered to look outside and realise it was night on the server. A skeleton only a few blocks away had immediately lined me up for target practice. Back inside then, slamming the door shut behind me.
Day One – Explore (in the game world and beyond…)
Dawn came and with the crisp smell of burning zombie flesh in the air, I stepped outside. My only aim was to explore and scout around without the pressure of needing to build a shelter before nightfall. Conveniently laid out paths guided my way but I soon made a break for the wild, trying to spot a good location for a base of my own. I decided to leave the exploration for another time so I went ahead and gathered some wood to start building a shelter. For starters, I would need:
- wooden planks
- a crafting table
- a door
- sticks and coal for torches
- a pickaxe
The first two were fine but then I hit a stumbling block – how could I make a door? I hit ESC and Googled it. Where could I find coal or charcoal? ESC + Google again. Ah! I would need to mine stone and build a furnace to get the charcoal for my torches. Without them how would I get through the night?
Night? Oh no! While I was busy brushing up on basic crafting recipes, night had fallen in the game. I ran back to the safehouse, luckily making it before anything nasty spotted me. I waited for dawn by returning to my crafting recipes on Wikihow and Gamepedia.
Day 2 – Bare Bones
As the sun rose, I watched the zombies burn and waited patiently for the last skeleton to disappear. Only it didn’t. Maybe it had spotted me or something but it stood in the shade of a tree. By the time I had the bright idea of leaving by another door, it was already late afternoon game-time. D’oh!
Day 3 – Back to Base(ics)
I spent a lot of the morning retracing my steps back to the base I had started to build. I made a wooden pickaxe and headed for some nearby stone. Gravel… Time to go further afield. Plenty of trees, animals, gravel and sand but no cobblestone. Just as I was giving up for the day, I saw a flash of gold on the horizon. Was that..? Could it be…? Sure enough, it was Rose Bard! We exchanged salutations and comments on the game world before I abruptly ran off as dusk descended. I was so fast that I was back to safety before Rose could invite me to the sanctuary of her treehouse.
Day 4 – The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Pickaxes!
Back to base and more exploring. This time I got lucky. In snow-capped hills, I found a little crevice and the cobblestone I craved. I chipped away chirpily for most of the day before heading back to base, dodging a shadow-hogging skeleton on the way. In my 4×4 plank house, I set up my furnace, made torches, added a door and windows, and got my first stone pickaxe. It was all coming back to me now and I even remembered how to make signs and stairs, ready to spruce up my place tomorrow. As you can see, it still needs plenty of work:
More than we learn by doing, I think we forget by not doing! The struggle to even recall basic crafting recipes reminded me of my holiday in Paris a few years ago as I stumbled and stuttered trying to dredge up GCSE French from half a lifetime ago.
Also of interest to me was how I went about re-learning. With no-one else online at the time, I did my own research going online a skimming through different ‘how to’ pages (quicker than watching the many videos that came up in search results). Perhaps being alone initially was for the best – in the past, I relied on my students a lot and at first it showed. By finding out things for myself, I learned a lot more a lot more quickly.
Immersion in the environment was a struggle at first but it slowly started to come back (unlike the French!) I do wonder, however, how I would have managed without the safehouse. Although I resisted the temptation to plunder the chests for items, I did rely on the pre-exisitng structure to get through those first couple of nights. Had it not been there, I would have no doubt died a lot and would have had to take a lot more than 4 days to get to where I ended up.
This gave me pause for thought about using the game with learners as well. I have a go-to lesson plan for getting experienced players to help newbies but perhaps I need to think more about the in-game experience as well. Having the experienced players build a safehouse with supplied like the one on the EVO server while the others get to grips with the game mechanics in creative or research the basics online might be an option. I’ll have to ponder it some more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a base to expand!