There's no denying that Minecraft is one of the most important -- very likely the most important -- games of the last decade. A hit with gamers young and old, it encourages creativity, collaboration and creation in ways that few videogames have ever managed to accomplish.
It also has major potential for edutainment, which Microsoft and the government of Northern Ireland have finally managed to tap into in a brave new initiative. Minecraft is to be made available to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland as part of a ground-breaking project devised by CultureTECH, Northern Ireland’s innovation festival, with funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
MinecraftEdu is a specialised version of the game designed specifically for schools, with additions (likely custom mods) that are "more useful and appropriate for the classroom." "Over 5,000 teachers in more than 40 countries have used it to teach the STEM subjects, art, history and computer coding. They join such high-profile organisations as MIT and the UN, who have successfully used Minecraft to teach quantum physics and engage young people in redevelopment of their neighbourhoods."
It's a fantastic initiative that embraces the potential for videogames to foster imagination and creativity in the classroom, and one that could work brilliantly... though it probably won't take long for enterprising students to load up their favourite mods. As someone who used to covertly install 3D Realms shareware on my school computers, I wish them all the best!
Either way, isn't it nice to see the positive and beneficial effects of videogames being reported front and centre for once?
In other unrelated Minecraft news, new Mass Effect DLC will soon be available for the PS3 and PS4 versions. Don't worry, PlayStation owners, Microsoft hasn't entirely forgotten about your money... I mean you. They haven't forgotten about you.