Saturday, December 6, 2014

Consumer Critique: Minecraft for Dummies

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own. 

Wiley, publisher of a whole slew of "For Dummies" books, has some great books that help break down one of the biggest gaming crazes - Minecraft. I got to see Minecraft Construction for Dummies, Minecraft Redstone for Dummies, and Minecraft for Dummes. I really enjoyed reading through them, especially now that even my girls have gotten intrigued by the game! It's really a good game that teaches a wide variety of skills and can be played collaboratively.

I had a chance to interview Jacob Cordeiro (author of Minecraft Redstone For Dummies, Portable Edition and Minecraft For Dummies, Portable Edition).

·         Why did you decide to write Minecraft guides?
The whole business of it was a great opportunity--I got to talk to a wide audience about a game I enjoyed, which tapped into my strong interest for teaching and explaining concepts. Minecraft, conceptually, is an amazing game; it is full of interesting systems and algorithms which I loved to write about and analyze. When I was offered the job, my only worry was that I wouldn't complete it, or that I wouldn't do it as well as someone else could. However, after completing my first book, I was much more confident in my acceptances of future projects (including Gamestar Mechanic for Dummies, which describes another interesting and constructive game).

·         Who is the intended audience?

While writing Minecraft for Dummies, I had two demographics in mind: new Minecraft players, who might find the online tutorials overwhelming and are just trying to figure everything out, and experienced players, who might benefit from a handy guide full of complete and organized information. However, as I read my book's reviews on Amazon, I noticed a very prominent third audience: the parents of Minecraft fans. Minecraft has become very popular across all ages and has grown a substantial community, so parents often start to worry about the hours their kids put into it. I was surprised and intrigued to see that a lot of parents read my book to see what their kids were spending their time on, and began to understand the constructive and creative nature of the game. It certainly makes sense--the simplistic yet clever gameplay makes Minecraft a very thought-provoking experience--and I'm glad these parents found that in my book. I believe that young Minecraft players and their parents will probably get the most out of my books, but older players might be able to learn a few things as well.

·         What benefits do you think there are of playing a game like Minecraft besides just having fun?
Minecraft is beneficial because it is fun. It takes clever, complicated patterns and makes them engaging to players. When people look at Minecraft, they want to understand it, they want to make sense of it, and they want to build, explore, battle and invent. They consider all the mindsets and thought processes which they might find boring in school. Minecraft doesn't advertise its educational value like other forms of "edutainment"--instead, it simply acts as a manipulative, allowing players to work with it for the sole purpose of having fun, while learning a thing or two in the process. I have a couple of younger cousins who are Minecraft fans; they love to move the blocks around, experimenting with objects and creatures, and I've noticed them improve a lot along the way. Similarly, while I built machines and programs in Minecraft while researching for the Redstone book, I became increasingly familiar with engineering and computer science, as I built things like combination locks and flying machines. That's what makes Minecraft so amazing: it works not only as a game, but as an art form, providing a creative outlet for kids and adults alike. The adult players are still inventing new and ingenious ways to enjoy the game, and the kids are given an almost palpable environment where they can be free.

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