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Minecraft as a Historical Education Tool

by on May 4, 2016

Minecraft has taken over many households and libraries over the past several years. “To date, Minecraft has been downloaded more than 60 million times and is so popular that videos just discussing the game on YouTube attract 2.4 billion views.”[1] Libraries have incorporated this game into many of their yearly programs, and sessions about the innovative game have been given at conferences across the country.

I am specifically interested in how Minecraft can now be used as an educational and historical tool. I will be the first to admit that I am not a Minecraft expert, nor have I even played the game. My nine-year-old brother has tried explaining it to me a few times, but as he explains, all I can think about is how it looks like the old 8-bit games I used to play as a child (e.g., Donkey Kong and Duck Hunt).The more I have paid attention to the game and how it works, however, the more I realize it can be used to construct cities and towns to be used as virtual historical tours. Can you imagine taking a virtual walkthrough of your hometown back in the 1940s or 1950s? I can only assume it would be a very surreal experience.

I recently attended the Texas Library Association Conference in Houston, Texas, and a very innovative session was given on using Minecraft as a historical tool. The city of Sugarland, Texas, partnered up with Techno Chaos, a local information technology group, to see how they could incorporate Minecraft as an educational tool in their school system. The result was genius! The information technology group, who are all very savvy and familiar with the game, pitched the idea of using the game to construct what Sugarland looked like in the 1950s.

The school district loved the idea and ran with it. Historical photos of the city were collected and passed around to many of the elementary and middle school classrooms within the school district. Each photo allowed a different class the opportunity to come up with their Minecraft version of that image. The concept was easy: Use the historical photos as a blueprint to construct a virtual simulation of the buildings and streets of Sugarland in the 1950s. What better way to incorporate history and gaming by way of Minecraft? Minecraft has proven to not only be a fun game but a tool that has “transcended into real-life like no other game before, having a positive impact on key areas as diverse as urban development, mapping, history and the arts.”[2]

Minecraft is successful because the game is flexible. Any group, school, or library can manipulate the game to suit their educational or entertainment needs. According to Daniel Short, a professor of environmental science at Robert Morris University, “It is a game changer. Minecraft is now a major educational concern.”[3] It has been proven to be a successful educational tool for children of all ages.

So instead of thinking of Minecraft as merely a game that is a waste of time, think of it as a tool that can successfully educate children across the country that can prepare them for specific areas in engineering, history, and the arts.


[1] David Crookes, “Minecraft is much more than ‘Lego online’ – it’s a creative classroom tool,” February 18, 2015.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

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