May 2011

Minecraft: Emergent Gaming at its Best

Building a new kind of game from the community up.

     Minecraft is an astoundingly simple and dynamic game. Essentially a basic first-person sandbox platform, the game invites a player into a vast, pixelated world with very basic features; water, stone, dirt, trees, flowers, etc. Dropped in this randomly-generated world, the player is free to do almost anything they want; explore, build, hunt animals or fight monsters. Like manifest destiny, the player must , break down, build up, and shape this world to their liking. The player crushes blocks to retrieve materials; trees for wood, stone for rare ores, etc.Then, similar to playing with LEGOS as a child, players' imaginations are the only limit to what they can create.

Gearing Up for E3

What gaming's biggest expo has in store

We've got less than a month until the ultimate gaming expo, when devotees from all across the land will convene in Los Angeles and celebrate the future of the industry. E3 will take place from June 7th to the 9th this year at the Los Angeles Convention Center. More and more titles are being confirmed to appear, and it looks like we'll be getting a solid roundup of previews. 

Video Games Declared Art by NEA

This week saw one of the most important advances in the place of video games in American society when the National Endowment for the Arts officially accepted the medium under its definition of art. Video games were included in a fairly sweeping reform that extended the label to all digital media, including Internet-exclusive content and platforms connected to mobile technology. This isn't merely a symbolic gesture, though. The NEA's acceptance of video games has at least two implications that will change the medium forever.

Indie Developer Spotlight: Jason Rohrer

Simple 2D art games invite philosophical questions

Mr. Rohrer may be just one guy, but he has created some of the most compelling miniature art games in recent memory. Adopting vintage graphic styles, his games weave enigmatic little narratives that reflect upon the workings of the human mind. Whether they wax philosophical about the human need to create art or the way we operate within communities, Jason Rohrer’s games remain curiously addictive all the while.

Three Games for Your Social Studies Class

I look forward to the day when video games occupy the same stratum of culture as film and TV shows, the one that accepts them as entertainment but also allows them to reach for and occasionally achieve high art. That said, the medium still has a long way to go before it gets there. The majority of games out there have little value as tools of thought provocation or education, though there are a few that can serve as unique springboards for both. The following three games would fit perfectly into a social studies class at many levels of education.