Minefaire 2019 Recap
A few months ago I had the opportunity to lead a workshop at Minefaire, a Minecraft community event currently on tour across the US, which features a veritable smorgasbord of activities, speakers, and presentations for young and old (parents of) Minecraft fans alike. In my workshop titled Building Better Bases students had the opportunity to practice their threat modeling skills and share-out their security accomplishments. It was a great time! Below are the top 5 things I learned as an attendee and a learning lab presenter at this unique event.
Lesson #1 – Minecraft in VR is Super Popular
This area of the convention center always had the longest lines, and was voted as a top attraction last year, which I only know because that fact was also a trivia question that came up during a Family Feud style game-show skit hosted at the event.
As a VR aficionado who now owns 3 different VR headsets and has probably logged at least 100 hours in immersive virtual worlds over the past year (phew!) this was really surprising. Minecraft in VR always equals motion sickness for me, and I avoid it, but perhaps younger folks don’t have the same issue?
I suspect virtual reality gets a lot of foot traffic for the novelty factor alone, but maybe in 2019 these were repeat customers. For education and instruction, I personally think Minecraft AR is more exciting, and it looks like later this summer through a new version of the game called Minecraft Earth we’ll finally be able to make this happen.
Lesson #2 – Don’t Hog the Microphone
It’s difficult to describe the scale of Minefaire without seeing it for yourself—the convention center was completely unlike any other classroom I’ve ever been in as a student or an instructor. There was no well-timed stadium style balloon-drop, but a t-shirt cannon would have worked well in this situation.
The learning lab, where I presented, had 35 computers available and thankfully more than enough event volunteers to handle the tech questions from students (“I accidentally logged out of the game! help!” and/or “how do I find the inventory key?” were common). Towards the end of our session there was an opportunity to hand the microphone over to participants to explain their design and instead I played the role of interpreter with my wireless headset system, which worked to some degree, but a better use of time might have included asking students to line up to present the awesome thing they just created in Minecraft rather than running around between computer stations. I watched a different presenter at a total separate stage use this strategy and it worked really well.
Lesson #3 – Prepare to be Humbled
While I’ve spent a good chunk of time playing Minecraft over the past 10 years or so and would consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the game, there were some students who completely blew me away with their security ideas. My favorites involved building mob traps and decoys. These demonstrate a deep understanding of the game’s underlying mechanics and on a more functional security level would be similar to a honey pot or intrusion detection system. Novices tend to focus on “passive” security measures like building really high walls or large lava pits (not unlike a network firewall) but traps take it a step further.
Lesson #4 – Multiplatform Means Multiplatform
I alluded to this point in #2 above, but I was very surprised to find Minefaire participants who had only played the console version of Minecraft and were completely new to keyboard and mouse navigation versus an Xbox or Playstation controller. This is something to keep in mind when you plan a Minecraft event at your library—just because they’re Minecraft super fans doesn’t mean they’ve played your version of the PC game. I’m “old school” and use a keyboard and mouse but a lot of younger fans prefer the mobile version and will struggle when presented with a laptop. This is important because if they don’t know how to control the game, you’re going to get sidetracked with questions about how to get players unstuck from the cave they just fell into (fyi, in creative mode just tap space bar twice to fly!).
Lesson #5 – Set Expectations Early
Beware! Your participants may hear “workshop” and think “training event”. You’re not expected to be the “Minecraft Master” to run this cybersecurity workshop. The lesson plan isn’t designed to be a one-way communication between you, the expert, and an audience of hungry minds. It’s a two-way street, with most of the expertise being shared between students but translated through the threat modeling process. This was an all-ages event, so there were at least a couple younger players with their parents who left early and a few older teens who didn’t engage with the lesson plan but enjoyed building-out their “ultimate design” on a super-fast laptop.
On the flip side, I did see a lot of students who “got it” but unfortunately because the class size was so huge, we only have a few minutes to talk about what they built and why they designed it that way. In a perfect world I would have limited this to 6-10 students max, or doubled the workshop duration to 2 hours.
This was is a guest post by Chris Markman, Senior Librarian at Palo Alto City Library in conjunction with PLP’s 2018-2019 Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, “Cybersecurity for Youth Using Minecraft”. This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.