22 Sep 2018

The 2018 Intentional Play Summit and More Minecraft News

The following is a guest posts by Chris Markman, Senior Librarian at Palo Alto City Library in conjunction with PLP’s recently awarded 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.

Redefining Play

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Intentional Play Summit hosted at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. This was a one day event which not only featured a wide range of presentation topics related to educational games, but also a mini-arcade / demo area for participants to try out different educational gaming experiences and audience choice awards.

As a fan of Henry David Thoreau, I was pleased to see the game Walden won the “best overall” category. Below is a preview trailer for the PS4 version. Walden game designer and USC Games director Tracy Fullerton also provided the closing keynote to the event, and provided insight into some of the more subtle design choices made in this project.

I’m highlighting Walden because I think this game shows great potential for the GLAM community to crossover into game development, but at the same time this is one of those game you need to try first hand due to its deliberate pace and tone, much like how talking about wearing a VR headset only captures a fraction of the experience. For that reason, I won’t spend too much time writing about the specifics of any game presented at the conference, in an effort to encourage you to explore the Intentional Play Summit website—many of the games listed have YouTube links or free demos.

Instead, here are some links to website you might find interesting in the context of library events and programming related to gaming and education, culled from various handouts at the event and background research I did prior to attending:

Virtual Reality is Everywhere!

Although I did not attend many of the presentations at this conference specifically about VR, it’s worth noting we seem to have already reached the tipping point for VR in the education-sphere—at least on the developer side. The low cost of new standalone products like the Oculus Go, released just a few months ago, seem to be moving things along. Despite some of the drawbacks of “low fidelity” (sitting/standing) vs “high fidelity” (room scale / mobile) VR headset designs, I’m convinced this style of mobile headset will be around for many years in libraries and schools. As one conference attendee’s put it, the difference between high and low fidelity VR is like “being stuck looking out the windows of the Magic School Bus vs. being able to open the door and walk outside” to which they added “but don’t get me wrong, it’s still very nice on the bus!”

Minecraft News

As mentioned in my last post, tomorrow I’ll be at Microsoft Store in Palo Alto for their Minecon livestream event, both as a fan and as a public librarian doing market research. Expect a follow-up post with more info soon. To be honest, I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m hoping for some big announcements about the future of Minecraft. Last year they asked audience members to vote on a new mob character, and this year they’re voting on which biome to update.

Anyway, let me know if you’re watching Minecon in person or online tomorrow! And don’t forget to email or tweet your comments or questions about this project.

P.S. – Vote for Taiga!