What's the point of this Customizing Minecraft camp?
Customizing Minecraft is explained in more detail on the Specialty Camps page. It's suppose to be fun, because people love Minecraft. However, other benefits may not be immediately obvious. As this camp is geared towards younger kids, parents especially are curious if their kids are just playing a computer game for 3 hours, or if there's more involved.
For starters, we take several breaks to stretch and get our eyes off the computer screen, so no one is staring at a computer for hours at a time. While everyone has the opportunity to explore the game for a portion of each class, most of the time is spent doing digital art creation in a powerful, professional program. Next, we can address some common stereotypes about gaming in general.
In the past, video games have had a lot of negative attention in the media, often associating players with laziness or violence. However, countless studies show that video games are hugely beneficial in a variety of ways. Navigating a character throughout a 3D space forces a person to develop eye-hand coordination, improved reflexes, and spatial/environmental awareness. All of which have lasting effects outside the game world, and which studies have shown are more advanced in people who play certain games than people who don't play games. Many games, including Minecraft, also develop creative thinking and problem solving skills.
As players navigate obstacles, and discover relationships between existing concepts and ideas, their ability to generate new ideas and concepts grows. There's also math and science. Players consider block quantities, build area, building angles, extrapolated shapes, material properties, physics, programming and mechanical processes (redstone and command blocks), civil engineering (town structure, transportation), and resource management. Just playing this game will develop a variety of skills, but the course has more to offer.
For most of each day, we explore a professional photo editing tool with powerful digital art creation features. We use that tool to create our own Minecraft textures in styles including pixel art, cel shaded, and hand painted. We also learn about the file organization and naming conventions used in the best selling PC game in the world, and how to replace those files to use the textures that we will create. This exact skill set can get you on track for a lucrative (and competitive) career in a couple of the world's leading entertainment industries, but it's also just incredibly rewarding to alter the look of an entire world. Most of this reinforces the same sort of skills we get from playing the game, including problem solving, creative thinking, spatial awareness, and coordination.
It's obvious that playing Minecraft is fun, and that changing Minecraft is fun. That said, keep in mind there's a lot more to be gained from this camp than just goofing around and passing the time (both of which are also great).
Digital Arts Instructor