Minecraft video game is a world-phenomenon with 100 million users. For kids, including my own, it is an addictive game that you can play on your own or go online and play with others. What is so unique about this game is that it is not about destroying and shooting one another like so many other games, this game has a huge learning component. While this may be indirect, the lessons are not lost and companies who want to reach the kids and impart them with knowledge can learn from Minecraft.

What is Minecraft the video game?

Players build their own world via game systems, smartphones, tablets and computers using Lego-like pieces. If you have never seen a “world” created it is really cool. Both my sons have shown me their creations and it is amazing.

What this game does teach them about it money.

It’s about barter, about value and how to protect your “stuff”. Joel Levin, co-founder of Manhattan-based TeacherGaming Firm says, “Kids are learning about money on a lot of different levels in Minecraft.” This is a firm that works with educators to use video games as teaching tools. He goes on to say, “There are basic currencies like emeralds that you dig up and can trade with villagers. There are exchange rates, because certain items are worth more than others. Then players have to think about whether to spend money right away, or save it and get something more rewarding later on. These are analogues to the financial decision people are making in the real world all the time.”

This scenario describes if you are playing on your own, however, if you are online with multiple players, the financial issues become more complex.

Levin explains, “At that point [being online], players are setting up actual economies. One a particular server, a player may decide that diamonds are the currency of choice. Or some kids start playing the role of a bank, offering loans and charging interest.”

In some instances an educator may introduce a rare item into the game that kids can’t obtain on their own, and then watch them react to the scarcity. It becomes an economic lesson of supply and demand “in action”.

Dan Short, associate professor of environmental science at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh has written an academic paper on Minecraft. He shares, “Some players have become so talented at the game and charismatic with their audiences – handlers such as Lewis & Simon and TheBajan-Canadian – that they run their own popular channels on Google Inc.’s YouTube.”

These kids get followers on YouTube and host games and sometimes kids pay a premium for the opportunity to play with them and be in their videos. These kids are earning money for doing so. That is business 101: provide a service for a demand and charge a premium for it.

I am not sure of the initial intention behind Minecraft however what has emerged is a great learning tool. I encourage my son to play on this for he is developing his creativity and exploration side of him. I did not even realize that there was such a strong money and economic lesson involved.

If computer games is to play such a prevalent role in my children’s life than I want to make sure it’s a teaching one!

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