No Lazy Gaming. What Comes After Minecraft?

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Last summer I met two boys (both under 10) who were thrilled to learn I played Minecraft. They wanted to know what I had built.

“Um, a really ugly castle,” I told them. “But it was taken over by zombies.”

“You don’t play Creative mode?” They were stunned. I replied that no, I liked Survival mode—the mode where you are frequently menaced by creeping zombies or giant spiders and need to painstakingly mine every element that you use to build. Creative mode gives players full access to the many, many materials in Minecraft and lets them build impossibly complex structures without being harassed.

These kids couldn’t understand why I wanted to spend my time fighting zombies when I could be building things.

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Interview: This Is the Message Black Teenagers Are Getting From Video Games

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aina braxton ecccAt Emerald City Comicon, Aina Braxton cosplayed her own personal superhero—Inferna Bird of Paradise. She wore sparkly face makeup and a bright red costume, complete with a cape and knee-high boots. She looked awesome. She explained how she’s been developing the costume—and the Inferna’s backstory—for years.  (Her background as a performance artist might have helped with that.) One motivation for her to create her own superhero was frustration with the fact that there aren’t a lot of superhero characters who are like her.

In fact, people of color, women, and anyone who doesn’t fit the cultural norms often feel left out when it comes to representation in the media. Braxton believes media representation matters. All kinds of kids should be able to see themselves represented in media.

As part of her work around this issue at UW Bothell’s Digital Future Lab, Braxton examined some of the Black characters in video games—and what those characters mean to Black students. Recently she did a workshop on the topic with high school students from the Seattle area. We asked her to go into a little more detail on the workshop for Black Opportunity and Leadership Day and what she found out. Read More

Wellapets asthma education virtual pets

Review: Wellapets

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Wellapets is an app that teaches kids how to take care of their asthma by having them take care of a cute dragon that also has asthma. I came across Wellapets after reading about their launch on bklynallergymom.com. The app sounded interesting, as well as fun and educational, so I decided to give it a shot and downloaded it on my iPad for free. The app is also available on both the Android and the Google marketplaces.  I had been looking for something to help my 10-year-old brother with his asthma, so this was quite timely.

Like Club Penguin, another one of his favorite games, Wellapets lets him look after his pet and collect decorations for its house. But he also has to care for his pet’s asthma! Thus far, I have been very impressed. Read More

Zoombinis

The Secret Behind the Disappearance of Educational Games

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Educational games never quite turned out like we hoped they would.

That’s the conclusion Technapex’s Tristan Kruth reaches, as he fondly remembers the educational games of the 90s—Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, and more.

Kruth recommends a paper published by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, which discusses the rise and fall of edutainment. “I can safely say that I did not learn a single thing about any actual Oregon Trailers,” Kruth says. “Unless you count the fact that even if you shoot every buffalo on earth, you can only carry 200 pounds of meat back to your wagon.”

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