Chances are, if you work with children or teenagers, you are familiar with the game Minecraft. The game has been around since 2009, which is ancient by software standards, but instead of fading into obscurity, it has retained a good degree of popularity over the last five years. This is due, in part, to the huge number of things that you can do with it.
You can use it almost like a LEGO simulator (that never runs out of LEGOs!) and build houses, castles, dungeons, and more. You can play it like an adventure game and craft powerful weapons for use in defeating the zombie hoards. You can play a variety of game types on a vast and growing number of specialized servers. You can even use its “redstone” system to construct simple and more complicated machines, an endeavor that teaches principles of circuitry, binary systems, and even computer architecture.
Minecraft is a game that can, depending on how you play it, engender creativity and cooperation, and the game itself lends itself well to a variety of different programs at the library that are almost guaranteed to draw a crowd. I am a big proponent of gaming in libraries, and we have, at our library, hosted a number of wonderful Minecraft gaming sessions.
However, perhaps you are not equipped to handle a Minecraft gaming event at your library. Maybe you don’t have an Internet connection that can support this type of program, or maybe your board of trustees or parents do not want children playing video games in the library. If this is the case, there are a variety of different Minecraft-themed activities that you can do that do not necessitate computers, a server, or the purchasing of accounts. Here are just a few of them.
Minecraft, with its boxy, easily-replicated style, lends itself well to a variety of artistic activities. You can find a plethora of patterns on Pinterest for creepers, diamonds, swords, and even zombie pig men.
At our library, we printed out a few of these patterns, pulled out buckets of fusible (Perler) beads, and let the kids make whatever they wanted. Fusible beads can be used to create Minecraft-themed jewelry, magnets, keychains, and more. If you have particularly motivated crafters, it is even possible to make 3D Minecraft blocks and creatures using interlocking fusible bead squares.
You can use the same patterns for cross stitch projects, quilts, or foam swords and pickaxes. There are also a number of cut-out Minecraft papercraft projects available for free on the Internet. (Again, Pinterest is your friend!) Plan a Minecraft-themed craft program and you’ll draw in children who have otherwise no interest in crafts. It’s a great way to play to the kids’ interests while encouraging them to branch out into a hobby that might not normally engage them.
Minecraft Book Club
You may be surprised to learn that many of the most popular Minecraft servers are based on books. The Hunger Games, in particular, is a very common and well-loved Minecraft game mode that emulates the rules of the fictional game. (In fact, for this fall’s International Gaming Day, AADL and ALA will be coordinating a series of Minecraft Hunger Games events that are open to libraries around the world!)
For a Minecraft Book Club, read a different book each session that correlates to the game. Some obvious choices to include in your book club include The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner, both of which have numerous Minecraft servers dedicated to them. You could also read survival-themed books such as Hatchet, and then challenge your young patrons to go forth and create their own Minecraft world based on the book.
Minecraft Skin Creation Clinic
One of the cool things about Minecraft is the ability for players to create customized “skins” for their character. The default brown-haired, blue-shirted fellow that you see most often is named “Steve,” but changing your skin to something more personalized is easy and fun. There are websites where you can download pre-made skins created by other users, with which you can turn yourself into anything from Spongebob to Spiderman, but you can also use skin editors to create your own customized skin.
Try hosting a “skin creation” program at your library. Get a stack of graph paper or print out some blank skin templates and let the kids use markers or colored pencils to design the look of their very own skin. They can then later use these hard copy templates as a guide as they use a website like NovaSkin to create an uploadable digital version of their new look.
Whether you decide to go the low-tech route and plan a Minecraft crafting night, or take the plunge and host a Hunger Games-style gaming tournament, getting to know this popular game pretty much guarantees you’ll become the coolest librarian in town. This is a great opportunity to reach new user populations and convince current populations of your library’s awesomeness, at least until the next craze rolls around!
Guest Columnist Veronica Stork is Youth Program Coordinator at the Tivoli Free Library in the Village of Tivoli, New York.