Fortnite — Minecraft’s Imperfect Descendent
I have a complicated relationship with Fortnite.
Its Battle Royale game mode is a mashup of the Hunger Games and Minecraft in that 100 random players are dropped on an island, scrounge for weapons and resources, use building, strategy, and swift reflexes to become the last player standing and win Victory Royale (see my screenshot below). Borrowed elements such as a menacing (and painful) storm narrowing the playable area and airdropped resources further enhance gameplay and add random challenges to be overcome by its aspiring champions.
Articles have been written comparing the game’s success to that of the 7-year old phenomenon that is Minecraft. With over 40 million downloads, Fortnite just passed Minecraft as most watched on YouTube and Twitch, at least one university is offering scholarships to top players, it crashed the App store when a mobile version launched in March and it hasn't even landed on Android yet!
As a lifelong gamer, I admire the game’s mechanics, frequent refreshing updates and new enhancements, and a flexible mulitplayer environment. The game’s creators are consciously embracing the creative building aspect of Minecraft, but limited the options to ramps of various orientations and confined the game to an island-sized space. They even have zombies in their for-fee version of the game.
As an educator, I’m excited to see literature (if we can call Hunger Games that) playing a role in inspiring students to connect with each other globally, but I’m distressed by the violence of even fictionalized gunplay and virtual death of millions of youth. I strongly believe that all games teach lessons, and as such should be utilized by educators to teach concepts that we value and embrace, rather than only those that the game designers seek to embed. But I have issues with adopting Fortnite into the classroom. Many of the same issues that my friend, the Weird Teacher, has already pointed out in his own clever way.
Minecraft: Education Edition, being an open (and infinite) learning enviornment lends itself beautifully to pedagogical uses. As a Minecraft Global Mentor, I am honored to be part of a community of innovative educators who have embraced and enhanced the educational potential of this powerful tool. Working collaboratively, and with the full support of an amazing team at Microsoft, they have recently expanded the resources available for educators around the world to utilize the platform to teach, learn and collaborate on a worldwide scale. In fact, Minecraft launched a Chemistry Update earlier this year!
Here’s just a recent selection of videos to help utilize to expand your teaching and learning through Minecraft: Education Edition:
I encourage all of us to think deeply about the potential learning opportunity possible through gaming, all the while keeping them in the appropriate context for our students. As popular and fun as it is, Fortnite is at best, an imperfect descendant of Minecraft. We can do better as educators, and as a society.