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What it means to grow up under the influence of Minecraft

"They think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity," a social scientist told the New York Times. "They have to solve the tragedy of the commons."
"Minecraft is busted, and you’re constantly fixing it. It’s that home-brew aesthetic. It’s kind of broken all the time. It’s laggy. The kids get used to the idea that it’s broken and you have to mess with it. You’re not complaining to get the corporate overlord to fix it — you just have to fix it yourself."

- UC Irvine cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito, on how Minecraft influences children.

Six years ago, Minecraft was an indie game success story.Today, it's a cultural touchstone for millions of people around the world.

A generation of children is growing up sharing virtual block-based worlds with each other, and today the New York Times published a magazine feature on "the Minecraft generation" to its website that offers an interesting look at what it means to grow up alongside Minecraft.

The lengthy feature is worth reading in full, because it showcases how a video game can become a social space, an educational tool, and even a career for some of its players.

"I told my mom, ‘I’m quitting my paper round,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘I do a YouTube channel, and it’s earning me more,'" Minecraft YouTuber Oliver Brotherhood told the New York Times, recalling his decision to focus on his 40,000 YouTube subscribers at the age of 16. Brotherhood, now 20 and preparing to enter college, told the Times he's planning to study computer science, in part because "in the redstone [Minecraft] community, a lot of people around me are programmeres."

Of course, these are common stories -- many game developers were inspired to pursue technical degrees and careers because of the games they grew up playing. What's less common is the Times' interrogation of what Minecraft means to kids as a social space, a sort of "third place" they can explore and experiment in outside of home and school.

"You’ve got these kids, and they’re creating these worlds, and they think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity," Seth Frey, a computational social science researcher at Dartmouth College, told the Times. "They have to solve the tragedy of the commons."

For more insight into how kids are learning to play nicely with each other (or not) inside these virtual worlds, and what it means to grow up alongside Minecraft, check out the full feature over on the New York Times website.

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