The tech world was atwitter in September, when Microsoft announced its takeover of Mojang, the developer responsible for Minecraft. Basically a set of virtual Lego, Minecraft’s charmingly retro design has done the impossible: turned a generation of kids into veritable engineers with a simple, creative interface. In fact, elementary schools have already adopted Minecraft as part of the math, coding and science curriculum, and Microsoft is poised to control what may be the most powerful Gen Z gaming franchise.
Hey, that’s great for Microsoft, but it doesn’t apply much in the corporate sphere, right? Not so fast. While it’s true that Minecraft has primarily been assimilated as a tool for K-12 education, that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied on a corporate training level. It’s not quite there yet, but with some tweaks and creative thinking, it’s possible that Minecraft could become a tool in the CLO’s arsenal.
Lessons from Second Life
If you were part of the L&D landscape in 2009 and 2010, you might remember some of the hype surrounding the game Second Life; a casual virtual reality gaming platform that was assimilated for corporate training.
Here’s how most of it worked: Because Second Life was an avatar-based gaming situation, training pros could load scenarios and simulations into the user’s interface. Users could then experience a certain interaction and would then be required to answer a series of questions about that interaction, mostly useful for stuff like sales and ethics training. Second Life users were quick to praise how memorable the scenarios and environments were in comparison to the same old “Click for next slide” training modules they’d used before.
Second Life also allowed users a modicum of control; users seemed to enjoy the available social interaction and personalization. There was low risk, since users undertook training module privately, on their own time and enjoyed person-to-person interaction from the comfort and safety of their computer. They could create their own avatars, work in groups and even design their own home environments, which made the game – well, gamier.
Second Life, for whatever reason, has faded from the L&D scene, but its similarities to the challenges facing Microsoft in creating corporate uses for Minecraft can’t be ignored. While applications for Minecraft have thus far been focused on elementary-aged children, it could easily be adapted for training purposes.
While it might not work for simulations, Minecraft does have value in teaching team-building skills. In the game, you can collect resources from other players and share your work with others. Ideal for new teams, Minecraft could supplement team-building retreats and activities as a way to solidify department bonds.
Minecraft could also have value in improving workplace morale, too. One of the reasons that Second Life was such as success for the organizations that used it was the fact that it was simply fun. It didn’t feel like work or training, so users were more likely to log in on their own time and experience modules and simulations away from their cubicle.
Perhaps Minecraft could be used as a way to create workspaces, or as a way to build cognitive and problem-solving abilities. Maybe it’ll be used as a way to improve morale and boost teamwork among departments. Maybe Minecraft personalization capabilities will be altered in the future, allowing L&D pros to create scenarios and simulations specifically for corporate training applications.
The truth is that we don’t really know how Microsoft plans to use Minecraft. For now, Minecraft’s main application rests firmly in the K-12 educational arena. Still, by taking a page from the Second Life playbook, it’s easy to see how Minecraft could make the leap from kindergarten to corporate: We’ll just have to wait and see.