An interesting thing is happening in Massively Minecraft. While the game itself uses ‘text chat’ there is increasing use of a second channel, Skype. There are multiple channels appearing, often between small groups, but also one large channel, in which kids use voice and text. It’s almost like a sub-layer of conversation, and often relates not to the game, but just about any topic, from school to whatever other games the kids like to play. We’re about 50/50 boy and girl ratio in both the game and Skype. One interesting observation is that they never use video calling, though most of them could.
The game, and whatever they are working on is the visual aesthetic, the chat in the game largely relates to that activity as they organise, instruct, discuss and invent new ways to construct or re-organsise. Skype discussions tend to deal with non-game topics, from how their day was, what music they like or whether Call of Duty is just a rehashed engine. You’d think, or at least I did, that having an international group of players, they’d be interested in aspects of living in the various countries, but I’m yet to see them discuss these things – they seem perfectly at home with the idea that the Internet and their growing friendships are a sort of unified state.
When I compare this to projects such as Global Kids or even Flat Classroom, our game-world seems to pay almost no attention to global factor. While we hear a lot about personal learning networks in educational realms, it seems to me that without any prompting, there are over a hundred kids using Skype in the way many teachers use Twitter – switching between two different but connected spaces, and equally participate in the work (in the game) and side-line conversation about almost anything.
I think it’s to do with rapid switching than multi-tasking, but whatever it is, it’s pretty clear that allowing more than one channel and choice is a winning thing.
2012 will see some major updates, major expansion, so it will be fascinating to watch where it goes … who knows, to a school near you or me. Whichever.