Enriching an Esports Agenda in Schools and Colleges

Minecraft Collegiate League
(Image credit: Minecraft Collegiate League)

Introducing esports into the faculty of Creative Arts and Digital at Coventry College has been a journey since 2019. With external interest in the crosshairs and the brand evolving, it was only natural that we collaborated with other colleges to differentiate ourselves from other organizations that focused on traditional esports.

Why Minecraft?

Thinking creatively can help enrich esports programs in educational institutes, and this is where Minecraft comes into play.

Firstly, Minecraft already has some inspiring benefits for young people such as encouraging teamwork and teaching the nature of resource management at an early age. Not to mention that Minecraft is a game for parents to join in with their children and share quality family time together—the idea that tech takes away the benefits of parenting is removed when this occurs.

Nyki Inskip, a computing and math teacher at Queen Mary’s College

(Image credit: MCCL)

“It [Minecraft] is the most versatile game platform for encouraging creativity, competitive play, team-building activities and skill development all within one package.”

“The introduction of the Minecraft: Education Edition has also allowed schools and colleges to explore the many Windows 10 version features in a safe and teacher-controlled environment whilst still allowing students to showcase their existing skills gained from playing it either at home in single-player mode, or online via hosted Minecraft servers,” Inskip added.

Minecraft allows the freedom of creativity and imaginative play which is already being used in the classroom environment across the world. Gamification is key, particularly at the primary/elementary stage because the joys of gaming come into a learning environment, children feel comfortable and with the freedom of Minecraft, the possibilities of their creation are endless.

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Critical thinking and problem-solving skills at the higher end of learner attainment is encouraged in Minecraft through the survival mechanic; there are a lot of opportunities for quick thinking and decision making.

Nyki Inskip, a computing and math teacher at Queen Mary’s College, the founding member of the Minecraft Collegiate League (MCCL), said, “It is the most versatile game platform for encouraging creativity, competitive play, team-building activities and skill development all within one package.”

Ask the Experts

Typically, Minecraft esports is usually based on the building aspect, but what about the further potential of Minecraft. The planning team behind the MCCL rolled out a survey for the target age group. The team behind the league felt it was wise to use the knowledge of young people who are invested in the Minecraft community to pinpoint their expectations and build a program. A Google form was sent out to various colleges to gauge the interest, feedback on ideas, and suggestions on how to run a Minecraft esports event. Sixty-five young people were part of the questionnaire including a select few from Coventry College for further research on how to effectively roll out the league. The questionnaire consisted of ideas around PvP (player versus player) game modes and the preferred style of play such as PvP and build contests.

Inskip and the MCCL team gathered data from the students who were interested in taking part and narrowed it down to three game modes: Bedwars, Spleef and Duels. Inskip then went on to explain that they, “would definitely recommend getting the experienced Minecraft students involved from the start as their technical knowledge and skills in Minecraft far outweighed any that I had!”

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Minecraft and the Reimagination Process

Inskip explored the community aspect of Minecraft and said, “There is a much more accepting community of Minecraft players than in any other esports game, and many of the students who are showing interest in Minecraft at college have talked about finally feeling like there is a college community they can be a part of.”

Minecraft is sometimes criticized for the lack of a competitive element and mostly regarded as a casual game as it targets all ages. However, there is a place for Minecraft to enter the esports scene in a new wave of game style, and the league organizers have a sharp vision.

With the popularity of build challenges and PvP, it was decided that the MCCL will be made up a mixture of the two. There are two parts to the MCCL with a planned eight colleges competing in the league by building their own home arenas with challenges and obstacles of their own creation before the PvP element begins in January 2022. Teams representing their colleges will come together to create a custom world following a few guidelines besides their own imagination. This phase will help the teams work with innovation to win the community voted award for ‘MCCL Best Builders’ as well the fight for the winning status of the UK’s collegiate Minecraft PvP championship.

Check out more information about Minecraft Collegiate League 

For younger students (grades 3-12), worldwide Minecraft challenges are being offered free by the non-profit NASEF. Youth who participate will build STEAM and technology skills as they participate in the digital Rube Goldberg Machine Minecraft Contest: a competition to build to devise a digital contraption that completes a simple task in the most wacky and overly-complicated way possible. Focused livestreams will share interesting Minecraft builds and emphasize the engineering design process. In the spring, Farmcraft will teach lessons about the environment and agriculture through Minecraft.

Whether in middle school or college, Minecraft will provide all students an engaging and entertaining platform for learning. Give it a try!

Curriculum Lead for Digital at Coventry College

Shoubna Naika-Taylor is a lecturer in Games and Esports in Coventry West Midlands, United Kingdom. She is a curriculum lead for digital at Coventry College, and team manager of the Coventry Crosshairs, an esports grassroots project. She believes in using technology and games to pursue the interest of young people and inspire them to be our success in the future.