The Minecraft Generation


Illustration by Christof Neimann

“One day last fall, I visited Gus, a seventh ­grader in Brooklyn. He was online with friends on a server they share together, engaging in boisterous gladiatorial combat. I watched as he typed a command to endow himself with a better weapon: “/give AdventureNerd bow 1 0 {Unbreakable:1,ench:[{id:51,lvl:1}],display:{Name:“Destiny”}}.” What the command did was give a bow-­and-­arrow weapon to AdventureNerd, Gus’s avatar; make the bow unbreakable; endow it with magic; and name the weapon Destiny, displayed in a tag floating over the weapon. Gus had plastered virtual sticky-­notes all over his Mac’s desktop listing the text commands he uses most often.

The game encourages kids to regard logic and if-then statements as fun things to mess around with. It teaches them what computer coders know and wrestle with every day, which is that programs rarely function at first: The work isn’t so much in writing a piece of software but in debugging it, figuring out what you did wrong and coming up with a fix…”

This “you’re on your own” ethos resulted from early financial limitations: Working alone, Persson had no budget to design tutorials. That omission turned out be an inadvertent stroke of genius, however, because it engendered a significant feature of Minecraft culture, which is that new players have to learn how to play. Minecraft, as the novelist and technology writer Robin Sloan has observed, is “a game about secret knowledge.” So like many modern mysteries, it has inspired extensive information-­­sharing. Players excitedly pass along tips or strategies at school. They post their discoveries in forums and detail them on wikis. (The biggest one, hosted at the site Gamepedia, has nearly 5,000 articles; its entry on Minecraft’s “horses,” for instance, is about 3,600 words long.) Around 2011, publishers began issuing handbooks and strategy guides for the game, which became runaway best sellers; one book on redstone has outsold literary hits like “The Goldfinch,” by Donna Tartt…

The single biggest tool for learning Minecraft lore is YouTube. The site now has more than 70 million Minecraft videos, many of which are explicitly tutorial. To make a video, players use “screencasting” software (some of which is free, some not) that records what’s happening on-screen while they play; they usually narrate their activity in voice-­over. The problems and challenges you face in Minecraft are, as they tend to be in construction or architecture, visual and three-­dimensional. This means, as many players told me, that video demonstrations have a particularly powerful explanatory force: It’s easiest to learn something by seeing someone else do it. In this sense, the game points to the increasing role of video as a rhetorical tool. (“Minecraft” is the second-­most-­searched-­for term on YouTube, after “music.”)

Read the whole article at the NY Times website here.

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3-D TV is Dead; Love Live 3-D TV

3-d turtle“Consumers were happy to wear 3D glasses at the cinema, which are predominantly the cheap and light passive variety but they were less keen to do so in their lounge.”

Really? What does that say about the Oculus?

That’s part of it, but it’s still a content problem, just like it was with interactive TV. I love my 3-D blu-rays of HOUSE OF WAX and THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, but have yet to see a decent 3-D version of ROBOT MONSTER, for example.

Read more here.

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Modeling misery: A 3D tour of homeless camps in Super Bowl city

Homeless tents outside the Super Bowl in San Francisco

Homeless tents outside the Super Bowl in San Francisco

The folks at Matterport are heroes in my book. To show off their 3-D visualization technology, they could have done a snazzy VR walkthrough of the latest upscale strip mall, or an obnoxious Yuppie’s duplex apartment. Instead, they took their cameras into the darkest corner of human despair – situated directly outside the ultimate temple of societal hubris – The Super Bowl.

“It’s a reality that doesn’t jive with the picture of San Francisco as a bastion of creative and technological entrepreneurship. If society is getting better because of technology, why is homelessness so intractable on the doorstep of Silicon Valley?

…3D technology is making it possible to simulate reality in astounding ways. That could make it easier for people to edit their impression of the world, avoiding things that make them feel uncomfortable. Or it could do the opposite, bringing the uncomfortable realities front and center.”

Click here to read the complete article, including the demo.

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Rube Goldberg competition inspires creativity and teamwork

Mouse Trap

Rube Goldberg's Self-Operating Napkin

Rube Goldberg’s Self-Operating Napkin


Rube Goldberg is the patron saint of computer programmers everywhere. His entire career is a running gag, creating the most insanely complex machines to do the simplest tasks. Having been a developer for many years myself, I can tell you from that this is a clandestine form of job security for many in the IT world.

You’ve probably seen his illustrations. Or you’ve played the game, Mouse Trap, based on his oeuvre. The band, Ok Go, paid homage to him in their video for “This Too Shall Pass.”

And now, fittingly, there’s a competition in schools to carry his torch forward. “Machines were constructed to open an umbrella with an operating time of up to two minutes. They had to perform the task using no less than 20, but no more than 75, steps… Twenty people worked to create the Mary Poppins themed machine, which used 33 steps that focused on the use of marbles and momentum to make things move. Marbles fell down chutes, toy cars slid down tracks and dominoes fell to trigger the umbrella to open.”

Click here to read the complete article.

rube goldberg awards

Andrew Violette of the Purdue Chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers team, cackles as he triggers the first mechanism of his Rube Goldberg machine. (Photo: Taidgh Barron, Purdue Exponent staff photographer)


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View-Master Shows Off Updated Version Of Its Iconic VR Viewer

Mattel's View-Master DLX

Mattel’s View-Master DLX

“Gizmodo reports that the DLX will run a bit more expensive at $40, but some notable upgrades come with the price hike. The Viewer DLX makes up for a few of the slightly annoying quirks of the original. It now allows you to use headphones with the device rather than rely on the muffled sound produced by the phone stereo speaker inside the enclosure. It also is now sporting improved optics thanks to better lenses and a focal adjustment on the top of the device.”

Read More: View-Master Shows Off Updated Version Of Its Iconic VR Viewer

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