The fact that Minecraft is one of the most influential and successful video games of all time is an unquestionable truth, but Mojang Studios has long claimed that its timeless and creative sandbox survival game is more than just a video game. Minecraft: Education Edition, for example, takes the foundation of the game everyone knows and loves and presents it as a legitimate educational tool, allowing educators and parents to teach children about a variety of topics in more than 100 countries around the world. the world.
Beyond all the factors that make Minecraft one of the best games ever made, there is this ongoing focus on education that regularly translates new knowledge and topics into fun and accessible lessons for kids of all ages. The latest example of this is Active Citizen, a whole new world coming to Minecraft: Education Edition as part of an incredible collaboration between Minecraft developer Mojang Studios, nonprofit Games for Change, and the world’s only Nobel Center. Peace.
I got to speak with the head of Minecraft: Education Edition, Allison Matthews, about this new partnership and how Active Citizen uses the powerful stories of four Nobel Peace Prize laureates to teach kids about compassion, kindness, and how any action, small or big, it can have a big impact on the world.
Your definite purpose
Active Citizen is the result of extensive efforts by Mojang Studios working with the Nobel Peace Center to accurately convey important lessons in a format accessible to children of all ages, as part of a first-ever partnership facilitated by Games for Change. . This is the first time the Nobel Peace Center has participated in a video game partnership of this scale, and the latest attempt by Mojang Studios and Games for Change to create lasting change in the world through video games.
“The world of Minecraft is really a safe space to tackle complicated and difficult topics, like diving into chemistry in a way that you may not have understood before. But we’ve found that even the most difficult topics like the ones we cover in Active Citizen lend themselves well to a Minecraft experience,” Allison Matthews described the project. “By immersing students in in-game lessons and a space they really want to be in, we’ve found that they can better understand complicated topics.”
In Active Citizen, participants will begin at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway, where they will be introduced to the incarnation of the creator of the Nobel Prizes, Alfred Nobel. After this, players will meet four Nobel Peace Prize laureates.
Participants will learn and experience the stories of Malala Yousafzai, known for her impressive defense of human rights and her fight for greater female education, and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate in history; Wangari Maathai, an influential political and environmental activist, and the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize; the 14th Dalai Lama, a powerful spiritual leader who preaches peace and compassion; and Fridtjof Nansen, an explorer and scientist known for his great efforts and humanitarian achievements.
“With Active Citizen, we follow the lives of four Nobel Peace Prize winners and see the actions they took, the little things they did in their communities, that really made a difference to the people who lived in their communities, who then have ripple effects around the world,” Matthews explained. “Our ultimate goal with Active Citizen is to arm students with inspiration from the stories of these Nobel Peace Prize laureates and perhaps inspire them to take the tools they’ve learned into the real world to create improvement or create peace in their own world.” .”
After players progress through each of the four separate and unique stories, they will be invited to consider everything they learned and create a unique Minecraft build that expresses what active citizenship means to them. The Nobel Peace Center will organize an exhibition with creations by players from all over the world.
This is not the first time that Minecraft has been the platform from which a great cause was launched, with several amazing companies using Minecraft to reach a larger number of people. The most recent was Minecraft: Education Edition CyberSafe, which aims to teach children about online safety. However, Active Citizen is the result of a particularly ambitious partnership that introduced new challenges for the Minecraft: Education Edition team to overcome at Mojang.
“Being authentic and telling an authentic story was really central to our mission,” Matthews informed me. “We work very closely with both the Nobel Peace Center and the foundations, or the teams of the laureates themselves, to make sure the stories we tell are authentic. It just takes time to make sure the story is being done justice.” .”
Small actions can have big impacts
Active Citizen presents stories from four Nobel Peace Prize winners, each with unique challenges to overcome and different lessons to learn. A general theme throughout the interactive educational world is that small actions can have a big impact. Every day, stories emerge of new movements or messages that began as a small effort in a local community but quickly spread to broader regions.
Matthews was personally inspired by the story of the 14th Dalai Lama, which began with a small action that could have influenced the world that Active Citizen would become. “I was on a ferry (in) January 2021. I picked up a book from the ferry shop… called Our Only Home. It was the Dalai Lama’s most recent book on tackling the climate crisis, and I read it while I was on the ferry. I was calling on anyone in the education space … to teach young people lessons about compassion and empathy and how to be a more peaceful citizen.”
“Coming full circle a year later and showing the journey of the 14th Dalai Lama and what he has done to create a more peaceful and compassionate society, that alone was very rewarding,” Matthews continued. “We were able to really walk through … this lesson with the (Dalai Lama’s) team and his personal assistant.”
Even as the world developed, Matthews found inspiration in the stories he helped create. After meeting the Dalai Lama himself, players will approach a town filled with various characters who are experiencing trouble. Characters are often frustrated with someone else in town, blaming them for the problem they’re dealing with. Players must use compassion and patience to solve these problems and restore peace to the town.
“When I played around the world after it had been developed, I found myself remembering the lessons in the Dalai Lama’s part of the world,” Matthews recalled. “He constantly reminds you to be at peace, and I could feel any tension loosening up in me. Even at my age, it was a good reminder that approaching people with the best of intentions and trust is always the right way to go.”
These lessons spill over into the rest of Active Citizen, teaching participants that you don’t have to change the world all at once to make a difference. Planting a single tree in your community, for example, can inspire others to do the same, which can then spread to other communities in your region and beyond. The lessons taught here may seem obvious to some, but they can provide helpful direction or even a much-needed reminder to anyone, especially children, that small actions can have a big impact.
The world needs more compassion and acceptance.
Too often, the world is a dark and scary place, and many people who possess power do not exercise it selflessly or with the intention of improving the planet we all call home. I have seen for myself how much compassion and acceptance are already integral traits of the children who inherit the world, and it is amazing to see.
Active Citizen’s goal is simple on the surface: take the light and promise present in younger generations and infuse it with the stories of a handful of the most influential humans, those who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. All of this is packed into Minecraft, one of the best Xbox games already loved by hundreds of millions of people around the world. It’s easy to underestimate the big difference it makes when learning is fun, which Minecraft: Education Edition aims to do with every educational world and lesson.
“Active Citizen is a beautiful world, and it’s a fun world to play that invokes real emotions in each of the different stories. I’m very confident that (players) will be inspired by the stories and take the lessons they’ve learned in the real world,” concluded Matthews.
Active Citizen is now available for Minecraft: Education Edition in 112 countries, with a wealth of supporting documents and lesson plans available for teachers and educators to use with their students. There is also a free demo available to all Minecraft: Education Edition players. If you’d like to see what Active Citizen looks like before you jump in, Mojang Studios and the Nobel Peace Center are hosting two 30-minute broadcasts about their project, airing on Tuesday, March 1, 2022 at 1am PT / 10am CET. and then at 10am PT / 7pm CET.