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Simulating Inequality - P4K Gamers at Hungercraft 2.0
What happens when resources are unequally distributed? Do citizens learn to cooperate and trade? Or is violence inevitable?
Those were some of the questions pondered by Global Kids’ Playing For Keeps youth leaders at Hungercraft 2.0, an event at the Main Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Saturday, March 30. Using a special world created by Minecraft Edu inspired by the popular books The Hunger Games, they faced off against the teens in Brooklyn Public Library’s T4 program (Today’s Teens, Tomorrow’s Techies).
In those books, the central Capital region of the nation Panem is flush with opulent wealth and exercises control over the Districts, the outlying, poorer areas. The game Hungercraft imagines Panem 75 years before the first novel took place, when a failed rebellion left the nation devastated. GK’s P4K leaders assumed the role of Capital inhabitants -- equipped with stronger building materials and the ability to make food. The T4s became the citizens of District 12, a desolate region with not much to brag about beyond its coal mine.
Both teams began by rebuilding their territories and mining for resources. When Joel Levin, from Minecraft Edu, the creator of the world, turned on the avatars’ health and hunger meters, the struggle to survive began.
Game play was full of surprises. The T4s in District 12 figured out how to make food without the Capital’s resources. The P4Ks in the Capital figured out how to make coal to cook their food without trading. And both teams had stockpiled so many weapons that it seemed like a battle was the only alternative -- many students wound up in “limbo,” the place where players take a penalty time out when they die in the game.
During the debrief, participants drew connections between gameplay and current and historical global events. They talked about the fear that had developed once the two sides were labeled as enemies, the lack of communication within and between teams, and the itchy trigger-fingers that resulted from their growing arsenals.
All agreed that video games, when designed well, have the potential to teach us about complex human interactions.
We are grateful for the support provided by the Hive Learning Network New York to run this program for a second consecutive year. Thanks to Joel Levin and Pat Hough of Minecraft Edu, Jennifer Thompson and Jackson Gomes of BPL. Special thanks to photographer Owen Long of Minecraft Edu for taking the incredible photos of the youth in action.