Saturday, June 25, 2016

Minecraft Build Competition

Minecraft build programs have become a regular children's event at my library.  We are now doing one competition in the summer, once during the Christmas/New Year holiday break, and once during Spring break.  While demand for this program can be high, it is rather staff intensive so we can only offer it the three times a year.  After offering this program for several years now, I feel much more comfortable with this library program despite the fact I do not enjoy playing the game.

The Minecraft program I offer is a build competition.  It requires pre-registration because we have a limited amount of seating in our meeting room. Once everyone arrives and seems to be seated I go over the rules:

  • No eating or drinking by the computers and machines. If you take a snack or water break (highly encouraged), please do so in the snack corner.  
  • You will be using creative mode for the competition.
  • No texture packs are allowed - just plain vanilla only!
  • You will be judged on creativity, use of your environment, and your use of the competition theme.
  • You may help each other, but parents cannot build for you.
  • At the end of the competition, you must stop work on your competition world. 
  • You may play in another world during and after judging. Be prepared to quickly log back in to the competition world for judges. 
Then I introduce the theme and give the kids about one hour to complete the competition. Some successful themes I have used include a roller coaster and a superhero lair.  

In reality, the competition is just a warm up act.  When the competition build time is over, next comes the judging.  The children become more animated and the room gets a fun buzz in it during the judging phase of the program.  The children become alive talking about their competition world to the judges.  They also start collaborating with each other in other worlds while they wait for the judges to come around the room. It is like the children all of a sudden discover they are with their tribe, they are with other children who have the same Minecraft passion.  My judges are teen volunteers or staff not on the reference desks who go around with a score card marking 1-4 on each child based on their creativity, environment, and use of the theme.  The judges choose the top 4 competitors for prizes (Minecraft toys, t-shirts, or books I pick up at Target or ToysRus).  The fifth prize is given to one attendee by pulling a name out of a box.  

I find this library program to be very rewarding.  As one parent pointed out to me, her two girls learn how to interact with other children, how to speak in public, how to explain their creations, and how to loose in a respectful manner. (Her girls have attended several Minecraft events at the library but have not yet won anything. This mother was so great at articulating to me about why this is okay for her girls. Sometimes in life you have fun without winning a prize.) 

I will end now with my preparation list.  This is everything I need on hand for a successful Minecraft program:
  • Name tags (I use card stock paper folded in half like a tent to be placed on the table next to each child)
  • Sharpie pens (at least two)
  • Photo permission forms
  • Camera
  • Cup of pens or pencils
  • Dot stickers (at least two different colors - one for kids who don't have a photo permission form filled out by parents and one for kids who are ready to be judged)
  • Participant survey/questionnaire
  • Judging score cards
  • Electrical power strips (at least five for my meeting room)
  • Dry erase pens (I write the rules on the white board in the room)
  • Duct tape
  • Pitcher of water
  • Paper cups for water
  • Library laptops with power cords and mice (updated several days before the program)
  • Copy of rules
  • Seed world directions (I can never remember how to do this)
  • Prizes!

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