Friday, September 14, 2012

Minecraft and the Industrial Revolution

I've been playing Minecraft for about a year, and I'm having a lot of fun.  My son got me into the game, and it's pretty much an addiction.  Go figure, that's why it's one of the  most successful independent games out there.

What I've been enjoying the most is the Mods that are out there, and the skill and imagination that people are putting into their work.  I've watched most of the Youtube videos from people like Direwolf20 and Zerzera, and it's amazing how they can get the different components of multiple mods to connect and interlink to create incredible machines and systems that do what they want done.  It's people like this who I want involved building space stations and moon bases.  I'm not kidding.  If we give our kids games like this, open sandboxes with resources, tools and self-defined goals, they'll train themselves to be able to put things together that will amaze us all.  And even better, this is an international movement.

What I was thinking about this morning was from the book that I'm currently reading, Peak Everything.  The Industrial Craft mod adds generators that burn coal, and oil that you can burn or refine into fuel, which is more efficient in generating electrical power.  The Forestry mod adds biogas and other plant derived fuels like peat which you can burn like coal.  The goal, of course, is to have more and more power available in various forms to run machines and tools.  Just like in the real world.

What seems to be missing is costs associated with it.  There's no pollution from burning the coal, there are no lasting effects from the oil that gets spilled in water or on land.  There's no way to see environmental impacts.  Of course, it's a game, and such things would spoil the game environment and make it "too much" like the real world.

But it is real.  And while I can understand wanting to play a game without the costs, some of us are thinking about and working on solutions to these problems in the real world and we're looking for help from the imaginations of our kids to find the solutions that will keep our real world able to support us for the long term.  So something needs to be added, as an option, to help keep pollution and environmental effects in mind.

The best example of what I'm looking for already exists in the game, but it's part of a non-technical mod, although one that many people who play and record the game are using as a technical mod.  I'm referring to Thaumcraft2, a mod that adds magic to the game including "vis" for positive energy and "taint" for negative energy.  Players can research how to use resources in new ways to create new tools and machines, and can even give themselves the ability to see the levels of vis and taint in the surrounding environment (which is a 16x16 block going from the top to the bottom of the world).

What if, and I'm posting this because this is far above my own programming skills, burning coal in Industrial Craft caused pollution, and spilling oil on water or land caused additional pollution in the surrounding chunk.  And there would be a way to create a visor or something that lets you see the level of pollution.  And maybe a new machine that would help you reduce the pollution from the chunk.

Again, this would be an additional mod to Industrial Craft itself, so optional only if you want to use it.  But it would bring the game a bit closer to the real world, and get our kids aware of sources of pollution and what they could do about it.

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