CultureTECH, a self-described 'innovation festival,' has announced funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure which will be used to provide copies of block-building game Minecraft to every secondary school in Northern Ireland.
The break-out hit for Markus 'Notch' Persson and his company Mojang, Minecraft is based on open-source block-building game Infiniminer and enjoyed a success its inspiration never did: sales were strong even during the game's alpha stage, and by a month into its beta release the title had sold more than a million copies. Since its commercial release and porting to everything from consoles to smartphones, the game has racked up more than 100 million registered users. Notch, meanwhile, would cash out with a $2.5 billion sale to Microsoft
The game's ability to provide simple simulations has also caught the attention of education. A free version with basic modding support was announced back in 2012 for the popular Raspberry Pi single-board computer, but Minecraft: Pi Edition
was abandoned by Mojang immediately after launch and has never seen any updates nor had its numerous bugs fixed. More successfully, the British Geological Survey recently released a geology map of the UK
designed to teach children about the geologic makeup of the country through the game.
Now, secondary school pupils in Northern Ireland are to get copies of Minecraft for use in their education completely free of charge. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure has provided innovation festival organiser CultureTECH with unspecified funding to buy commercial copies of MinecraftEdu, the educational variant of Minecraft developed by TeacherGaming, and supply them free of charge to 240 sites across the country, including over 200 secondary schools, 30 libraries and a number of volunteer-led coding clubs.
'This project is truly a world first and demonstrates the innovative and disruptive role that the creative industries can play in education and economic development,
' crowed Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín of the deal. 'Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk taking, attention to detail and problem solving skills, all of which they would ideally also demonstrate in school. By making Minecraft available we hope to encourage this kind of behaviour.