You are a member of a group of settlers, scientists, and farmers set out to inhabit a new land. You’ve traveled for weeks living off of rations that your party set aside for the trip, but this morning the last of the reserve supply ran out. As hunger begins to settle in you push forward through the barren land. Suddenly someone in your party begins to call out. As you round the hill you see them: grass, tress, flowers! Lush and green, the vegetation here is healthy and thriving. You haven’t seen rain for many weeks, but these plants clearly have a source of water. If only you there was a way to make it last…
Participants enter the water challenge with only a place to rest and a fountain of water that pours into a small ditch. While they may collect water in buckets and transfer it manually, participants are faced with few food sources and will need to collaborate to establish a network of water flow. They are challenged to plan and develop a functioning settlement around a single water supply. Through collaborative building participants practice problem-solving and system thinking and apply understanding of real world phenomenon such as water flow to a simulated environment.
Exploring a System
Participants may have certain expectations about how water may work in Minecraft based on their experiences with water in real life. Have participants hypothesize how specific structures in the game world will affect the flow of water and experiment with those structures to observe the results.
Some questions for guiding participants include:
- What do we know about water that can inform hypotheses for how water functions in Minecraft?
- What happens to water if you cut off the source?
How does water disperse when it drops onto a surface?
- After testing, how does the water in Minecraft compare to real life water? How is it similar or different?
- What does playing with water in Minecraft teach us about real water?
- What else might behave similar to water? How might it be different? Can we test any in Minecraft?
When participants are comfortable with how water functions in Minecraft they can be challenges to develop a system of irrigation that networks. This activity is perfect for pre-planning and group work but can also be used as an opportunity to do quick, free form exploration. Participants should think about how to structure the settlement as a whole. Planned building could involve participants designing paper models of the settlement before constructing it in Minecraft. Roleplaying can occur within game or in separate sessions regarding planning, work allocation, and priority allotment, challenging players to
Consider the following prompts:
- How might a settlement build their city around this water source? What precautions must you take in order to utilize it?
- Have participants calculate the distance between the camp and the well and construct a to-scale plan of their settlement.
- In addition to paths for the water to irrigate, what other features should the settlement have? How will they locate housing, crops, and social spaces?
- What features of the landscape are helpful for building? What are obstacles?
- Participants can also calculate how long the characters in the world would take to build the planned settlement, accounting for time to eat, sleep, and relax. How should they budget their time for leisure activities with work?
- Participants can allocate priority to essential tasks. What tasks need to be addressed immediately and what can wait?
- Restrict available tools to challenge participants even further. How will they structure their settlement when they, for example, cannot make stone axes?
- How do we construct a settlement that uses our water efficiently? What building practices waste water and how can we avoid them?
Participants familiar with Minecraft or looking for an even greater challenge might be tasked with creating a self-sustaining irrigation system that supplies crops and housing with water with little or no maintenance. Participants may wish to utilize redstone in these projects.