Sandbox Summit: Don't Miss The Latest and Greatest Ideas in Educational Gaming (Even if You're Not There in Person)

Sandbox Summit
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

If you're into that sweet spot where gaming and education intersect, the hashtag to watch right now is #sandboxsummit14. There you'll be able to see live reactions to talks and workshops being conducted at MIT's Sandbox Summit, an annual get together for educators and scholastically-minded developers alike. The event runs today and tomorrow, and  just because you're not there in person doesn't mean you can't pick up a thing or two from afar (thanks to social networking and streaming video.)

In this case "gaming" isn't limited to video games, either. One of the most interesting topics so far (if Twitter is any indication) has been The World Peace Game, a massive tabletop game in which an entire class can wage war and peace, and gain a better grasp of the effects of both. 

You'll eventually be able to view videos of this year's talks on the Sandbox Summit website, but until then keep your eyes on Twitter, and check out recorded talks from the 2013 summit here.

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Top 5 Games Beyond Second Life - NWN Readers' Choice

Guild Wars 2 Bees
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Let no one say that Second Life users aren't still gamers through and through. Last week I asked you what your favorite games are, and I'll admit that the enthusiastic response that followed here, in Plurk, and in my inbox took me completely by surprise. Some of your picks were just as surprising, too.

So what are the top five games New World Notes' readers love to play (outside of the metavese, of course)? You'll find out after the jump!

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Watch It This Weekend: Father/Daughter Team Tackle Minecraft Together in This Underrated YouTube Series

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

I'll just come right out and say it: "Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft" might just be one of the most underrated (and adorable) series' of Minecraft videos on YouTube.

The titular Daddy, Ronin 1011, might have a penchant for first-person shooters, but while his daughter "Princess Flower" (a.k.a. Little Bear #1) is on her laptop nearby they make a perfect pair of miners, builders, and zombie-fighters. Even the smallest milestones (like building their first house and taming a wolf) are punctuated with Princess Flower's delight, while every dark cave and looming zombie is made that much more intense.

Full disclosure here, but I have a soft spot for these kinds of videos. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of playing games with my dad, either on his old Intellivision or the Sega Genesis that came after it. I liked being able to trail after him as Tails, or hand the controller over when Ecco The Dolphin got too tricky and/or scary. I remember leaning over the back of the couch, playing with a toy german shepherd while watching him mow down pixellated nazis in the stone halls of Wolfenstein. It's likely because of that time we spent together that I look at games like Minecraft and wish I was 20 years younger, or even that I had a little bear of my own to explore them with.

Watch the full (and ongoing) series of Daddy/Daughter Lets Play Minecraft videos for yourself here

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Visit The Hauntingly Beautiful World of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away... In Minecraft

Spirited Away Minecraft  (1)
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

While the comparatively primitive graphics of Minecraft might be an acquired taste, I firmly believe that if you've never seen something you consider beautiful created in this phenomenally popular sandbox you just haven't looked hard enough. Case in point: A stunning recreation of the spirit town from Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, made by a team of builders over the span of several years. Though they're far from finished, they've shared loads of images and even video tours of their work so far. See for yourself after the jump!

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The Universe Is Your Playground In Space-Based Sandbox Game Starbound, Coming to Steam Early Access

 
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

One of the most hotly anticipated indie games of the past two years will be making its debut on Steam Early Access today, and if you like building, crafting, procedurally-generated worlds, and most importantly spaceships and super cool aliens you are absolutely going to want to check it out.

Starbound is sandbox-meets-space exploration, and its very transparent development process (which has been bursting at the seams with screenshots and teasers) has already led to a significant number of fans... And pre-orders.

Anyone who pre-ordered the game will be getting a Steam key in their email... Right about now, actually. And since that includes me, I'll be regaling NWN readers with stories my adventures in procedurally-generated space next week. For now, here are a few things you should know if you're not sure if Starbound is for you:

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Watch It This Weekend: Minecraft Documentary Shows Us How It All Began, How Far It's Come And More

Minecraft 2 Player Productions
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Whether you're interested in a behind-the-scenes view of one of the most popular games in the world or you just want to hear some cute kids talking about their new favorite sandbox, 2 Player Productions' Minecraft: The Story of Mojang is the documentary for you. Better yet, they've posted it in full on their YouTube channel for everyone to watch, ad-free.

2 Player Productions are known for their documentary work in and around the games industry, which includes collaborations with Penny Arcade and Double Fine, but The Story of Mojang might just be my favorite project from them yet. Watch it for yourself after the jump.

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How Much Is Too Much: Where To Draw The Line On Buying Early Access To An Upcoming Indie Game

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Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

As a fan of the buy-in beta/early access trend going on in indie game development, I've occasionally wondered where exactly I would draw the line. The line for many consumers is buying into any unfinished project, but I personally enjoy experiencing the changes a game goes through before launch first-hand. That side of the arrangement has never bothered me, especially when it's a game I would have purchased on release anyway. But the question remains: How much would a game I really want to play have to ask for early access before I would choose to walk away, rather than buying it on the spot?

Yesterday, I found my answer.

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Here's An Amazing Minecraft Coaster Inspired by Nightmare Before Christmas (for Boys and Girls of E-ve-ry Age)

Nightmare Before Christmas Minecraft Coaster
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The internet's favorite Minecraft roller coaster creators are back with a brand new mind-blowing creation, The Night Rail before Christmas. If you hadn't already guessed, it's inspired by Tim Burton's classic The Nightmare Before Christmas and executed entirely in Minecraft, the most popular sandbox game worldwide since actual playground sandboxes were invented.

This coaster follows the same formula that Nuropsych and co. are most known for. Their coasters all demonstrate careful timing, clever perspective tricks, accented with a healthy dose of dubstep. See the results for yourself:

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Iris Rants: The 5 (Mostly Silly) Reasons Why You're Not Playing Cube World

Cube World 31
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

The Steam Summer Sale is in full swing, and although I'm snapping up great gaming deals left and right, just about all of my play time is being consumed by a single blocky little game full of hacking and slashing, charming as hell and still only an unfinished alpha shadow of what it will become. Cube World, developed by adorable German couple Wolfram and Sarah Von Funck, is shaping up to be my favorite game of the summer (even though it's still far from its official release). I play it solo, I play it with friends, I've played it on a stream, and I've even written about it here before. Suffice it to say I'm a fan.

Now as much as I could gush about this game, I can already anticipate a lot of the counterarguments I'd hear. They're the same ones that have been following this game through its development, and that have only gotten stronger since the alpha was released. Of course there are plenty of reasons not to play it, but most of the reasons I've heard are... Well, they're just not very good. If you're simply not into RPG-style exploration and adventure (the core of Cube World gameplay) that's one thing, but it's another if you find yourself saying things like...

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Minecraft Developer Mojang's Latest Game Now In Beta... But All I Can Think About Is Linden Lab

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Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Speaking of Minecraft, the publishers of one of the most successful sandbox games of all time launched a buy-in beta period for their next game, Scrolls, yesterday. If the game's name sounds a bit familiar it's because Mojang was engaged in a bit of a legal tangle with Bethesda, makers of The Elder Scrolls games, over use of the name Scrolls. That tussle ended with Mojang essentially licensing use of the name "Scrolls", though they won't be able to use it for any sequels. That means no Scrolls 5: Skyedge... But that's probably for the best.

Scrolls is a card-based strategy game, so if you're looking for another platform to flex your creative muscles you'll need to look elsewhere. Scrolls is a considerably more traditional (albeit prettier) product than Minecraft.

In some ways this new title and some of the reactions to it have made me think about how similar Mojang's position is to Linden Lab's. Here's what I mean:

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