What's at the Root of Racism and Sexism in Minecraft Communities?

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

This week Christopher Long posted an interesting article over on Medium about the experience he went through with his daughter. She went from playing Minecraft Pocket Edition on her iPod to dipping her toes into PC multiplayer servers, and parental conversations about online safety and discretion turned to conversations about racism and misogyny as she engaged with other players who had less than appropriate things to say about the girly, dark-skinned avatar she'd chosen for herself.

These moments are now part of coming of age in a plugged-in world, but I doubt that their experiences will take many Minecraft fans in particular by surprise. Here's why:

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Minecraft's New Terrain Modification Will be a Welcome Addition for Explorers, Modders, and Mapmakers Alike

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

Yesterday Mojang released a preview of a very significant change coming to Minecraft version 1.8: World customization. While players can already specify (and share) seeds, modify basic map features, and of course terraform manually the new world customization options will offer access to a broad range of variables to fine tune a newly generated world to suit their needs.

That said, it will be modders and map-makers in particular who will get the most out of the new terrain modification system. Tailoring a map to suit your needs when you're developing an adventure/challenge-oriented experience to share with others currently involves a lot of painstaking work, literally done one block at a time. These new tools will streamline that process so custom mapmaking will be a little less arduous and a lot more fun.

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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

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 5.19.04 PM
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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