If you aren’t aware, Esports is now the second most popular sport in the US, after the NFL. IN terms of participants, it is also second to only football when it comes to high school sports. We are not here to debate “whether playing video games can really be called a sport”. We’re way past that now. No, we’re here to see how Minecraft Education Edition contributes to the movement, particularly in schools. Welcome (at last) to Day 125 of 365 Ideas for Microsoft 365.
Starting Esports with Minecraft
My own large school district (over 80,000 students) has struggled to get an actual Esports program up and running. We tend to be on the really restrictive end of permissions, which includes what devices can be on the school network, so we have that in addition to the usual cost considerations and myriad decisions about platforms and games.
If you are in a similar situation, Minecraft makes a great place to start. If your students have Office 365 (and why wouldn’t they?) most likely you already have the licenses available as part of the package. There’s now also a Camps and Clubs version of Minecraft:EE for non-schools, including libraries and homeschoolers, to use M:EE.
That means no additional hardware to purchase, and no additional devices on your network. M:EE runs on Windows, Chromebooks, Macs and iPads. They all work with the same Office 365 login.
Make & Model
The first M:EE worlds to officially venture into Esports were the Make & Model worlds. Within the in game library, under Subject Kits, besides the expected Math and Science, you’ll also find Esports. There’s currently four categories there, one of which is Make & Model.
These are gorgeous worlds. The first thing I did when opening a new one is just fly around and soak in the details. The first thing I do now when I introduce these worlds to new users is encourage them to do the same.
Each had a theme, but the structure is pretty standard among them. There’s worlds featuring pirates, bees, inside 3D printers or computers, and planets and libraries. There’s currently nine worlds for competition and two for practicing. But they all function the same way. Players stand on one of two areas, denoted by color- green or yellow. When the host (teacher or coach) starts the game, everyone standing on the yellow surface gets teleported to one build area and everyone standing on the green surface is teleported to the other build area. To prevent griefing (messing with the other team) members of one time cannot physically enter the build area of the other team. They are teleported away when they try.
There’s a giant clock and scoreboard, and when time runs out, players from both teams can move to an area where they vote for the winner of the best design by standing on the green or yellow area. Spectators can vote as well. This would be anyone who joined the world but was not standing on a color when the game launched. Variations on scoring could include having a rubric to guide scoring and the host/moderator acting as a judge, placing armor stands as votes according to performance on the rubric.
The Esports worlds in M:EE come with a OneNote Notebook on using any of these worlds with students, including how to run competitions and goals to focus on in the entire process.
These Make & Model worlds allow for a nice variety of settings, without having to re-learn how to play, or, in the case of coaches, how to run the game. If there was (previously) any weakness to the portfolio, it was that they were essentially all the same game, despite the fact that there is literally an infinite number of things that could be built and how teams could go about building them.
However, there are now other formats in the Esports library as well.
Code 2 Create
And now for something completely different. Still taking advantage of familiar themes, there are currently two worlds in the Creative Clash collection, one set in a bee hive, and the other featuring pirates. In Busy Bees tow teams go head to head in a race to fly to flowers, collect nectar and return to the hive to deposit the nectar. But don’t deposit it all- you’ll need some for yourself to fly! In this world, bees from both teams are flying around together, so there is a level of interaction, meaning part of your team’s strategy may involve disrupting the work of the other team.
The other world is called Speed Run, because your team’s goal is to collect buried treasure as fast as possible, but teams can compete asynchronously. They can both play at the same time, but they will be in separate worlds. This has some definite unique possibilities like teams competing from different Microsoft domains.
Both Creative Clash worlds change the whole M:EE Esports experience from “best build” to more traditional video gaming formats.
This last series can be used in conjunction with any of the others. These worlds are a series of Skills Challenges. But the skills aren’t exclusively Minecraft abilities. The skills include planning, communication, collaboration, 3-d spatial design, and all things teamwork. These are a place to practice planning out builds and delegating roles and trying out new jobs and techniques.
After all, these are the things that Scholastic Esports exist for. Harnessing the motivation of compelling activity to learn real-life soft skills and, in the case of Code 2 Create, hard skills as well!
While the basics of getting an Esports program up and running are beyond the scope of this article, there are plenty of resources out there to help with that. From deciding on games, acquiring, setting up, connecting and maintaining hardware and software, to recruiting students and staff, to establishing teams and competitions, many others have already walked that path and offer their guidance.
Check out these resources from NASEF (North American Scholastic Esports Federation)
There’s even resources for using Esports within your curriculum
For specifically using Minecraft Education Edition in Esports, Microsoft has some great resources as well.
There are even courses on the Microsoft Educator Community (MEC)
And don’t forget Twitter! Follow
@dadxeight (That’s just me!)
Looking for more? How about the Remote Learning with Microsoft Teams Course Sign up to learn how to go from a complete novice in Teams to using Teams for your complete solution for remote learning.
If you like this style of directions and screenshots, walking you through ideas for using Microsoft tools in your classroom, check out my new (2nd Edition) book,
All the Microsoft Tools You Need to Transform Your Classroom: 75 Ideas for using Microsoft Office 365 for Education available on amazon in both Kindle and paperback.