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Chris van der Kuyl: Minecraft video game can inspire next generation of digital experts when used in education

How much time children spend on video games is a divisive topic. But this week in our series, Dundee-based video games entrepreneur Chris van der Kuyl says games like Minecraft can inspire the next generation of digital talents when used for education.

Chris van der Kuyl, whose 4J Studios brought the world’s most successful video game Minecraft to consoles, is an example of how far a passion can take you.

His city studio has created a legacy in the computer game development world and attracted partnerships with tech giants Microsoft to bring the popular game to consoles like Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo.

Minecraft will celebrate its 10th anniversary in November and since its inception it has inspired a new generation of tech masterminds.

Chris van der Kuyl, co-founder and chairman of 4J Studios plays Minecraft with art director David Keningale. Pictures by Steve MacDougall / DCT Media

The creative side of the game encourages children to create their own world from scratch using the 3D blocks, and gamers have already been inspired into careers in design, architecture and science – all because they grew up playing Minecraft.

And this impact can only continue to grow as the game makes its way into the classroom, according to Chris.

He explained: “It gave (players) the ability to realise their imagination and realise their creative side in a way that nothing else ever could. That’s something that excites us for the future.

“Not only do I think a creative game like Minecraft has a space in school, I think it is going to become the centre of the learning experience for many kids of today, including children who haven’t even gone to school yet.”

Schools are already slotting the gaming platform into the classroom by giving pupils creative assignments based on subjects they have been learning, such as Scottish castles and history.

A P6 class in Dundee also created their interpretations of how the city’s waterfront development would look once completed.

Dundee University have a project to teach school children by having them create Dundee waterfront in Minecraft.

Minecraft does not have to be just a design task, Chris says, it can be used to inspire a range of subjects including literature, music, language and maths – a view echoed by Derek Robertson, an expert in technology in education we previously spoke to.

“The number of creative uses that you’ll see teaching professionals use Minecraft for is phenomenal,” Chris said.

“When you’ve got something as immersive and engaging as Minecraft you can learn way faster and better with the right technological tool but it needs the right teacher and the right understanding of what that technology can do to build those lessons. I think it’s got a huge future in education.”

Chris van der Kuyl.

And while it can inspire a whole host of careers in the gaming world, Chris says there is no single route or single career path to choose from.

Professional gaming has now become a desirable and profitable career with Stampy Cat – one of the most successful YouTube gamers – selling out Dundee’s Caird Hall in 2015 and inspiring thousands of young Minecraft players.

Those interested in computer games can also go down the production, design and programming routes.

Chris’s main advice, however, is to find a passion within the industry that sets you apart from thousands of others.

He said: “You have to be passionate. There are lots of people who want to work within the industry so truly find your passion and what it is you truly enjoy doing.”

Video game series

Derek Robertson, former teacher and education lecturer told how video games such as Minecraft can be a great learning tool in the classroom.

And a Perthshire mum shared concerns her teenage son was developing a gaming addiction after spending too much time in front of a screen and on his Xbox. Digital expert Ghislaine Bombusa told us how to spot the signs of a gaming addiction.

Coming up next week: Remember the nostalgic video games that inspired your childhood? We’ll take your through our favourite games from Pokemon to Super Mario Bros.