Like Minecraft? Try these 7 engaging world builders, too

Eco, Oort Online, and a host of virtual worlds to keep students busy, and learning

eco-virtualWith the popular explosion of Minecraft among middle schoolers and beyond, it’s worth noting that it isn’t the only open world virtual environment with educational value. Nor is it always the most ideal game for teaching every concept, leading other games to pick up the slack. As a result, inspired educators and students are taking notice and branching out.

“Nobody stays with with one game forever,” said Marianne Malmstrom, an advocate for the use of virtual environments in education and a technology teacher at The Elisabeth Morrow School in New Jersey. “Who plays only solitaire?”

We spoke with several educator gamers about the current landscape of virtual games and what players can expect of the future. What follows is a list of their top picks for the Minecraft generation.

Oort Online. This massive multiplayer sandbox that lets players travel between multiple worlds is only in alpha testing, but early fans say it has great potential. Players assume roles, like hunters or merchants, and build societies that interact with the greater universe. The physics of the environment is rather precise, letting you create things like obstacle courses with slides, trampolines, and structures to swing past with tools like grappling hooks. “I teach game design and development, so for me it comes down to what kinds of games you can build within the environment,” said Steve Isaacs, who teaches at William Annin Middle School in New Jersey. “I could totally see players creating their own American Ninja Warrior-like levels right in that game.”

Next page: A virtual world that teaches sustainability

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