In an interview this week for the report, a designer said that if we are trying to make coding easier, we could learn a thing or two from the game Minecraft. Although there have been some experiments at making programming Minecraft more accessible, it’s not the easiest platform to code. And yet Minecraft has almost 75 million monthly players, some of whom are kids who’ve tried their hand at coding it.
It’s not too hard to understand why. Minecraft is a hell of a lot of fun, and many kids become obsessed with it. And learning to code on it is almost like learning to cast spells. In his intro to Minecraft coding, for example, Minecraft Education Manager Peter Olofsson says he likes to start off by teaching students how to create a command to teleport their “agent.” Any coding class where the first thing you learn to do is how to teleport is a class that’s gotten off on the right start.
Given that so much user experience design work is focused on usability testing, it’s easy to forget that easy to use is only one part of the user experience ecosystem. As discussed previously, here’s how the Nielsen Norman Group defines the objectives of user experience design:
The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use.
Minecraft coding has a fair amount of fuss and bother, and you probably wouldn’t call it elegant. But when it comes to “a joy to use”, it knocks it out of the park.
If we want to ensure as many people as possible in every community have access to emerging tech jobs and business/startup/co-op opportunities, we’re going to need a lot of usability work to make coding as easy as possible. But we also shouldn’t underestimate the power of play.