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Virtual Mining Leads To Virtual Fabrication

I recently read a fascinating story about a Minecraft enthusiast who is pushing the limits of the game world.   By gathering elements that hold special properties in the game, known as Redstone, and then pulverizing it into Redstone Dust, players are able to then create wires and simple circuits.   Some players have taken to these circuits, and have begun creating larger and larger boards.   Then, some have gone further still.

Due to the open-ended world that is Minecraft, there are few imposed limits to the world.   As these gamers spent hours and hours simply playing the game, they began to look at the Redstone element in new ways.   As the Wikis and blogs began to sprout, more and more players shared experiences and knowledge of the Redstone element.   This tinkering of virtual circuits led to building something that seemed impossible – a virtual computer.   By combining knowledge of the game elements, simple programming, and a lot of creativity, these players have developed a deeper understanding of the tool they are physically working on.

One of the players involved, Ben Craddock explains: “When you think about computers and watch the long lines of zeros and ones that the machine has to figure out to give you the answer, it is fascinating to be able to understand the cause and effect where each zero and one turns on and off,” he says. “There is this very basic, physical thing happening that makes me want to find a way to reproduce it.”

What impresses me is the time and dedication that goes into building this virtual computing system.  Sure, they could go down to Radioshack and pick up the components to build a basic circuit board and perhaps a small calculator, but what fun would that be?   The virtual world as a canvas is undoubtedly more complex and requires more creativity.  But this is just wasting time in video games right?    Not so, as this designs have caught the attention of game studios, who have begun reaching out to these enthusiasts with real job opportunities.

What do the game creators think?   “The calculator was certainly a surprise to us. It was very unexpected and inventive,” says David Smith, co-designer for Little Big Planet game. “It showed that the community didn’t care what the game was supposed to be and found ways of combining what they had to create what they wanted.”

Have a look at Ben’s creation, which garnered more views than a certain pop singer.

Are you an avid player in virtual worlds?  Please let me know in the comments.

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