By Awnali Mills and Chris Holliman
As part of our spring break programming, we planned a Minecraft games/craft party for Monday, and a Minecraft gaming party for Friday. The gaming party evolved into what it was through staff collaboration and bouncing ideas off of one another. Because I wasn’t involved in the nitty-gritty of program planning, but I felt it would be helpful to others, I invited my boss, Chris Holliman, to guest blog.
Chris, take it away!
I have wanted to do some type of Minecraft gaming party in our library system for a while. I looked with envy at other systems doing elaborate Minecraft programs and thought that we could do something similar, but on a smaller scale. Our challenge was the limitation of available technology resources at our branch. Specifically, we needed computers. Our branch lacked a computer lab and had very few extra laptops on hand.
To overcome this challenge, I consulted with the head of Adult Services at my branch who suggested using the patron laptops that we offer for checkout. There were 7 computers total, which was less than I wanted, but much better than nothing.
I then met with our IT department to go over how to run the program. There are many ways to do a Minecraft Gaming program, including setting up a dedicated server. Short of that, the best option that suited our needs was to create a Local Area Network (LAN), which can be done through the game. This would allow several of the kids to join in on the same world without having to set up a special server. We also purchased 7 Minecraft accounts for each computer and then downloaded the game onto flash drives. Running the game off of a flash drive alleviated the necessity of downloading software onto the hard drive.
Even with this preparation, I was still nervous before the event. We had never done something like this before and I had concerns that the laptops and/or the WiFi simply were not strong enough to maintain that many people gaming at once. We had also allowed kids to bring in their own laptops–with their own licensed copy of Minecraft, of course–so this would add further strain to the wireless.
Despite my anxiety, the program went pretty well. Yes, the game did crash periodically on some of the computers. A few of the kids who brought their own laptops had trouble joining in. But, for the most part, I was pleased. We had a room full of 15-20 happy kids playing Minecraft at the same time. We also learned a lot by doing this and recreating it will be super simple.
There is still a lot room for growth regarding our efforts with Minecraft in our library system. Later this year, our branch is transferring to a larger building with a computer lab and more laptops available for programming use. In time, we may have a dedicated server that will allow our younger patrons to log in remotely and offer many more opportunities with Minecraft. Within our library’s Minecraft world, we will be able to build sophisticated structures over long periods of time, create special worlds, and have competitions. But all of this is months down the road. For now, we are going to start by doing monthly programs that feature LAN parties. Although this does not fully satisfy our community’s strong interest in Minecraft, it is one step towards a much larger gaming presence in our library system.