The popular block-building and exploration game Minecraft will be given for free to all post-primary schools in Northern Ireland. The initiative is a part of a project organized by CultureTECH, Northern Ireland’s annual festival who have obtained funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and leisure.

Minecraft is a sandbox video game that allows players to create their own world by using various 3D blocks. They can explore, construct buildings and engage in mining for minerals with which they can make useful objects. They can also explore creations built by other players. This hugely popular game owned by Swedish company Mojang has been downloaded more than 100 million times since its release in 2009.

CultureTech will supply the MinecraftEdu, a special version of the Minecraft game for educational purposes, to 240 sites in Northern Ireland including more than 200 schools, 30 libraries and community organizations as well as several coding clubs. Through this game, students can learn about construction, architecture, mining, agriculture and renewable resources. More than 5,000 teachers in over 40 countries use MinecraftEdu to teach students STEM subjects, computer coding, history and arts.

MinecraftEdu has been created by TeacherGaming, a company formed by a group of educational game developers in Finland and US. This version has teaching tools and additional features including networking options to interconnect students using different devices.

“This project is truly a world first and demonstrates the innovative and disruptive role that the creative industries can play in education and economic development,” said Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín. “Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk taking, attention to detail and problem solving skills, all of which they would ideally also demonstrate in school. By making Minecraft available we hope to encourage this kind of behaviour.”

CEO of CultureTECH, Mark Nagurski added, “As anyone with a child will know, Minecraft is huge. but what is really exciting is how it is being used by educators to help young people express their creative skills and develop their understanding of technology.”

CultureTECH says that it will work towards providing support and training to teachers interested in using this program.