Building blocks of inclusion: Minecraft as a tool for youth engagement


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Land-use planning tends to be adult-oriented, leaving young people’s ideas and concerns frequently dismissed. In addition, attempts to involve youth in planning are often resisted due to societal views of young people as lacking the capacity to participate meaningfully in the design process (Frank, 2006). Despite this tendency to dismiss youth in the planning process, youth are still impacted by land-use decisions and should be considered an important stakeholder group. Encouraging youth to participate in decisions that will impact them enables them to take active roles in their personal and community development (United Nations, n.d.). Participatory design is a democratic approach to the design process that encourages community members to take part in design decision-making; including youth in participatory design is gaining traction as a priority issue (Sanders & Stappers, 2008). Video games are an emerging way to include young people in design decision-making. With more than 480 million copies sold as of 2019, Minecraft seems to be the most successful video game of all time. Due to its cultural ubiquity and relative ease of learning compared to traditional CAD software, Minecraft is becoming an increasingly popular way to engage youth in participatory design (Delaney, 2022; Cheshire, 2012). Minecraft has been applied by nonprofits and professional organizations, including Block by Block (a collaboration with UN Habitat) and ASLA to gather youth input in the design process. However, there is a lack of research evaluating Minecraft’s effectiveness in building youth understanding and contribution to the design process as compared to traditional participatory design approaches. My study aims to address this issue by comparing youth responses to traditional and video-gaming engagement practices. In this study, 10 students aged 16-19 from an urban high school in Kansas City, Missouri were randomly selected and assigned to one of two community engagement workshops: a traditional paper-based design charette and a video-game workshop using Minecraft. In both workshops, students created designs for a stretch of greenspace near their school. Surveys issued before and after the workshops evaluated the effectiveness of each approach by assessing the strengths and shortcomings of each tool, students’ sense of involvement, and the meaning of their involvement. Minecraft was found to be a promising method for youth engagement: students in the Minecraft group reported a significantly better understanding of the design process after the activity than their counterparts in the traditional group. Students in the Minecraft group also reported themselves as more willing to participate in an actual public project. While the findings may not be generalizable due to the small sample size, this study offers a useful method to be utilized in similar studies. Further investigation with a larger sample size is needed to explore the potential of Minecraft as a tool for participatory design.



Participatory design, Minecraft, Youth engagement

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Master of Landscape Architecture


Department of Landscape Architecture/Regional and Community Planning

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Sara Hadavi