Minecraft Education: Engaging Math Adventures

In collaboration with with my sister, a math teacher and PhD candidate, we entered a national programming and design competition tailored for educators and students. This competition, endorsed by Microsoft and Apple and facilitated by the Saudi Ministry of Education, provided an exceptional platform for showcasing our combined skills and creativity.

This competition aims to enrich the culture of computer software utilization by fostering the development of advanced skills aligned with the demands of the twenty-first century. It seeks to stimulate creativity, innovation, and software production across diverse fields through playful and simulation-driven learning methods. These approaches are designed to augment learning outcomes, infuse lessons with enjoyment and engagement, and elevate specialized Arabic content through imaginative instructional techniques.

Project synopsis:
We developed 3 levels-one for each interactive lesson, plus a central area where players initially spawn and can access the other levels. My role centred on crafting the environment, designing levels, and providing overall artistic direction, while my sister took charge of crafting the lesson materials and programming their mechanics.

Each lesson is set within one of Saudi Arabia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites: Hegra (also known as Mada’in Saleh), At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah, and Historic Jeddah. The central area draws inspiration from Al-Disah Valley. I meticulously recreated the layout, environmental features, and architectural landmarks of each site. Additionally, we incorporated numerous real-life images of the surrounding scenery as references for players throughout the levels.

Game mechanics:
– Side missions offer skill acquisition and resource gathering to aid in solving main missions, encompassing activities such as solving questions, crafting tools, and engaging in exploration.

– The world was made unbreakable, except for specific areas designated for breaking or placing objects. “Allow Blocks” were positioned beneath these areas.

– Each area was enclosed by border blocks to prevent students from crossing its boundaries.

– “Structure Blocks” were utilized to duplicate buildings and mountains and relocate them elsewhere.

– “Command Blocks” were incorporated throughout the game to fulfil transportation requests, alter weather and time, and provide students with tools.

Central Area: Respite at the Valley

Gameplay: The player is first greeted by a tour guide “Ammar”, he explains the main premise of this interactive math adventure and provides insight into the chosen locations. A robot teacher explains the math topic of all three lessons which is based on vector quantities and their practical applications in everyday scenarios involving movement, direction, and speed.

Location: Wadi Al-Disah, also known as Al-Disah Valley, is a natural attraction located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, in the Tabuk region. It is characterized by its stunning landscape of rocky cliffs, sandstone formations, and lush vegetation, set amidst desert surroundings. The valley is renowned for its biodiversity, with various plant and animal species thriving in its unique ecosystem.

Design: The environment build mirrors this natural splendor, incorporating red clay blocks to sculpt the rugged mountains, abundant greenery bordering the water’s edge, and a diverse array of wildlife for players to encounter. For the gateways leading to each level, a fantastical aesthetic was adopted, featuring purple crystals and crying obsidian to evoke the allure of a Nether gate. Arrow blocks aid in navigation, while imposing numerical symbols above each gate evoke a sense of grandeur and intrigue.

Level 1: Stranded at Mada'in Saleh

Gameplay: In this level, players are once more welcomed by the tour guide, “Ammar,” who offers brief insights about the site through a video clip and encourages players to document their journey by taking pictures with the in-game camera. Additional non-player characters (NPCs) featured in this level include robots, the train conductor “Bana,” and the stranded explorer “Jana.” Each character contributes to advancing the gameplay and offers resources to assist the player.

Location: Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh, is a remarkable archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the Al-Ula region of northwestern Saudi Arabia. It holds significant historical and cultural importance as one of the Kingdom’s most renowned heritage sites. The site is famous for its impressive sandstone cliffs and rock-cut tombs, which date back to the first century BCE.

Design: The environmental design incorporates red sandstone blocks to recreate the atmospheric ruins of Hegra. Throughout the level, real-life images of renowned tombs and artifacts adorn the surroundings, providing abundant informational content. Additionally, a section of the abandoned Hijaz Railway has been reconstructed, offering visual intrigue alongside a math problem for players to solve. The setting is intentionally depicted at dawn, symbolizing the dawn of this ancient civilization.

Level 2: Avalanche at Souq Turaif

Gameplay: Players rendezvous with tour guide “Ammar” to glean insights about the location before navigating to the market to uncover the main mission. At Souq Turaif gate, they encounter robots to review the lesson materials, quizzes, and gain points. Their attention shifts when a member of the Emergency Team alerts them to an avalanche that blocked the Souq’s entrance. Informed of the required materials—a Piston and a Stone Button—the team equips players with a Diamond Axe, tasking them with locating or crafting these items to clear the debris.

Location: At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah, Riyadh, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing well-preserved mud-brick buildings and Najdi architecture. It served as the political center of the first Saudi state, embodying the kingdom’s rich history and cultural heritage.

Design: The second level has a relatively longer playthrough, it features the same recurring NPC characters playing different roles. It also features new characters and new and more complicated obstacles. The environment build uses light Sandstone to recreate the iconic palaces, mosques, and fortifications. Several locations are recreated such as ad-Dir’iyah Museum and Princess Modhi’s Mosque. The juxtaposition of light Sandstone hues and abundant Lanterns against dark night skies accentuates the contrast.

Level 3: Power Outage at Historic Jeddah

Gameplay: Players encounter the reliable tour guide “Ammar” at Bab Makkah (Makkah’s Gate), where he provides essential information about Historic Jeddah (Al-Balad) and equips them with a Spyglass to zoom in on distant objects. Additional items like a Diamond Axe and Pickaxe are available. This level, the longest and most challenging yet, requires players to head to Nassif House Museum. As they navigate markets and alleyways, they encounter a power outage at the Museum’s block. “Wafa’,” a local, informs players of the issue and proposes potential solutions.

Location: Historic Jeddah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases a distinctive architectural tapestry of coral stone buildings, wooden latticework, and intricately adorned facades, reflecting Islamic and Red Sea coastal influences. Its preservation embodies Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage, offering insights into the region’s history, trade, and urban development, captivating visitors with its timeless allure.

Design: In this level, players face the highest level of complexity and challenge as they tackle the main mission. The environmental design faithfully recreates the district’s prominent landmarks, including bustling markets teeming with vendors, shoppers, and colorful merchandise. Utilizing all Quartz blocks, as well as Spruce, Dark Oak, and Warped wooden blocks, the build authentically captures the iconic architectural style of Al-Balad’s buildings.

Competition: My School Programs 2022, Saudi Arabia
Project: Art Direction, Game Design, Game Development, World Building, Level Design, Character Design, Story and Narrative.