The Allegorical Build. Minecraft and Allegorical Play in Undergraduate Teaching




Minecraft, Allegory, Undergraduate Pedagogy, Refamiliarization, gamevironments


An ongoing issue in game-based learning is the way in which knowledge might, or might not, transfer between games and the real world. One historically prevalent problem that game-based learning researchers have highlighted is the risk of students simply learning to play the game itself rather than learning the subject matter that the instructor is pairing with the game. In another scenario, a game might instead over-emphasize the subject matter and impose stricter rules, which in turn makes self-actualizing student-driven learning impossible. In this article we present a game-based teaching method where educators can address these issues by collapsing the real and the virtual into one another: the allegorical build. The allegorical build occurs when students use the relationships they have developed to in-game procedures in order to think about a range of other topics outside the game, as defined by the instructor. With reference to student work, personal interviews and other data, this paper describes the process of teaching with the allegorical build and the two techniques that underpin it (infrastructural reflexivity and refamiliarization). The method was tested in the context of a fully flipped pandemic-era version of a course on the history and culture of modernity; our findings show that the allegorical build was effective in creating an open space for collaborative critical thought and reflection on difficult and abstract course material.