Students utilize 3-D game as form of art, expression in University classrooms

Students in the art department have been using video games as a new form of expression.

Anthony Fontana, instructor in the School of Art, has been using the game Second Life as a way to teach students. Second Life is a 3-D world where people can socialize through avatars and create whatever they want.

The students meet with teachers in the game over the summer with their avatars to attend online classes, go through art galleries of students’ art work and go on virtual field trips to places like the Sistine Chapel, Fontana said.

All of this is done in a virtual campus that Fontana and Bonnie Mitchell, who also teaches in the School of Art, have run together since 2007, Fontana said.

Now students are expanding the virtual world at the University to include Minecraft.

“We began using other virtual worlds, such as Minecraft two years ago,” Fontana said.

Minecraft is a game where everything is made of square blocks and those blocks can be used to build 3-D constructions.

Minecraft appeared in the art department for the first time at the art fair ArtXtravaganza, Fontana said. A contest was hosted where each contestant was given a number of blocks and had a certain amount of time to build whatever they wanted, he said.

Senior Chris Bailey has helped host the Minecraft contest for the past two years.

“Minecraft is a great tool for art because there are infinite possibilities of things to build,” Bailey said.

Students aren’t just doing this in class, either; they are doing it at home, Fontana said. Virtual spaces like Minecraft and Second Life are being investigated all over campus, Fontana said.

“Next month, I’m going into an internet pop culture class to explain Minecraft,” Bailey said.

Minecraft is a very popular online game, he said.

For his student methodology project, freshman Michael Reasoner used Minecraft to recreate buildings from campus.

“For the project, we had to come up with a question and my question was ‘What would life look like in Minecraft?’” Reasoner said.

Video games should be considered art, he said.

This past semester a student recreated a level of Angry Birds in Minecraft, Fontana said.

People make all sorts of crazy things in Minecraft, Reasoner said.

“It takes time and talent to do that; you can’t just walk up to a pottery wheel and make something perfect,” Reasoner said.