A group of students and staff at Carleton are building a new and improved version of campus that will be explorable from anywhere in the world.
Carleton’s Discovery Centre staff and volunteers are creating a model version of campus in the video game Minecraft, which allows players to build their own virtual world using 3D cubes. A multi-player option allows players to interact with each other inside the digital landscape.
Scott Zakaib, a work-study student at the Discovery Centre, has taken the lead on the project.
“For people who don’t know, Minecraft is kind of a survival horror game, where you fight zombies and eat to survive and build houses and dig caves and mine things. So it’s kind of a complex strategy game at its core. But it also has this creative mode, which is actually an elaborate building tool much akin to Lego,” he says.
Building the Carleton Minecraft model will give students a chance to work together on a creative project and it’s an opportunity for all members of the Carleton community, no matter where they live, to interact inside the digital world using Minecraft’s chat function. Students could even use it to map out future developments on campus that would be useful in planning new spaces.
According to Zakaib, the virtual campus will be accurate down to the placement of broom closets and bathrooms.
“I realized that we could really use this as a tool for prospective or even current students who don’t know where their classes are, or who want to check out an area of campus they’ve never seen before, or are just curious about the layout and things like that,” he says.
“As much as you can do virtual tours, they’re limited by their details. So while Minecraft is limited by its resolution, you can still at least explore areas and go into the tunnels and look into classrooms… I thought that would be a really interesting tool for people to have. And also you get to do it in Minecraft, so if you want, you can explore while you play tag with your friends in the game.”
Zakaib is laying the groundwork for the Minecraft campus and the students and staff he recruits will be responsible for filling in the blanks.
Cheryl Schramm, interim director of the Discovery Centre, says she’s excited to get other students on board.
“In a very distributive, non-centralized way, without a big boss and all that, we’ll let people develop each corner of it, and then Scott will probably make sure that buildings meet at the proper corners and things like that,” Schramm says.
Users of the Minecraft campus could find and customize their dorm rooms in the game, or leave messages to be discovered inside their classrooms. Zakaib says the model could even be used to map out accessible routes to different campus buildings.
The Minecraft project is a true example of the educational value of video games, says Schramm. She hopes that when it’s complete it can be used as part of course assignments. Classes could work on developing a building together, or labelling campus artifacts of historical significance.
“It demonstrates the gaming lab that we have in the Discovery Centre. One could ask: ‘What’s the educational value of having a gaming lab there?’ Well here, we’re trying to show you that yes, gaming has potential for learning in our society,” she says.
Schramm will be launching a call for more volunteers to help with the Minecraft Project in the coming weeks – experts and novices both.
To sign up:
Carleton Minecraft website: http://carleton.ca/discoverycentre/carleton-minecraft-project/.
Minecraft Campus Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MinecraftCU/.