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RIT students turn to Minecraft to recreate a digital version of campus

Digital Exclusives

HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — With millions of Americans at home, many are trying to find new hobbies or to pass the time. For 300 Rochester Institute of Technology students, this time at home meant recreating their campus on a game called Minecraft.

Minecraft is the best-selling game of all time, and in it, players can create vast worlds, complete objectives, and sometimes even save the world. All using digital blocks made of different materials that they have to harvest or mine in the game.

“In ‘creative mode,’ you have all the blocks available already,” said LAN and Console Manager of the campus’ Electronic Gaming Society, Alexa Amoriello. She’s a second-year student majoring in game design. “You can build whatever you want, in any space that you want, and in any capacity.”

Using many different kinds of those blocks — as Amoriello quips, RIT is more than just bricks — the students have made recreations of the Clark Gym, The Sentinel Statue, and even the student union.

Every Wednesday, they release a new building for EGS to work on. Sometimes nearly 100 students will work on the project simultaneously, and a large group of them will be a on voice call, bouncing ideas off each other.

During the rest of the week, Amoriello says that 15 students (and a couple faculty members, as she admits) log on every hour.

Five moderators make sure that the work is productive — as well as protecting the project with backups — and coordinate the builds.

“Not only do you have the layouts, but you can express creativity with all the different kinds of bricks you have,” Amoriello said.

To recreate the campus, the students are looking at campus floor plans and maps, and creating scale models that are doubled in size, before they import them into the game.

This all started when RIT’s government reached out to EGS on campus after classes moved online. EGS used to meet every Wednesday in person to game together, with that gone:

“We wanted something more collaborative,” Amoriello said.

“It was obvious that students at RIT would be interested in a project like this and we had the resources and knowledge to make it happen,” said Lauren Suter, vice president of RIT’s student-run EGS, in a statement provided by the school.

Amoriello says that they always had this project in mind, but this was the perfect chance to get it done. Thankfully, they already have a dedicated server in the game that can house the in-game “world” that can handle the simultaneous editing and the scope of the project.

The students are building one section at a time, and they’re keeping the school and community up to date their progress, both by posting screenshots and streaming their Wednesday builds on Twitch.

This recreation isn’t just a way to pass the time though. Some students are suggesting that during physical distancing and NYS PAUSE restrictions, this digital campus could serve as a community gathering place.

“We’re working with a couple other people to get a ‘Humans V. Zombies’ plug-in, as we can do the game,” she said. “We’re trying to make it as realistic as possible, as quickly as possible…

“But the plan is still up in air,” she said.

She says that if a Human V. Zombies game were to happen — or even a virtual graduation — you would join this Discord account, join the Minecraft role, join the channel, get a Minecraft account, and join the server.

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