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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Block by block, students are building campus in Minecraft

Grinnellians have taken the time to recreate portions of campus in Minecraft. Screenshot taken on April 18.

Grinnellians have been overcoming physical separation in a creative way over the last two weeks: by recreating the College campus on Minecraft.

A team of about 30 students have been working hard to build a block-based representation of everything from Norris Hall to Noyce Science Center, and they hope to finish a model of the entire campus over the upcoming weeks.

“It was kind of a thing where multiple people had the same idea at separate times and then converged,” said Addison Marsh ’22.

Marsh and Hollis Akins teamed up with Mary Binzley and McKenna Doherty, all ’22, to start the world. “We thought it would be fun, and so we just sat down one night and started it and probably worked on the JRC for a straight four hours,” said Akins.

Players can walk down 8th Ave., past the JRC and Noyce Science Center. Screenshot taken on April 18.

The project has provided a way for players to experience at least a little bit of Grinnell from a distance. “My first time entering the world, it really threw me back to Grinnell, because it’s a point-of-view game, so you could walk along the road into the JRC, and even go check your mail in the mail room, or go sit in the Dining Hall where I would normally sit,” said Doherty.

So far, the 30 players have built the exterior outlines of the JRC, Noyce, most of North campus, Campus Safety, and Loose and Lazier halls. Some of the interior has also been completed for the JRC and Noyce.

The project has exposed some gaps in students’ memories of campus. Akins and Marsh have been using Google Maps to get the exterior dimensions right. “That’s been fun, trying to remember, like, where trees are, or where certain paths are and stuff like that,” said Marsh.

“I’m trying to make it a little bit easier for people who are just now joining to join in on the building,” said Akins. “I put up a little board on the wall in the JRC of tasks that you could work on that need to get done soon.”

Minecraft, reported all four of the organizers, has been a natural choice to stay in contact and have fun while enduring social distancing. All four played Minecraft in middle school but had not played for years before starting this project.

They’re not the only ones to turn towards Minecraft during social isolation: students from campuses across the country have turned to Minecraft, which was first released in 2011, to recreate their college experiences, as reported by outlets from CNET to The Boston Globe.

“I played a lot in middle school, stopped for years, and then, being home for quarantine, thought, ‘This is a good way to spend my time,’” said Akins. “It’s ubiquitous. It’s kind of surprising to me how many people, at least in this specific age range, played Minecraft a lot when they were in middle school.”

Even the flags in the Grill have been recreated in this Minecraft world. Screenshot taken on April 18.

Minecraft has struck a chord with students stuck at home.

“We don’t have anything else to do, for one thing,” Binzley said. “And for another thing, there’s more of a reason to do it because we all kind of want to go back [to Grinnell].”

“It’s funny for me because right now, I feel like we’re in a simulation, so creating another little simulation is really meta,” said Doherty.

Yet building Grinnell in Minecraft has its drawbacks. A Minecraft account, which is mandatory to join the world, costs $27, and playing requires a computer and a reliable internet connection. According to Binzley, this problem has not yet been addressed by the world’s organizers.

“[Accessibility] has been a downfall so far. I think it would be cool if Grinnell sponsored it somehow, because I think they could use the world for giving tours if this quarantine continues to go on,” she said. “I think Grinnell could provide some funding to students who don’t have access to it, or maybe – I don’t know what Minecraft, the platform itself, could do for students during this time.”

None of the organizers have yet spoken to the administration about these plans.

For now, though, finishing the virtual campus is the main priority. Any students interested in participating can contact Marsh at

“I’m looking forward to see what happens with this, because it’s the type of thing where it could be everyone loses interest in a week and a half and it just ends up where it’s, ‘Oop, we have a couple buildings,’” said Marsh. “If that happens, that’s fine, but it would be cool to see this turn into the whole campus. I think that would be really awesome.”

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