What do you do if you’re a college senior with a sense of humor, a canceled graduation and, suddenly, a lot of spare time?
On March 15, UC Berkeley student Bjorn Lustic got the idea to recreate the graduation in Minecraft, a video game where the objective is to build structures by placing blocks around a 3D environment. He cites a sarcastic Facebook comment as the source of inspiration. A month, a few more Facebook posts and several thousand likes later, the project has grown into a full-scale recreation of the UC Berkeley campus with a waiting list of students trying to get in on the fun of construction.
When IRL events started to disappear around campus, students, like everyone else, turned to the internet. “It’s kind of a natural thing at this point to look online and look to virtual communities to hang out, that’s what we’re used to,” Lustic says.
Minecraft, owned by Microsoft, is a simple way for people to build digital structures, even for those without a background in engineering or architecture, but it’s also sentimental for people who grew up playing the game. “This game already has had a really big impact on our lives and our social interactions,” Lustic says. “I’ve been hanging out with friends on servers for like eight, nine years. Being able to do this in another school, another place, it brings back a lot of memories of being at home with friends.”
Lustic initially started working on the plan to build Memorial Stadium with his friend Hunter Hall. When they realized the two of them weren’t going to be able to complete the project by themselves, they posted in the Facebook group Overheard at UC Berkeley. A small but steady stream of students offered to help until early April, when one of their Facebook posts spread across the platform. “I guess we were shell shocked—at least I was,” says Hall of the overwhelming response. “I woke up at noon, and I was like, ‘Either something really good or something really bad has happened.’”