Publish at June 02 2014 Updated August 03 2022

Urban planning for all with Minecraft

A United Nations project using the game Minecraft to have citizens virtually build improvements in their communities

Little by little, teachers everywhere are trying to bring video games into the classroom. A way to use the hobbies of the youngest students in order to instill knowledge. Minecraft, one of the most successful independent video game, probably has the most assets for an educational use. In fact, we've been talking about it regularly for over 2 years about this massive sandbox game that sells millions.

Even recently, a British blogger, specialist in ICT, wrote a paper about this Scottish teacher who, treating the history of ancient Egypt, used Minecraft in order for her students to reproduce as much the outside as the inside of the pyramids of Giza. A way for them to revise their knowledge about this historical period by building the colossal building, corridors, rooms, tombs, etc.

Improving your neighborhood

In fact, Minecraft creator Markus Persson has long wanted his creation to be more than just a commercial success and to serve to educate and even improve the world. So it's no surprise to know that since the fall of 2012, Persson has partnered with the UNHabitat branch of the United Nations to develop a project that gives citizens of developing countries a way to propose improvements for their city's public spaces. Block by Block uses the game Minecraft so that teens and adults can recreate an area of their locality and insert architectural creations that will eventually be actually built.

A way to not only spark an interest and curiosity in urban planning among people, but also to see what problems these residents perceive and what solutions they propose. For example, the coastal city of Les Cayes in Haiti often suffers from floods that affect poor neighborhoods. In the digital version of Minecraft, players chose to create a dike that would prevent water from reaching these communities. In addition, they also created public toilets that are sorely lacking in the municipality. Following these virtual creations, architects took note of these suggestions and drew up plans to reproduce the players' ideas and propose them to the government in place. Three other cities besides Les Cayes are participating in the Block by Block project: Kirtipur in Nepal, Nairobi, Kenya, and Mexico City.

Urban planning accessible to all through gaming

Block by block was predestined first and foremost for the youngest. It was thought that they were the target audience for the game and that it would be easy to offer architectural competitions to this age group where they could receive prizes. However, in the city of Les Cayes, many improvements were recommended by the city's fishermen. These adults, who nevertheless could not read or write and had never even used a computer in their lives have succeeded in creating architecturally viable structures that could be built for a reasonable price.

This proves the full strength of this game, which has sold more than 50 million copies and is so easy to learn that anyone can, with a little patience and time, design workable constructions that can improve the lives of those same players. UNHabitat is counting on this project so that by 2016, more than 300 public spaces will be renovated in developing countries.

Illustration: Block by Block

References :

Block by Block. Accessed May 27, 2014.

Reid, Stephen. "Minecrafting Egypt." Higher Place. Last updated March 25, 2014.

Roberge, Alexandre. "Minecraft: from playful tinkering to educational uses." Thot Cursus. Last updated May 31, 2012.

Youphil. "Serious game: they're planning their city with Minecraft." Last updated April 23, 2014.

Stark, Chelsea. "How 'Minecraft' is Transforming Developing Cities Around the World." Mashable. Last updated April 21, 2014.

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