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School of Arts, Media and Engineering creates replica ASU building for students, faculty in Minecraft

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have had to find and adopt new ways of building, maintaining and creating communities for students to flourish in and remain connected through. The School of Arts, Media and Engineering at Arizona State University has taken a creative approach to solving this issue.

Mock up of Digital Culture Equipment pool in Minecraft.

Daniel Jackson, a staff member at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, decided to lead an operation to help strengthen the school’s community by developing a server on the video game Minecraft where students, staff and faculty can co-mingle and build replica ASU environments. With the approval to build this server, Jackson enlisted the help of several digital culture students over the summer to design and recreate the Stauffer B building on ASU’s Tempe campus, where the majority of digital culture classes are held. 

“With the approval of a new concentration in Games and Interactive Media, the expressed interest among (digital culture) students and at the request from the (Arts, Media and Engineering) executive team, we decided now would be a great time to launch a Minecraft server,” Jackson said. “With many students spending much of their time in isolation, my hope is that by creating this virtualized environment and the associated Discord server, students will be able to connect in a more intimate environment and perhaps recreate, to some degree, the creative, collaborative digital culture community.”

After several months of working within the server, it is now open and ready for students to join in and start creating together. This server is currently limited to digital culture students and faculty, but the team hopes to welcome people from all over the ASU community as they grow.

On top of developing and designing the server, Jackson and his students have also developed an easy to navigate hubspot where new players to the game can learn the basics and receive guidance, while returning players can have access to collaborative opportunities within the server to help build and design new environments. By leveraging the platform Canvas, they have designed an easy way to navigate around and join in the fun without feeling lost. Jackson and his team will have moderators on the servers to help guide people through the experience.

We spoke with one of Jackson’s students, Mia Ramos, a sophomore at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, who has been with him since inception, about the process and what she hopes this community server will provide.  

Question: How long did it take to recreate Stauffer B? What are some of your favorite areas you created?

Answer: We started around the beginning of September. My favorite area right now is the Equipment Pool, because it was the first room we started with.

Q: How do you see this server impacting the School of Arts, Media and Engineering community? What are your hopes for this server?

A: I see this server bringing the AME community together during these hard times. I hope that this server will bring some joy and some smiles to our community as we all face the pandemic. 

Q: What are your future plans for this server?

A: My future plan is to expand the building even further, adding titles, fun plugins and mods for the community, and maybe some NPCs of some of the faculty/ staff such as Althea Pergakis, Kayla Elizondo-Nunez and tech team members.

Q: What was the hardest part about building this server and designing the building? How did you overcome it?

A: The hardest part was the beginning; it started with a small group of people just brainstorming. Not all of us knew how to use Minecraft or how to create a server. There were days where Dan and I were troubleshooting the server on our own. But those days helped out in the end! We eventually got the hang of the server controls.

Designing the building was hard at first. I started with one room at first, then realized just how big the actual building was. I couldn’t do it on my own. Dan suggested getting volunteers from AME, and they’ve been such a huge help! It’s thanks to our community that the building exists in Minecraft now. 

Q: Do you think this exercise helped to strengthen any of the skills you are learning at ASU and the School of Media, Arts and Engineering?

A: Creating and building the server has definitely helped my design skills and my leadership skills.

Q: How can people join if they want to help build/play together? 

A: Due to limited resources and server capability, the initial launch will be for AME/DC students. The DC Minecraft Server Community will be accessed/ hosted through a Canvas Org. DC/AME students who would like to join can email Dan Jackson djackson@asu.edu or Mia Ramos maramo14@asu.edu

Q: Who helped build Stauffer B? 

A: We have a small group of wonderful early adopters that are helping create Stauffer B so far:

  • Daniel Jackson, digital culture technical staff/lead.
  • Mia Ramos, digital culture (film).
  • Danielle George, digital culture student and consultant.
  • Julianne Wilde, digital culture (graphic information technology).
  • Jacob Lyons, BS in informatics with a focus area in digital culture.
  • Dakota Kantner, BS in digital culture (media processing).
  • Angelo Bolam, BA in graphic design (BA).