Minecraft, to those unfamiliar with the title, is an open world “sandbox” style game about building stuff with blocks. It is, essentially, a limitless Lego set. It is also a global cultural phenomenon.
Since its official release in 2011, Minecraft has sold a total of over 54 million copies across just about every gaming platform that you can think of (PC, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, and PS4) and the Swedish company behind the game, Mojang, was recently bought by the tech giant Microsoft for $2.5 billion (£1.5 billion).
Many ambitious players from around the world have built incredibly detailed replicas of global landmarks – like the Eiffel Tower – while others have recreated their favourite places from fiction – like the truly astonishing recreation of the world of Westeros from Game of Thrones – and some government agencies have even gotten involved.
Earlier this year, the Danish Geodata Agency launched a full 1:1 scale recreation of the country in Minecraft and the British Ordnance Survey has constructed a map in the game that recreates 224,000 square kilometres of the UK. Now the British Museum in London has offered its support to a project to create a digital facsimile of the institution – and its exhibits – in the game.
The Museum – which receives almost six million visitors a year and houses eight million historic objects – is currently staging a “Museum of the Future” scheme that they hope will encourage discussion about the role that technology plays in public education and to expand its appeal amongst the general public; especially kids and teenagers. An employee of the British Museum recently posted details of the venture on the social media site Reddit and asked for volunteers to get involved.
“The museum should/will be providing a server, once I’ve proved it’s a viable project, and we have Museum Minecraft players lined to help (although they are few and far between)”, they said.
They received an enthusiastic response from Minecraft players around the world and are hoping to have completed the first stage of the build – the digital recreation of the Great Court and façade of the building – by 16 October to coincide with a public debate entitled “Changing public dialogues with museum collections in the digital age”.
In an interview with the BBC, Ed Barton – who researches gaming for the independent analytics firm Ovum – stated that this project would help the British Museum to be “perceived as something fun” and that it would serve as a valuable educational tool for young gamers.
“What a cool project it would be to be asked to build the Elgin Marbles in Minecraft,” he said in reference to some of the more famous objects housed in the Museum such as the Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone and Sutton Hoo helmet.
“It’s the digital equivalent of building the British Museum in Lego. You have to build it brick by brick”, he said. Barton added that the institution should be commended for crowdsourcing the project “as it turns into a collaborative thing” and could, as the institution hopes, engage young Minecraft fans in the work of the British Museum.