For the second year in a row, campus student organization Blockeley has taken up the torch of helping UC Berkeley students experience a graduation ceremony through the video game Minecraft.
On Saturday morning, campus students came together for a virtual graduation ceremony held in a detailed replica of the California Memorial Stadium built on Blockeley’s Minecraft server. Between in-game participants and viewers of Blockeley’s Twitch stream, more than 300 people attended the event.
Bouncing avatars, each donning caps, gowns and graduation stoles, made their way across the virtual football field to the familiar tune of “Pomp and Circumstance.” As the crowd settled down, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and other speakers began their commencement speeches, standing in avatar form before a “lectern” built from two trapdoors and wooden stairs.
Christ commended the class of 2021 for graduating from “Blockeley University,” which she said is an accomplishment that is remarkable even in the best of times.
“You’ve alternated between creative and survival modes,” Christ said during her commencement speech. “Some days, you, like us, are barely eluding the creepers and those hateful zombie pigmen, and other days, you’ve been reveling in metaphorical mods, trying on new skins and getting ready for that grand sandbox beyond the confines of our campus.”
Kayleen Walters, the general manager of licensing and partnerships for Minecraft at Microsoft Corporation and a campus alumna, congratulated the class of 2021 for their achievements during an incredibly challenging year.
Walters noted that the graduates would soon be entering an open world with “limitless possibilities ahead” — much like the first day in a just-opened Minecraft world.
“My only announcements for today are that you are graduating and I am very proud of you all,” said campus electrical engineering and computer sciences professor John DeNero during his keynote speech. “Berkeley is always challenging, but this year was extraordinary, and therefore, your achievement, your perseverance all the way through to this day, your graduation, is extraordinary as well.”
Those watching the event through the Twitch stream responded enthusiastically to DeNero’s reference to how he begins his CS 61A lectures, with many typing “ANNOUNCEMENTS” and “DENERO <3” in the chat.
While Blockeley was created at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to recreate campus, it shows no signs of slowing down.
In fact, Blockeley president and campus sophomore Christian Nisperos said Blockeley is an “ever-expanding map.” The student organization also unveiled another project alongside the commencement ceremony: a historically accurate model of what the campus looked like during the 1890s, according to a UC Berkeley press release.
Nisperos said this year’s ceremony went even more smoothly than the last, mostly due to the team’s decision to split attendees into several replica servers to prevent lag.
Christ concluded the commencement ceremony, conferring Blockeley degrees by virtue of the authority vested in her by the “founders of Blockeley” and wished the graduates well.
After a brief moment of silence, the avatars began to throw their graduation caps in the air — and at each other — in celebration. As the graduates walked out of the virtual stadium, they entered a world that, like Minecraft, holds endless possibilities.