Hold onto your diamond swords and pickaxes, because there is still more to expect from the innovative UC Berkeley student organization that created a Minecraft version of campus in 2021.
The organization, called Blockeley, was originally meant to be a simple, small-scale activity between friends, but soon became a “full-fledged project” driven to replicate the entire UC Berkeley campus. Blockeley aims to do this on a 1:1 scale in the sandbox video game Minecraft, according to Christian Nisperos, advisor and former president of Blockeley.
“Our most recognized and viral events have been the Blockeley Commencement and Blockeley Music Festivals, and we’ve also hosted smaller-scale virtual tours, social events, and minigames,” Nisperos said in an email. “In 2021, we also built Cal’s campus from the 19th century, utilizing resources from the Bancroft Library, history expert interviews, and other photos found on the internet.”
The beloved Minecraft recreation of the entire campus once served as a gateway for students to experience being on campus during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nisperos reminisced about the enormous number of community members who messaged the team both in-game and on social media to show their gratitude for Blockeley during its development in 2020 and 2021, when most of the virtual campus was still under construction.
In essence, the project was able to provide “fun and hope” during the isolation brought on by COVID-19, Nisperos noted. For students, parents and faculty alike, Blockeley was a symbol of both hope and happiness, he added.
“Many of the students weren’t able to visit the campus, and felt really lonely,” Nisperos said in the email. “With Blockeley, they were able to meet up with their friends and relive some memories that they had created on campus.”
As UC Berkeley and most of the world began returning to full in-person activities, Blockeley has admittedly taken a step back, Nisperos noted. Aside from hosting its second annual commencement ceremony, the organization has recently been focusing on “maintaining the server and hosting smaller-scale events,” according to Nisperos.
Since a majority of the original Blockeley team has graduated or is busy with external activities, the group is mainly restructuring and planning for potential new projects, Nisperos added. Stephan Baum-Harvey, Blockeley’s current president, spoke of these new opportunities.
“We are currently working to design and create new unique events to run on Blockeley, including some in partnership with other on campus organizations.” Baum-Harvey said in an email. “We continue to have Blockeley online and accessible so students and those who just wish to explore can do so.”
Baum-Harvey noted that while updates have been slower, the group is planning and working on improvements to Blockeley that will increase user experience and server stability.
Nisperos added that he expects the group to host more social and gaming events using the platform and network that Blockeley has created thus far.
“At the end of last semester, we also threw around the idea of making a futuristic Blockeley/Berkeley, which would complete the Blockeley map trinity (Current Blockeley, 19th Century Blockeley, Future Blockeley),” Nisperos said in the email.
In the meantime, a timeless innovation like Blockeley will not be forgotten.
Nisperos emphasized the importance and impact of such a platform, even as the need for virtual options dwindled when the world slowly began emerging from COVID-19.
“There are lots of new students who aren’t familiar with Blockeley who I’m sure would love to see what we’ve built,” Nisperos said in the email. “Our purpose is to maintain the server following each of Minecraft’s future updates and ensuring the security of the world.
According to Baum-Harvey, people make use of the Blockeley platform for a plethora of different personal projects and studies. Prospective students even use the platform to explore what the campus is like, he noted.
Nisperos noted that interested community members can learn more about the organization online. Baum-Harvey also expressed his appreciation for the organization’s current members.
“Blockeley is an amazing project run by a very dedicated group of individuals,” Baum-Harvey said in the email. “We hope to continue to expand and develop Blockeley as time goes on.”