Who says games are just timewasters? The fun sandbox game, Minecraft, is now becoming involved in the United Nations’ Block by Block program that had community members attempt to reimagine public spaces within Minecraft, building templates for rebuilding.
In Haiti, fishermen used Minecraft to ‘design’ a plan for a waterfront, which included a sea wall to prevent the area from flooding as well as public toilets. Using Minecraft, citizens could add their input about how they wanted their public spaces to look like.
Block by Block is part of the Global Public Space Program that aims to upgrade 300 public spaces in the next three years. Why do public spaces matter? Because they contribute to the health of a growing city. New York City, for instance, is 60 per cent public space in comparison to the 8 to 10 per cent in still-developing Nairobi.
Four cities are involved so far in the Block by Block program:Le Cayes in Haiti; Kiritpur, Nepal; Nairobi, Kenya; and Mexico City. UK-based Minecraft modding group FyreUK starts it off by building the region within the game and then community members get to building what they see fit.
From the models, architects are then tasked with drafting a plan and then presenting them to each city’s governing bodies. The cost of each project is US$100,000 (S$125,190) with 300 in the planning. Mojang, Minecraft’s developer, has been helpful in fundraising for the project by tapping its player base, selling calendars, in-game currency, as well as tapping into the much beloved Humble Bundle.
Block by Block's progress will be presented at the coming Games for Change Festival in New York. It’s a pretty cool concept and goes to show that games can be more than simply ways to pass the time. Somewhere an impoverished place might be getting better parks, designed by the area’s own residents, with the help of a very popular indie game.