Would the class of 2020 please join us for a commencement ceremony in Minecraft? With the cancellation of Spring 2020 graduation ceremonies at UC Berkeley, students took matters into their own hands. Literally. Over 100 students and alumni teamed up to build a replica of California Memorial Stadium inside the Minecraft universe. They dubbed the structure Blockeley University and made it the site for their virtual ceremony.
“Our priority, for the graduating class this year, was to provide a sense of closure, especially now that we’re in such a weird time that brought an abrupt end to senior year,” said Bjorn Lustic, Blockeley University founder.
Virtual graduation commenced on May 16 at the online site. The ceremony included animated versions of Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice-Chancellor Marc Fisher who appeared as commencement speakers. Minecraft brand director, Lydia Winters, and Twitch co-founder Justin Kan were among other industry leaders offering virtual words of advice to the graduating class. The ceremony was complete with the conferring of degrees and playing of “Pomp and Circumstance” and “Hail to California”. Like any true graduation ceremony, the mortarboards went flying.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Thank you all for coming to Blockeley Commencement! A special thank you to OS Studios, the UC Berkekey Wind Ensemble, Cal Band, and UC Berkeley Commencement Coordinator Maya Geohring-Harris and her team. We couldn't have done this without you! Thank you! <a href=”https://t.co/f90TZrYWbb”>pic.twitter.com/f90TZrYWbb</a></p>— Blockeley (@UBlockeley) <a href=”https://twitter.com/UBlockeley/status/1261839041164505088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 17, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
All this was an ambitious feat to pull off in two months. It began with a sarcastic March 15th Facebook comment which inspired Lustic to take a stab at building the site. Soon his friend Hunter Hall started working with him and as they realized they may have been a bit too ambitious, they turned to a University-based Facebook group Overheard to find more builders.
Word about the project soon spread and over 500 students were volunteering to help. By the time of graduation, anyone with a Minecraft account could visit the Blockeley campus using a special server. Over 100 campus buildings were recreated down to the tiniest detail, including banners advertising the “150 Years of Women at Berkeley” observance.
Nick Pickett, a graduating senior and Minecraft builder, said: “When I first logged on, I was kind of taken aback by how gorgeous the stadium was, because it’s freakishly accurate.”
Following the graduation ceremony was a two-day music festival. Over 50 artists and musical acts rocked the virtual stage.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>DAY 2 BABY! DONT WANT TO MISS OUT!<a href=”https://t.co/AY8UImzU11″>https://t.co/AY8UImzU11</a> <a href=”https://t.co/eO9csIznpP”>pic.twitter.com/eO9csIznpP</a></p>— Blockeley (@UBlockeley) <a href=”https://twitter.com/UBlockeley/status/1262084225328484353?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>May 17, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Using Minecraft as the platform for virtual graduations was an obvious choice. Lustic explained, “This game already has had a really big impact on our lives and our social interactions. I’ve been hanging out with friends on servers for like eight, nine years. Being able to do this in another school, another place, it brings back a lot of memories of being at home with friends. “It’s kind of a natural thing at this point to look online and look to virtual communities to hang out, that’s what we’re used to.”
UC Berkeley is not alone in hosting Minecraft commencements. Another site, Quaranteen University, hosted over 1,000 graduates from more than 400 schools. For this effort, Boston University students, Warren Partridge and Rudhra Raveendran, used their own virtual project to escape the boredom of dorm room confinement. They built a world of beautiful buildings that also showcase Minecraft’s ability to build fantastical worlds.
Photo Courtesy: [Quaranteen University/Twitter]
Equally impressive were the skills elementary school kids in Japan displayed in March. The group of eight students designed a full graduation ceremony without any help from faculty or teachers. Thus proving when there is a will, kids will always find a way.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”ja” dir=”ltr”>「何やってんの？」<br>「みんなで卒業式をやることにした」<br><br>え？すげえ。<br>小学生が集まって自分たちで卒業式を始めた。 <a href=”https://t.co/qqk2XnmK6g”>pic.twitter.com/qqk2XnmK6g</a></p>— 柏原周平 (@backyennew) <a href=”https://twitter.com/backyennew/status/1238716760552964098?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>March 14, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>