The Block By Block project is an initiative between the UN and developer Mojang to use Minecraft as a tool to aid urban redevelopment. The project was first announced in 2012, but this year amazing things are happening.
For example, even as I type over 200 kids are re-designing a Mexico City square, Plaza Tlaxcoaque, at the Aldea Digital Inclusion Festival, with the winner due to be picked on the 27th of April. While that's still happening you can even watch ongoing development via a live server map of all the plots (click on the image a few times to zoom in until you see the squares. So many squares).
While the Mexico City project's ongoing, several others have seen real results this year. In March Minecraft was used in Nepal as "a tool for participatory project planning" to help revitalise public areas in Kirtipur (see the model being built in the video below). In February construction began on Jeevanjee Gardens in Nairobi, another project visualised using Minecraft models. There's also an continuing development involving a huge model of the Les Cayes waterfront in Haiti which was built to be used "in a series of community meetings to identify how the citizens of Les Cayes want to develop the waterfront", according to Block By Block.
All in all there are currently eight projects under way in Haiti, Nepal, Mumbai, Rwanda, Nairobi and Ethiopia. And this isn't just a gimmicky idea taking advantage of a phenomenally popular game to gain attention. It's giving local communities control of where they live and a say in how local areas are redeveloped. British Minecrafters FyreUK are responsible for not only making the large scale models used but also go out to the areas to train and supervise the community in how to use the game.
One project, completed in February, was Place de la Paix, a part of the Les Cayes waterfront in Haiti. Pontus Westerberg, a digital project manager for UN Habitat says, "we had a group of fishermen who couldn't read, couldn't write and had never used a computer, design a plan for Place de la Paix. They built a sea wall to prevent the area from flooding, and added public toilets. These models really let them visualize the changes they want to see in that space."
Let's all keep this to hand next time there's a "Gaems r baad" story plastered everywhere.
Block By Block - [blockbyblock.org]