With most, if not all, UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) students now stuck inside their homes, people are actively looking for things to do to keep them busy and connected with others. In the past few weeks, gaming communities have not only grown in size, but are also beginning to help to fill a gaping social void by allowing students to form new virtual communities as well.
In response to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang’s announcement that all classes would be moved online for spring quarter, student Charles Neumann, a fourth-year political science and global studies double major, decided to create a UCSB “Minecraft” server for fellow students.
“I made a preliminary post on Free & For Sale just to see what the reaction would be, and then it just blew up unexpectedly … that’s when I deemed it a worthy venture to really put in the time, effort, and money,” said Neumann, describing his decision to pay for the server in an interview with The Bottom Line (TBL).
“I honestly thought I would get maybe 50 likes at the most … I was pleasantly surprised that so many people were interested, as ‘Minecraft’ is perceived to be more of a pre-college kid game.”
Currently, members of the “Minecraft” server are constructing a 1:1 recreation of UCSB’s campus, which is still a work in progress. With one block in the game representing one meter in person, players refer to Google Earth for accurate measurements and photos of campus for visual details to construct the virtual campus replica.
With Storke Tower serving as the spawn point for new players, building within the game has rapidly expanded outward in the weeks following the server’s creation.
The server, which is growing every day, has over 200 members who communicate on their own Discord server, motivating and supporting one another as the project to build the campus advances.
The UCSB “Minecraft” server has impacted members beyond its original purpose as a source of entertainment. One of the community’s goals in recreating campus is to have a virtual commencement for graduating students like fourth-year chemistry major Kevin Braza.
“I’m from the graduating class of 2020, so a lot of us are bummed about not having a commencement. We were trying to recreate UCSB in ‘Minecraft’ to have a place to virtually walk in June. And seeing the amount of people who were interested is really inspiring,” Braza explained to TBL.
Digital communities provide an escape from boredom and loneliness during social distancing and self-quarantine. Neumann explained that the server and similar communities are creating a lot of good and showcasing the “adaptive innovation that’s going on online.”
The movement to come together is evident throughout the UCSB community and shows the resilience students have to adapt to change and support each other in uncertain times.
“Especially now when we’re physically distanced from each other, it’s important to know that we’re self-isolating but not alone,” Braza added, echoing Neumann’s thoughts.
“Not just on this server coming together for a fun project; I’ve been seeing group chats and Discord servers rising for study groups and classes, Zoom meetups and activities and the like, and I’m all for it. We’re all here to support each other during this time.”