In March, before it was announced Commencement will be held virtually, Andrew Guo browsed a Reddit thread highlighting a Japanese elementary school that held their graduation ceremony in Minecraft — a video game released in 2010 that has endured and evolved as a sort of digital maker’s space.
Inspired by the students who recreated parts of their school, Guo, a junior math major from New York, toyed with the idea of creating a digital version of Penn — “Penncraft” — in the game.
“I thought, ‘Huh,’” he says, emphasizing his intrigue. “I was actually thinking about Hey Day, mostly, because I was looking forward to that. Then I thought, ‘Why don’t we create parts of campus like Locust Walk?’”
So, starting March 16, he got to work, soliciting help from other Penn students he met on Facebook. That quickly escalated into an effort to rebuild the entire campus in the game, after completing most of Locust Walk.
Minecraft, developed by Swedish company Mojang but purchased by Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion, encourages players to explore a block-based world that allows them to “mine” resources and create new structures and terrain. There were more than 112 million monthly active users as of 2019 — even more than Fortnite.
Today, Guo says there are anywhere from 15 to 20 active users building Penncraft at a given time.
“We currently have lots of parts of campus done, but still some buildings [like high rises and frat houses] need finishing. My friend and I are going to be working on the Annenberg Center and the whole plaza,” Guo says, explaining that many buildings crafted have been drawn with guidance from Google Maps and Streetview, as well as archival floor plans and photos from Penn Libraries. “But spectacular buildings like Fisher Fine Arts, Van Pelt-Dietrich, Huntsman Hall, those are all already basically done — the exteriors.”
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