“We aren’t just avatars, we’re actual people!” reads the slogan on the webpage of the Old Dominion Minecraft Club. Founded by club President Daniel Swift, the club was added to ODU’s roster of recognized clubs this semester, and its thirty plus members are greatly enjoying their official club status.
Players and enthusiasts with any range of experience are welcome. As Vice President Harry Belfore explained, “Minecraft is built around a community [in which] we pride ourselves in working together and communicating with each other. And that applies to the club too.”
Minecraft is an open world or “sandbox” PC game that, despite releasing with no commercial advertising or publisher backing to speak of, has skyrocketed in popularity ever since its original release in 2011.
The game resembles a 3D version of the 8-bit games popular during the 80s and 90s. In a world constructed entirely of blocks that can be manipulated in an infinite number of ways, players set out to explore and collect materials for the structures they wish to build. Structures can range from a wood cabin set on a hillside to a sky fortress overlooking an ocean with a lava waterfall, to recreations of photos using individual blocks in the game as pixels.
While the game does not have a plot in any traditional sense, players are spurred on by their own desire to manifest their creations in the virtual world. Enemies such as the now-iconic Creeper swoop in at random to gum up the works and disrupt the player’s progress, but otherwise the players are primarily left up to their own devices.
In short, as Officer of Human Resources Neffy Laine described it, “It’s a sandbox game where you can literally build anything.”
The club also uses the game as an opportunity to teach neophytes and veterans how to work with Java, the game’s programming language, and how to work out various logic puzzles and circuitry problems through collaboratively building structures.
The game requires a server to play on and currently the club has been resigned to bringing their own to meetings, which can only support a limited number of people, but Laine explained that they are working to get a server hosted through ODU specifically for the club.
“This would be a lot more durable, because we wouldn’t have to worry about it crashing. Effectively on these servers we’d all be playing online together. We should be able to get up to sixty four people to work on the same project at the same time.”
However, a lack of server space hasn’t stopped members from beginning construction on bigger projects. The club has already built a virtual model of Perry Library, and plans to replicate the entire campus in-game with the help of actual blueprints of the university.
The club also has plans to host an ODU Minecraft Treasure Hunt in Haufman mall, a survival style scavenger hunt where students collect objects as they would in the game, to receive slips of paper listing vital materials for constructing that night’s resources. Whoever can secure enough materials for survival the fastest wins a prize.
They’re committed to extending their role beyond the virtual world and into the campus community as well. Club members volunteered with Wesley House at the homecoming carnival, providing Minecraft related carnival games. Plans are also in the works to join the ranks of ODU clubs that participate in the Adopt-a-Spot clean-up initiative, a program where students commit to regularly collect and dispose of litter at their designated location.
Meetings take place every Tuesday from 12:30 to 1:30 in the Isle of Wight room above the Student Health center. Those students wishing to receive more information should contact Neffy Laine at firstname.lastname@example.org.