Building Oakland in Minecraft in 10 Days


A few weeks ago, we were asked to put on an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. The exhibit would be shown in their Customization gallery, where an extended showing of customized objects has been paraded through during the course of the year so far. As a rotating exhibit space, we felt we should do something more focused on getting creative interaction out of the attendees, rather than some sort of static games showing off how developers can customize ideas.

Obviously, our first thought was to put together something around Team Fortress, which is one of my favorite games of all time. Team Fortress started life as a Quake mod back in 1997, and is thus the very definition of a customization story. The game again appeared as a mod for Half-Life, but has now broken out into its own, stand-alone game: Team Fortress 2. It’s a great story of how gamers can customize their games, and make something entirely new in the process.

However, there is one major problem with Team Fortress: it’s super violent. This exhibit was to be shown in the Oakland Museum of California, ostensibly to families with children. So the Team Fortress idea had to be pushed aside. We’ll come back to it later.

Picture us in our first major meeting with OMCA 3 weeks before the show, and I had to whip something together, effectively, on the spot. Thus, the idea to show Minecraft was formed. Minecraft, if you don’t know already, is a game about building with cubes, and exploring/surviving randomly generated wilderness landscapes.

But Minecraft is also a very popular game for creative folks, as well. Take for example, the community on the Paradise Minecraft Server. Lead by a lady who goes by the name HuskerGirlKC, and a student going by HIDDENW0RM, the Paradise Minecraft server is a space where creative construction is a daily occurance, and where 12-year-olds have a friendly and safe environment in which to play fort, house, or whatever other games an abundance of imagination allows kids to play.

I should pause here and give more time to explaining Minecraft. This game, written by Swedish independent game development company, Mojang, is a bit like the Beatles of videogames. When it comes to kids, and even a very healthy chunk of adults, Minecraft is well known and beloved by just about all technology savvy gamers. And it’s known by non-savvy gamers as well. It’s the kind of game that is a standard part of the lexicon for all American children, these days. Why? Because the game is about collaborative creation. These kids are spending their time online having positive interactions, creating beautiful buildings and massive underground fortresses together. The basic game contains zombies and nasty spiders, so building a safe place is essential to the game. Players often construct castles, or subteranean villages just as a matter of strategy

When you turn off the zombies, however, the building is all that’s left. And that’s what brings a very large number of players to the table. HuskerGirlKC and HIDDENW0RM are, for lack of a better word, Minecraft artists. They’ve even built a replica of Versaille palace. Out of Minecraft cubes.

After some online searching and a pseudo-classified ad offering payment for a Minecraft project (the honorarium from the OMCA will be covering that), I met HuskerGirlKC for a drink at Van Kleefs. This was 10 days before the OMCA exhibit was to open.

The deadline is April 26. On that day, from 5 – 8 PM, we will be showing our exhibit in the Customization room at the OMCA. April 27 and 28, we’ll be showing it from 1 PM tp 3 PM. That tight deadline, said HuskerGirlKC, just made this challenge fun.


Today, the Paradise Minecraft server is overflowing with builders, all concentrating on reconstructing downtown Oakland with cubes. They’ve got another 6 days to complete the project. I’d say they’re, so far, doing a great job! Scroll through the slideshow below to see the project take shape from first block until today!


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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