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Games Are for Kids (and Planners Too)

Minecraft has players across the globe busy building future cities. Cities recognize the potential of MineCraft as a tool for engaging the public in imagining the future of their city.
Jennifer Evans-Cowley | July 13, 2015, 5am PDT
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Minecraft is the best selling independent game of all time. As the parent of a ten year old I can attest that he is crazy about Minecraft. My son recently announced that he plans to be a city planner when he grows up because building cities is really fun. He was really excited that I had the chance to visit Dundeea city in Scotland that has engaged school children in planning their waterfront using Minecraft.

Dundee Minecraft

Professor Deborah Peel, chair of Architecture and Planning at the University of Dundee, shared how this UNESCO City of Design used Minecraft as part of the city's public engagement strategy. Faculty from computer gaming and planning worked directly with the Dundee City Council to create "Minecraft: On the Waterfront."

"Minecraft: On the Waterfront" involved elementary school classes who were challenged to reimagine, redesign and build what they think the Dundee waterfront should look like. The students over the course of several months used the video game to create plans for the area. In addition, nine middle schools were invited to participate in a Minecraft Youth Camp to work on the same project. The students worked in groups using Xbox and Playstation consoles equipped with Minecraft, connected to whiteboards in classrooms. The plans were judged based on the aesthetics and ability to support job creation, tourism and education. The project was a huge hit with the students.

Local artists developed a video that showcases the waterfront design in Minecraft, allowing all of Dundee to see the future vision. The hope of the city is the plan will result in significant public and private revitalization.

Dundee is not alone, cities across the country have found Minecraft a helpful public engagement tool. The Swedish Centre for Architecture and Design worked to produce Stockholm and invited people to rebuild the city virtually in Minecraft in a project known as Blockholm.The New York Public Library transformed an 1860 map of For Washington on the north end of Manhattan into a Minecraft world. It now provides the opportunity for library goes to be able to see the historic buildings, paths and waterbringing history to life.

The United Nations invited community members in Les Cayes, Haiti to use Minecraft to design the waterfront of an area prone to flooding and impacting a low income neighborhood. A number of the people in the neighborhood could not read or write and had never used a computer. Yet in short order they learned how to build in Minecraft. The neighbors built a seawall to prevent flooding and added amenities such as public toilets. The Block by Block project uses Minecraft to engage citizens in planning their cities through gaming.

The chances are people in your community are busy building your city in Minecraft. For example the blogger Minecrafturbanplanner has some amazing creations. And alums from my alma mater have been building a replica of Texas A&M University in Minecraft.

Is your community using Minecraft or another game as part of your public participation process? If so, share with us.

I am in Glasgow, Scotland with students and faculty from around the world learning about Cities and Citizens in the Digital Age. The sessions have been wonderful and I am sharing in installments a number of the key sessions that would be of interest to the Planetizen community. 

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