Mount St. Joseph University will become one of the first universities to use the popular videogame Minecraft® to engage prospective students when they release their virtual world in August. “Mount St. Joseph University—A Minecraft World Adventure” offers prospective students a way to see the university through a unique virtual tour and use their Minecraft avatar to walk through campus landmarks such as the football stadium, Mater Dei Chapel and the Theatre. They can even interact with admission counselors.
“Today’s high school students conduct their college search completely different from the model even 10 years ago,” said Bill Minor, VP of enrollment management at the Mount. “Gone are the days when they’d pick up a phone and schedule a tour. With the advances in technology, they can see a campus anywhere, on any device. Now with the Mount’s virtual world in Minecraft, they can literally walk the campus and even talk to an admission counselor while playing a video game.”
Minecraft is one of the highest top-selling video games in the world with more than 100 million users on PC/Mac versions. It was created by the Swedish group Mojang and allows people to dig for, and place, 3D blocks to build structures. Gamers are encouraged to use their creativity to construct everything from a city with skyscrapers to a house of the future. Minecraft recently has developed versions for XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 with other versions for XBOX One and PlayStation 4 in development. There are also plans to take Minecraft to the big screen with a film version being produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, the same group who produced the Lego movie.
The Mount purchased a gaming server for their Minecraft world on the PC platform. More than 30 people will be able to enter the Mount’s world at the same time in adventure mode, allowing prospective students an intricate look inside the buildings on the Delhi campus. People can tour Mater Dei Chapel and see its stained glass windows, the library, Seton Lobby and the admission office, the Quad, the gym floor of the Harrington Center, and even go onstage in the Theatre. The Mount is also offering a contest where gamers can try to solve riddles which take them to certain spots on campus. Those who complete the game and submit a screen shot of the fireworks, which launch once the riddles have been decoded, earn a chance to win a gift card.
Creating the Mount’s “World”
Trevor Griffith, associate director of marketing at the Mount, had never heard of Minecraft until his nephew, Tyler Flood, then a junior at Ohio State University, talked to him about it at the end of 2013. “We were looking for a new way to show the campus so I did some research and found other universities had created their campus in a Minecraft world for students to do a ‘fly over,’” Griffith said. “We decided to build our own world but design it in a way so prospective students could actually talk to other people—other prospective students or admission counselors—and ask questions in a relaxed environment.”
Griffith and Flood took thousands of pictures of the Mount’s campus from every angle and then spent the next seven months laying down more than two million blocks to create the Mount’s world.
“My favorite part is seeing how close I can get the world to look like the pictures I’ve taken,” said Flood. “One of the things I’ve been most excited about was the library. Once I finished that and looked at it, and came back and saw it in real life, I was very excited that I got it pretty close.”
As word leaked about the project, video game enthusiasts on the Mount’s staff found their way to Griffith’s office for a sneak preview. “That early input was extremely valuable, because they had excellent advice,” Griffith said. “One co-worker suggested creating an avatar for the video game of our university mascot, which is a lion. We now have an avatar of a lion wearing a football jersey that we call ‘Minecraft Joe’ who walks around in the video game. We also turned off anything that could be construed as violent, and took the farm animals, common in Minecraft, out of the world.”
Early testing of the Mount’s Minecraft world
Griffith and the marketing department knew they needed to do beta testing with high school students to get their input, troubleshoot problems and make sure the game environment could handle dozens of people playing simultaneously. In July, a group of teens came to the Mount to take a tour of the campus and test the Mount’s game.
“It was very realistic,” said Nicholas Willis, a senior at Oak Hills High School. “It was pretty neat to see everything and how their Minecraft world was made.”
“This was my first time playing Minecraft, but it looked pretty much just like the campus,” said Emily Belmont, a junior at New Richmond High School. “It was really cool.”
Educating through a Minecraft world
Across the United States, teachers are implementing Minecraft to connect with students in a fun, creative way. Elementary schools are using the game to allow students to learn technology at an early age to encourage creative thinking. Middle schools promoting inquiry-based learning are using Minecraft for students to build worlds such as animal habitats as part of a research project. Many local schools in the Cincinnati area have Minecraft clubs as well.
Connecting with “Mount St. Joseph—A Minecraft World Adventure”
The Mount’s Minecraft world is free but players must have already purchased a Minecraft license ($26.95) for their PC/Mac platform. Plans are also underway for gamers to download the world to play on their XBOX, PlayStation and hand held devices. The Mount is also creating a Minecraft tour for the university’s website (msj.edu) for those who would like to see how the university looks in a Minecraft world without purchasing the license or playing the actual game.
“Mount St. Joseph University—A Minecraft World Adventure” will be available to play starting August 13. For more information on how to access the game, visit www.msj.edu/mountminecraft.
Mount St. Joseph University is an undergraduate and graduate Catholic university that provides an interdisciplinary liberal arts and professional curriculum emphasizing values, service and social responsibility.