Minecraft as a Geodesign Tool


The Geodesign Summit (when did they drop the CamelCase?) is happening next week and I’ll be elsewhere or I’d totally go. You all know I’ve had a soft spot for Geodesign and it’s always a good time. Plus Bran Ferren is keynoting so that’s worth the price right there.

Now those with kids know there is something that is bigger than any other game out there right now. Minecraft is played by my son and his friends more than any other game out there. On the Mac, Xbox, iPad, iPhone; it’s crazy to think about how such a simple game has taken over for today’s connected youth (did Qualcomm really try and call them “Generation M”?). I won’t spend my time explaining it here, but it breaks down the whole world into blocks. You can build, destroy, create and battle your environment by yourself or with friends. Sort of like SimCity, but not constrained by products. You get raw materials and build as you go.

So I was playing along with him last night and I got to thinking. The blocks in Minecraft are a great way to symbolize man’s impact on the world. Start mining for diamonds and pretty soon you’ve got either a huge hold in the ground or a mountain that looks like swiss cheese. It all came to me when Connor said he wished he hadn’t dug such a big hole because the sheep and pigs kept falling into it (that’s pretty funny out of context, but you’ll get over it). So while I was building my Fort out by the sea, he went back to restoring the hillside so it not only looked good, but could support trees, flowers and bushes. We talked about creating a rail line between our two forts and he wanted to make sure it was routed around area’s he wanted to protect.

Now I’m very proud of my son for those good choices and it seems like the speed at which you can work with the blocks in Minecraft would be a great tool for showcaseing what GeoDesign really is. My great friend Dale Lutz wrote a super post on this a couple months ago.

So imagine my surprise upon learning that Mojang and the United Nations were teaming together in the cleverly named initiative “Block By Block” to encourage the use of Minecraft in crowdsourcing urban planning, giving youth “the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future”.

I know there will be awesome CityEngine, SketchUp and open source analytical tools presented. Those are needed of course, but I’ll tell you I sure wish I was there to give a lightning talk on Minecraft and Geodesign. Jack always says the key to good Geodesign is iterative evaluation. I can’t think of a quicker or easier tool than Minecraft. Let’s get that FME 2014 reader/writer out there Safe!

  • Diego Guidi

    this looks heavily related to your post :)

    • http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/ James Fee

      I like the project, but it is very hacker like. The magic of Minecraft is my son can do.

  • http://blog.safe.com/ DaleAtSafe

    Thanks James, watching my sons (aged 13 and 15) and their friends light-it-up with Minecraft has amazed me with the speed at which creation takes place in that game. Truly amazing, and absolutely useful for iterative evaluation, especially with some of the mods http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Mods , particularly the WorldEdit Mod http://www.minecraftforum.net/topic/42214-pluginbukkit-worldedit-edit-your-world-in-game-181/ .

    Rumour is that a father-son pair native to the Minecraft homeworld of Sweden have actually produced an FME Plugin that reads Minecraft files — the screen snap I’ve attached was smuggled out. Here’s hoping we can pry out more details and make this more a reality…

    • Ulf Mansson

      I totally agree with the amazing things Minecraft can do in Geodesign. One might think that the building blocks don’t have the proper resolution and details. Personally I think it’s perfect. It’s like using VI instead of a fancy Wordprocessor – You can focus on content instead of fancy layout.

      Making it into a FME project with my son has been great and I can confirm the rumours. Minecraft worlds makes great Point Clouds.

      My son gave me some very strong advice though. Moving data into and from Minecraft should not interfere with the joy of building new structures. I think it’s good advice!

      • http://www.spatiallyadjusted.com/ James Fee

        Ulf, you stepped over the obvious question? Where is the plugin? 😉

  • Kevin Mayall

    I also have a Minecraft kid in my house, and I’ve also briefly wondered about creating MC maps from shapefiles. However, for geodesign, MC is essentially an open 3D canvas that is missing the essential element of rules or constraints. I think that is the source of potential for CityEngine – not the 3D, but the rule engine that governs how landscape features might exist and relate to each other.

    On that note, I may finally purchase SimCity this year after seeing these:
    SimCity Gameplay Strategy #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YceL2C4TW4Q
    SimCity Gameplay Strategy #1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzouhrHCpM