When UNC junior Dustin Duong decided to recreate Carroll Hall on Minecraft, he had no idea that it would garner attention from students, alumni and even ESPN writers.
What began as a fun experiment would morph into a full-fledged passion project to build the entire campus as part of the Build the Earth project, an effort to build the world on a 1:1 scale.
Duong, a former Daily Tar Heel photography editor, began building the campus in early September under the name UNC Block'd. He has recreated several buildings thus far, including Carroll Hall, Hanes Hall, Phillips Hall and the Campus Y. Some have taken hours or even days to complete.
“I started with Carroll because I’m a journalism student," Duong said. "I’ve spent a lot of time there and met a lot of people there, and I just missed it."
After a friend suggested he become involved with Build the Earth, Duong took the recommendation and started to collaborate with others. Beginning on March 21, creator PippenFTS’ original goal was to make the biggest collective achievement in Minecraft.
Jacob Yates, who began working for Build the Earth as their public relations manager in April, feels strongly about the group’s mission.
“It’s about gathering people from all over the world to come together and recreate humanity’s legacy as it currently exists," Yates said. "From structures established thousands of years ago to the modern buildings of today, this project will capture a moment in time, and we have hopes that this will inspire more large-scale community projects in years to come."
Placing importance on a friendly and clean community, Build the Earth welcomes any and all new builders and hosts over 6,000 workers, 100 staff members and 3,337 ongoing projects.
“The most challenging part had to be the map projection conversion to Minecraft. Due to the challenge of converting a spherical map into a workable plane, one of the first challenges we noticed was distortion, creating a huge problem with building,” Yates said.
While this may sound daunting to some, Duong said he feels that the positives outweigh the negatives.
“I can overlook all the math and the numbers and all that because it’s a nice experience, and I think it makes people happy,” Duong said.
Though UNC Block'd is a completely independent project, Duong has often collaborated with others in Minecraft and considers his current constructions as a form of bonding with people.
“It’s like being in a community of people and you share the same experiences and memories as those people," Duong said. "Once you do something that triggers one of those memories, it gets around, and people can all relate to it."
Like Duong, many other UNC students have used the game as a way to connect with others, including sophomore Caitlin Brown. Brown, who began playing Minecraft in middle school, said she initially downloaded Minecraft because her brother and cousins were all interested in it.
“I started playing in 2012. I played on servers with my cousin, and my brother and I would make stuff together. Even now, I’ll still play with my friends,” she said.
First-year student Lily Fishman feels similarly about Minecraft’s ability to bring people together.
“I mostly collaborate with others. We have a Minecraft world for some people in our graduating year, and I even met some people through there,” she said.
Fellow first-year Isabella Siesel, who also participates in a Minecraft server for her class year, has experienced much the same as Fishman. Siesel said that since many first-years were doing Carolina Away, they wanted to connect the students at home to those on campus.
“I never would’ve interacted with the people I’ve become friends with if the server hadn’t been around, and I consider them some of the greatest friends I’ve made in my time being a freshman,” Siesel said.
Duong may have never intended to begin such a large and time-consuming project, but his reminiscence for campus, and passion for creating have made this a rewarding experience for him.
“Memory is a lot more appealing than reality, especially now," Duong said. "And if I can give them a little slice of that nostalgia, and it makes them happy, that’s the best feeling in the world."
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