Ashoka Minecraft – Exceptional journey of eleven Ashoka students who created their beautiful campus on Minecraft
Inspired by UC Berkeley’s “Blockeley” and MIT’s virtual campus, students from Ashoka University built their own campus on the famous video game Minecraft
Shreya Chatterjee13 August, 2020 | 15 min read
It all started quite suddenly. Inspired by University of California, Berkeley’s “Blockeley” and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) virtual campus, eleven Ashoka students who were missing their campus came together to create their beloved campus within the ultra-popular video game Minecraft.
“The best part about Minecraft is that it offers endless virtual space to roam when real spaces have become rare commodities” – Atishay Khanna
Atishay Khanna, a third-year major in Political Science and International Relations at Ashoka conceived the idea sometime in May, 2020. The first question that popped in my head was that how did these students from various streams come together in the first place and managed to create something so beautiful?
Atishay smiled, “Well we all missed the university incredibly and all of us have been waiting patiently to go back to campus no doubt. Ashoka is a residential campus so when we all went home after being together for so long, we felt a part of us was missing. So, this was one alternative way to being at the university while not being physically present.”
At the beginning it was just three of them and slowly more students started joining in.
Their team’s motto – ‘We will bring you back’!
Quite simple yet beautiful.
Their inspiration was their memories that they created together at Ashoka.
As Atishay put it, “To take a look at what Ashoka has to offer as this would certainly bring a live element to the experience.” This is also a striking example of how despite the pandemic and everything else, students at Ashoka haven’t lost their hope, or their creative bend of mind. Atishay echoed, “We are a university where technology is and always has been at the forefront of engagement.” From building the campus block by block to creating the campus life experience, their journey has been an incredible one.
“Our journey has been nothing short of exhilarating and of course often nostalgic too since all of us were missing the campus a lot. So this experience, in a way, helped us relive the time when we were at Ashoka in real life.” – Khushi Mehta
After coming together, they started mapping Ashoka’s campus and everything fell into place!
“Everyone on the team is really encouraging and sweet, so working with them was so much fun. We all knew our efforts had paid off when we saw how happy and proud the students seemed when they saw the entire campus on Minecraft for the first time. We are overwhelmed by the love we have received from everyone at Ashoka, be it the undergraduate batch, the Young India Fellows, the alumni or anyone else who’s called Ashoka their home at some point in their lives.”
“Working on this project has been one of the most fulfilling and delightful experiences of my life” – Shaun Stanley
They would all spend five to six hours a day on creating the project. Shaun Stanley, a first-year major in Computer Science and Entrepreneurial Leadership gave a sneak peek into their operation.
“Although we spent most of our time trying to be productive and get the work done as fast as possible, I would be lying if I were to say that there weren’t times when we just had fun and pranked each other! As most of our work revolved around analysing data from Google Earth, Ashoka Virtual Tour, and then recreating it several times on Minecraft until it looked perfect, it was no surprise that we would all get bored from time to time. To refresh ourselves during these times, we would have virtual sword fights, parkour races, and boating competitions or just fly around like a free bird using fireworks. Sometimes, one of us would teleport the rest to an unknown location in another dimension, and trap us there until she/he fulfilled all of their playful cravings!”
It has been fulfilling for each one of them for they have indeed created something incredible here. And, it was not like they did not face any challenges. Shaun said, “There were many challenges that we faced as a small team with an enormous goal. Getting the Minecraft version of the campus as close as possible to the real deal in scale was definitely a task, and we spent countless hours breaking and rebuilding the same structures to make them look indifferentiable from the real campus. There were innumerable other technical issues too, which we wouldn’t have been able to solve without binge-watching several YouTube videos every day.”
However, the biggest challenge they felt would be the day they stopped working on the project after its completion.
The response to their creation has been fantastic. The numbers are increasing every single day. There are about 300+ Ashokans (both present and former students) who have already joined the server. With the huge alumni network and with the new students coming in, they hope the numbers will increase exponentially.
“In my mind, Minecraft is an emotion, which is helping connect the Ashokans with the campus life virtually.” – Aditi Tibarewal
“The social media followers are also rising. It is incredible to see 900+ Instagram followers posting such encouraging and heartwarming stories. It is great to see that with Minecraft, they feel a part of the larger Ashoka Family and cannot wait to go back to the campus life once again. I really wish to see every Ashokan very soon enjoying and cherishing their time in every nook and corner of Minecraft Campus.”
“Looking back, it still feels unbelievable and now our efforts are focused on providing even better experiences to our fellow Ashokans on our Minecraft campus.” – Abhirup Chatterjee
I asked, with such overwhelming responses coming their way, has the feeling sunk in, to which Abhirup Chatterjee, a second-year major in Economics and Finance replied, “It has been a surreal experience, to be honest, especially after the server opened. Within 30-minutes of opening the server, we had about 250 players exploring the campus.”
What had been overwhelming for them was the responses they received from even the outside world. Their work has been featured heavily in both national and international media outlets like Business Insider, Hindustan Times, ScoopWhoop, MSN, Vice, Reddit, Minecraft Web, My Big Plunge, TalkEsport, Mokokil, Ubergizmo, Alfa Beta, and many more.
“Anything that can be done in real life at Ashoka will eventually be possible on Ashoka Minecraft” – Bertrand
Now that they have created the basic version, the next step for them is to refine the specificities of the campus in the next version. Bertrand Kwibuka, a third-year major in Economics and Computer Science said, “We will move forward to rendering Ashoka Minecraft campus useful in this time of COVID-19. We will give the Ashoka community a chance to reconnect with their second home, revive experiences, and have some fun along.”
I asked how they were planning to achieve this to which a thrilled Bertrand replied, “This will be done by hosting events which were traditionally held on campus in real life and by giving people a chance to challenge each other in some competitions. We are planning to collaborate with the administration to show the outside world what Ashoka university looks like.”
They have come prepared!
Their long-term plans consist of, but certainly not limited to, collaborating with various universities around the world, especially a ‘shout out to UPenn, Dartmouth, UC Berkeley, and MIT friends’, to build a faction server, where each college would be its own kingdom on different parts of the map. “For fun, we will be able to have bartering systems, conquests, alliances, and wars. , said Bertrand.
At the beginning of their journey, none of them thought that they would make it this far.
Omkar Mishra, a second-year major in Computer Science said,
“I still remember the day the emails were sent out to join the team to build the Ashoka University Campus on Minecraft. I joined just out of curiosity. While starting out this project we did not anticipate that it had the potential of blowing up as much as it did. Now seeing the potential, we want to make Ashoka Minecraft accessible to all the students in such unprecedented times. Right now the campus is open just for the students, and alumni and we definitely plan on opening it to a wider audience. Especially for the incoming batch, this becomes their way to experience campus in all its ‘blocky’ glory, and interacting with the people they will be spending the next couple of years with.”
One month into the project and suddenly a bug entered and their project came crashing down. But instead of breaking down, they picked up their pieces and started once again, from the very beginning.
Listening to this, I am in awe of these students who have created this experience! They learnt their lesson the hard way and rebuilt the server from scratch with a multilevel and sophisticated security system.
Aditi probably said it the best,
“Life of an Ashokan is incomplete without storytelling. We had an adventurous beginning, but we survived to tell the tale. Sometimes, reaching goals demands a lot of patience, faith, and enthusiasm. We all worked like a dream team and made the launch a success.“
“Minecraft was an exciting project, and we were all really looking forward to it as a team. We did everything we could with state-of-the-art designing, impressive graphics, accurate layout, and of course the security.”
Quoting Dolly Parton, Aditi said, “However ‘The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain’.”
“People’s feedback guided us, but their reactions are what blew us away!” – Aniket
As we came to the last stage of the interview, I asked them if they had anything else to share before we wrap up, to which Aniket Sharma, a second-year major in Philosophy said, “At the beginning, we did receive a lot of mixed responses with the pandemic looming in, we were constantly thinking of what our audience would want. We were optimising graphic elements and user interaction, plundering every repository of resources, technical and otherwise, that we could find, methodically deconstructing and reconstructing, and painstakingly starting all over again if and when we had to. But truth be told, we would do it again.”
They marketed it extensively, choosing their consumer base meticulously and personalising strategies tailored to demographic and definitely adhering to strict deadlines.
Aniket continued“It completely transformed and with every passing moment began resembling Ashoka more and more. It had everything. It had space for all, beyond anything our skill and effort could have anticipated.” After eighty-odd days when they finally saw the final product and people’s reactions, they couldn’t hold back their emotions.
“It was alive. All apprehensions blew away like dandelions in a nostalgic breeze, and it was the most unsettling yet freeing feeling, which transcended any laurels or veneration. We understood that we were merely the people who moved around the proverbial bricks and mortar, with adequate masonry, because it was really the people that breathed life into this. We didn’t create this, Ashoka did.”
Atishay Khanna, Aishwarya Das, Abhirup Chatterjee, Bertrand Kwibuka, Aditi Tibarewal, Omkar Mishra, Khushi Mehta, Shaun Stanley, Ayushi Ghosh, Pratha Srivastava, and Aniket Sharma are the extraordinary people behind the beautiful creation of Ashoka Minecraft. The server officially opened on July 31.
You can follow their work on their Instagram handle.