After the University of Georgia canceled the Class of 2020’s spring graduation ceremony due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, a group of UGA students took an unconventional approach to the news: constructing a virtual Sanford Stadium in Minecraft for seniors to experience a virtual commencement.
The idea started after junior psychology major Ivan Campbell and senior biology major Nick Miller read an article online about an elementary school in Japan creating a graduation ceremony for their students on Minecraft, an open world video game (and, coincidentally, the best-selling video game of all time).
“I have a lot of friends who are seniors that are really disappointed about graduation getting canceled,” Campbell said. “So I thought to myself ‘what is something that can make them feel better?’ Well, we could build Sanford Stadium on Minecraft to have a ceremony just like the school in Japan.”
Campbell said he quickly took to Reddit to find others to help him with his idea. After posting about it on Reddit and reaching out to people in large group chats, Campbell said there are now over 30 people working on the construction, including him and Miller.
“If we can't have a real graduation ceremony, then we'll have a virtual one,” Miller said.
A senior himself, Miller said he was disappointed about the cancellation of graduation instead of a postponement. He’s motivated to finish the project because he’s seen how much work people have put into it and how friendships have grown from it too.
“I feel like I would consider everybody working on this project to be my friend, even if we don’t know each other in real life,” Miller said. “That’s the beauty of this project, all these different people coming together and building.”
Since the idea sparked, Campbell said he’s worked on the project for 12 to 15 hours while others have worked on the construction every night, collectively putting in roughly 70 hours of work.
“We’ve found the dimensions for different structures at UGA and looked at satellite images from Google Maps to get an accurate representation of how things look,” Campbell said. “Minecraft is essentially like a game of Legos. We’re just collecting materials, building the stadium block by block and trying to recreate the structure as it looks in real life.”
With the amount of time it takes to build in Minecraft and the expansiveness of UGA’s campus, Campbell and the other builders have decided to stick with just building Sanford Stadium and the Tate Student Center.
Campbell said students can login into their own Minecraft and attend the ceremony once the stadium has been completed.
“If Jere Morehead wants to make a Minecraft channel, we are 100% down to have him there,” Campbell said.
Campbell and his team are shooting to have everything built near the end of April.
“I know that this isn’t going to take the place of a true UGA graduation in the stadium,” Campbell said. “But I think having a little bit of a celebration in this virtual world will help to be a consolation. We’re making this experience be a sort of closure.”