‘This is our home’: UC Berkeley students, alumni recreate campus on Minecraft

Bjørn Lustic/Courtesy

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Flying Kiwibots, a llama therapy booth on Lower Sproul and a display of the 2017 Milo Yiannopoulos protests are just some of the fixtures depicted in a virtual UC Berkeley campus students and alumni have been building in a Minecraft server popularly known as “Blockeley University.”

The idea for Blockeley University came from a Facebook comment, according to creator Bjørn Lustic, who studied at UC Berkeley from 2015 to 2019. Lustic, along with campus senior Hunter Hall and their respective siblings, began assembling their virtual rendition of California Memorial Stadium on March 15.

“Someone said you should start a Minecraft server and then give people diplomas in the game,” Lustic said. “I saw that message and was like alright, I don’t have anything else to do right now.”

Working together for the next month with approximately zero to five “builders” helping with construction at various times during the day, the team successfully modeled Memorial Stadium, International House and the Maxwell Family Field by Thursday.

The Blockeley University server gained attention when campus freshman Evan Quan made an Overheard at UC Berkeley Facebook post Thursday asking for people to come and help build with a link to its Discord page. As of press time, the post has upward of 5,400 likes and 1,600 comments.

Blockeley University has experienced an “outpouring” of builder applications since the Facebook post was published, said campus senior Elliot Choi. He estimates that the group currently has 70 active builders and 92 builder applications pending.

Since then, more than 30 buildings have been erected with most of the central and eastern parts of campus finished.

Campus freshman Christian Nisperos joined the Blockeley University server March 18. Having played Minecraft as a child, Nisperos said he initially joined to have some fun and to pass the time. After investing more than 60 hours into the project so far, Nisperos said being able to work on this server with other UC Berkeley students has been one of the highlights of his year and something that he will remember for the rest of his life.

“Rebuilding campus is just another way of seeing everything again,” Nisperos said. “This is our home for a lot of us and just seeing it again — while we’re not able to physically be there in person — is just such an amazing experience for so many people.”

Cal Band member and campus senior Nick Pickett said he got involved in the project because Memorial Stadium has been an important part of his time at UC Berkeley. Pickett said he noticed the tunnel used by the band to march into the stadium was not “quite right.” After referencing personal photos from his four years in the band, he was then able to piece together a more accurate block representation of the tunnel.

“What I think is really special about the build in this server is that everyone who comes in has a little taste to add, like maybe they remember a special spot so they can build it in a specific way,” Lustic said. “Nick built the entries to the football stadium because they meant a lot to him and they look a lot better because of that.”

Other media outlets have also noticed the server’s popularity, with NBC Bay Area covering the Blockeley University Minecraft server April 27, according to Quan’s Facebook post. In accordance with that day, the Blockeley University team said it hopes to have the exteriors of all campus buildings finished by then.

Additionally, the team will be hosting its “University of Blockeley 2020 Commencement: Minecraft Edition” on May 16. By then, the team hopes to have completed the interior designs of as many buildings as possible.

“I really only knew Bjørn and didn’t really know anyone personally before this,” Hall said. “I knew some names but that was it. But now we’re all fairly close to each other, definitely closer to anyone than I’ve been in the last few weeks considering the isolation and whatnot. It’s building a sense of community where we really don’t have one right now and it’s really unique to see.”

Contact Kaleo Mark at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @kaleomark_dc.