About three weeks ago, the University of Minnesota canceled its in-person classes for the foreseeable future, forcing 63,000 undergrads and graduate students in five different campuses into online learning.
University President Joan Gabel said the school’s “top priority” was the “health, safety, and well-being” of its students and the surrounding community.
We’ll say this much for coronavirus. Besides making us lonely, nervous, and obsessed with Tiger King characters, many have become a bit more creative in our attempts to stay connected with one another.
Faced with indefinite time apart, U of M students created a new world where they could be together.
As the Minnesota Daily reports, a few days after the announcement, a meme surfaced on a student Facebook page. If you squinted, it looked a lot like the East Bank campus—complete with columns and trees and bus shelters, right where they were supposed to be. Upon second glance, you’d notice it was actually a virtual landscape made of carefully placed, brick-like cubes.
The meme also featured a sort of “breaking news” chyron about class being canceled, complete with a fake quote from Gabel:
“We’re immediately moving all campus operations to Minecraft.” (Screenshot below from the original meme-maker, Mark Eckelaert.)
I’VE FINALLY MADE IT INTO THE NEWShttps://t.co/i4mLeaqEDZ— mark eck (@mark_eckelaert) March 30, 2020
Welcome to Goldycraft, a virtual campus that got its start last semester when a few students got together and created their own server. Their goal was—and continues to be—verisimilitude. They uploaded the university’s floorplans to keep dimensions to scale. They added locales like Sally’s Saloon and Haiku Bistro, flavor like a pair of Girl Scouts selling cookies at a crosswalk or a Nice Ride station—little details only a student who visited these places every day would notice and appreciate.
Virtual versions of the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, South Louisiana Community College, and others have been either created or resurrected in the wake of the pandemic, as The Verge reports. Some are even planning online graduation ceremonies in case their real campuses are still deserted when the big day comes.
We can't replace everything with a modular, disease-free online world. But these virtual campuses offer comfort, the thrill of recognition, and a chance to build something together while we’re physically apart.
If you want to visit the world of Goldycraft, check out the server at goldycraft.crafted.pro.