The class of 2020 has been put in a precarious situation due to COVID-19 affecting everyone projected to walk the aisle and receive a diploma this spring. UCR has reacted and adapted to the situation accordingly. Though arguments can be made as to whether or not these changes were for better or worse, the university administration has tried their best to provide online learning to compromise for safety concerns. Now tasked with holding commencement 2020 online, the administration needs to come up with some type of supplementary celebration before hosting an in-person event later this year. While the specifics on this online event are sparse and to be determined, the administration is in a perfect position to organize something different and special. One of the most unique ways to connect with others nowadays is through the timeless, blocky hills of “Minecraft.”
While “Minecraft” is not exactly the platform one would associate a commencement with, it has certainly been used as such for students across the world. Most famously, a Japanese elementary school utilized the game to host a virtual commencement this past April. Likewise, students at Boston University ran their own version, creating a massive experience for other universities and students to join and be a part of. Countless other schools like the University of Pennsylvania and University of Austin have students congregating in the pixel bliss of “Minecraft” to host their own celebrations.
There is clearly a demand here for a more personal experience that other online services just can’t compete with. The game has many tools and resources that can be utilized for a smooth and easy virtual commencement. These celebrations are amazing showcases of great organization and community resolve; UCR could capture that same effect if they choose to do so.
Many of these examples utilize small recreations to have a ceremony representative of their school. While UCR is huge, I have lots of faith in the campus’ dedicated gaming community to create an accurate version of Pierce Lawn in full block game glory. This is not to mention the various communities surrounding UCR that have started their own servers for countless reasons, including the recreation of campus or its various landmarks block for block. One student even recreated UCR’s Bell Tower on their phone.
Hosting virtual commencement through another game would be acceptable, but less than desirable. “Roblox” is free, but is more minigame oriented with less of a focus on the open world sandbox element that “Minecraft” thrives on. Despite costing over $20, UCR could always reach out to the team behind “Minecraft,” Mojang, and request some assistance depending on how many students would be interested. On the other hand, the easiest celebration is just a massive Zoom meeting, but that would be dull and uninspiring. It would hardly be personable, relegating students to just sit, watch and remain muted for the entire ceremony. “Minecraft” is much more interactive and would be a great way for students to roam and gather together for an immersive final day on a virtual campus.
With only three weeks left in the quarter, the last thing students are going to want to sit through on graduation day is another online lecture. UCR has an opportunity to take this stale experience and transform it into something different and funny for the graduating class to enjoy. UCR’s community loves to rally around unique ideas and suggestions. With enough work, a “Minecraft” commencement could be a reality. There would surely be a big turnout and help around producing commencement in this creative and exciting style. In these times of crisis and despair, UCR should give the students something to remember rather than another Zoom class to fall asleep in.