For readers who don’t have children – or who aren’t basically children themselves (and we know some of you are) - it can be easy to forget that Minecraft is the video games phenomenon of its generation. The open-world sandbox game has tens of millions of players, of all ages; but it’s become especially beloved of kids, because at last there’s a game that matches the near-boundless creativity of young minds.
The South Australia state government hasn’t missed this, and it’s running a cute competition for students in Adelaide and the surrounding areas, in which they’ll get to see their Minecraft creations turned into an actual, real life park. As InDaily, a local news site, reports:
The winning designs will help guide national park upgrades worth around $10 million. The competition is open to students in years four, five, six and seven in Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills.
The parks they design as part of this competition might include trails for bushwalking, mountain biking or horse riding, barbecue and picnic areas, public toilets, wheelchair accessible areas, campgrounds, scenic lookouts, adventure playgrounds, interpretive trails, places to launch canoes – or something completely different,” said Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter.
To enter, kids have to submit five screenshots of their ideas, plus upload a three-minute narrated flythrough their Minecraft world.
The final prize – specifically, that AU$8.9m budget – sadly isn’t all earmarked for the creation of one Minecraft-designed park.
Instead, it’s being managed by the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board (NR AMLR) as part of a community outreach programme, and we can be pretty sure that most of it isn’t going to go into just this one contest. The entry terms and conditions also mention that it’s only offering the possibility that part of that money might go on “some” of the ideas submitted, so there’s further reason to think that this might be more heat than light.
There are other restrictions on what kinds of things the pupils who enter can do, too. They have to use a vanilla Minecraft installation (which means no mods, and that’s half the game’s fun), and by entering they’ll be surrendering copyright over their creations to NR AMLR.
But. As outreach schemes go, this is a relatively great one. Not only does it respect Minecraft as the creative tool that its players know it is (even if its detractors may misunderstand and disagree), but it shows that some bureaucrats can appreciate that nature and technology aren’t always in opposition. The entries have to respect the existing beauty of Adelaide and its nearby Mount Lofty mountain range, while contributing to it – exactly the kind of nuance that every new generation of engineers and architects needs.