The University of Connecticut Gaming Club has spent the last several weeks virtually building Gampel Pavilion, the Student Union, the Hugh S. Greer Fieldhouse and several other campus locations in preparation for an online Minecraft gradaution ceremony for seniors, according to Devyn Lowry, president of the organization.
The idea came from club member Andi Duro several weeks ago while the group was brainstorming ways to celebrate the class of 2020 following the cancellation of commencement exercises in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I thought, ‘what better time to recreate campus when none of us are really allowed to go through it in real life,’” Duro said. “That way, people can still feel the connection to campus even though they aren’t able to go there. The main idea was to take a game that everyone knows and enjoys playing and give it a UConn twist.”
The group of builders includes Duro, Norlinda Steward, Mia Jordan, Dominic Martire, Bjorn Kaçi, Sophie Lin, Ryan Marsh, Ethan Shan, Michael Tarby and Nile Keech. They work up to three to four hours a day developing the campus and paying close attention to detail. Certain builders like Jordan, Martire, and Shan have almost entirely built the rest of campus on their own.
Lowry said he has been overwhelmed by the number of further applications he has received from those who want to contribute to the cause.
“We love to see all the support and we are really happy with all of the members of the UConn community working on this,” Lowry said. “It is absolutely amazing.”
All of the commencement speakers and those reading off graduate names will be put into a conference call broadcasted via the Twitch livestream for the event. Those attending the actual event on Minecraft are encouraged to have the livestream open in the background as well so they can hear the audio, Duro said. The event will also be posted on YouTube afterwards.
Plus, we learn about life on campus in 1905 from an OG member of the women’s basketball teamhttps://t.co/vRRNrAblUx
— UConn 360: The UConn Podcast (@UConnPodcast) April 29, 2020
“[For guest speakers], we have one of the former presidents of the UConn Gaming Club who has now settled himself in a really nice career position and another person who has also helped the club a lot from the esports perspective,” Duro said. “They will address the class about life after graduation because they graduated about two or three years ago and can talk about how to make a name for yourself.”
Graduates will “walk” across the stage when their name is called, receive a potion that makes their character glow and obtain a book that has their name and major written on it as to simulate a diploma, Duro said.
After the commencement ceremony is over, Duro said he plans on having attendees split up into breakout groups where they can participate in games like a Jonathan the Husky building competition, boat racing, sheep herding and several other activities.
“Immediately after the graduation is over, there will still be things for people to do and we will still be live streaming,” Duro said. “From there, it is going to be more of a chill atmosphere where people can play around on the server.”
The original plan was to only build Gampel Pavilion, which took about 10 days starting around April 10, but the effort has since been expanded to include other buildings. The entire campus will not be completed in time for the graduation ceremony, but the idea is to open-source the server after the event so that more students can join and develop an unofficial UConn server, Duro said.
Those interested in more information and constant updates from the UConn Gaming Club can join the updated Discord chat. Those who are interested in attending the event on Minecraft, whether to graduate or to be a spectator, can do so via a Google form. The event will also be live streamed via Twitch. The graduation ceremonies will begin May 10 at 10 a.m.
Lowry said he believes offering the Minecraft commencement allows students, faculty and families to have a unique opportunity to participate in social interaction despite the mental, physical and financial stressors of the pandemic.
“Right now, more than ever, people really need social experiences of some kind. I have a lot of friends who are seniors who were really looking forward to graduating and they were so upset,” Lowry said. “I think doing commencement via Minecraft provides a nice fun way to calm some people down.”
Thumbnail photo courtesy of the UConn Gaming Club on Facebook.
Taylor Harton is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.