In December 2017 I was asked to explore the possibility of developing a project using Minecraft that would support the goals of Exeter City Futures, in my role as Creative Lead for Global City Futures.
As the idea was initially inspired by a Minecraft map of the UK generated from Open Data, and given my familiarity with the work the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery (RAMM) had been doing with historic maps of Exeter in Minecraft, I proposed developing a Minecraft map of Exeter generated from Open Data that would build on this work. The map would be used to engage young people in urban planning by encouraging them to redesign their city in a sustainable way.
After researching various methods of generating the map I settled on Geocraft, created by Christopher Gutteridge from the University of Southampton, as a way of producing a Minecraft map of Exeter in 2018. Initially I planned to create a map of the entire city, all 50km2 of it, though initial feedback I gathered at the first Exeter City Futures Minecraft Meetup suggested this was overambitious.
For the final version of the map I settled on a 4km2 map of the city centre, encompassing key landmarks such as Exeter Cathedral, RAMM and Exeter College. With the support of Christopher I was able to insert windows into the buildings that light up when the sun goes down which made the map feel more like a living city.
The Exeter 2025 Minecraft Challenge officially launched in May 2018, initially with just the Java Edition of the map. Having realised I underestimated the popularity of Pocket Edition at our second meetup, I quickly found a method of converting the map so that it worked on all editions of the game across PC, Smartphone and Tablet.
Initially the project ran until February 2019, with five subsequent meetups to engage with young people around the project and discuss ideas in the Exeter City Space. An event at RAMM that was intended to mark the end of the project turned into a relaunch when I connected with the Minecraft Education team, and we worked out a plan to run a workshop with Exeter College and RAMM which would be captured on video. The purpose of the video was to both showcase an innovative use of Minecraft Education Edition and relaunch the project with a focus on students, pupils and educators.
A month before the Exeter 2025 Minecraft Challenge Day at RAMM the video was filmed at Exeter College, bringing together a group of students for a three hour workshop where they ideated and crafted sustainable solutions to the prompt of a car-free city centre in the game. Ideas generated included and underground railway, a combined ice-rink and train station, and a tree-lined elevated waterway down Exeter’s Fore Street with a boat dispenser.
The video was shown at the Exeter 2025 Minecraft Challenge day, which included a workshop, a VR experience, a green screen experience, and a chance to engage with the Historic Exeter Minecraft maps.