Fordham University Students Transform Minecraft into ‘Ramcraft’ and Build Virtual School

Tags: Currents Catholic Education, Faith, Fordham University, Inspiration, Manhattan, Media, New York City

By Jessica Easthope

For the last year, streaming classes, virtual meetings and online campus events have become the norm, but one group of students at Fordham University is taking it a step further by building a virtual school on Minecraft.

Zoe Demacopoulos is a senior at Fordham. She’s been playing the video game Minecraft for 10 years.

“I’ve played on 100 different servers and I’ve been a moderator on three of them. I help make sure rules are being followed by everyone,” said Zoe.

When she heard the school was starting a project called “Ramcraft,” she teleported right in.

“In the game, you build with blocks,” said Chris Vicari, an educational technologist at Fordham. “It’s a virtual form of Legos and you basically build piece-by-piece whatever you wish to construct and in our case, it’s the buildings around here.”

Chris started the program. With blocks,or voxels as they’re called in the game, Chris and a group of student volunteers are building the school. In the virtual realm, the school is almost identical to the real thing.

“We’re looking at Google Maps. We’re working with facilities to get blueprints of the structure,” said Chris. “There are some math calculations going on behind-the-scenes to see how big scale-wise we will make these structures.”

But recreating the buildings isn’t all fun and games – it takes a ton of time.

“Some buildings take two weeks, three weeks, others may be done quicker,” Chris said. “We may have the structure built, but then we want to make the aesthetics represent what it is in real life.”

Many of the students participating have never even set foot on campus. The program has allowed them to build friendships as they build the school. Zoe says the brightness of her computer screen brought some light on the darkest days of the pandemic.

“It’s nice to be able to leave a mark at Fordham,” Zoe said. “We had to cancel so many things last year and this was one thing that never got canceled.”

For Zoe, the reality of the program is something Fordham prides itself on – and there’s nothing virtual about it.

“I really relate it to one of the Catholic pillars of this university, which is cura personalis,” she said. “In Latin, that means care for the entire person. This program is really about making connections, building community, social interaction and fun and entertainment in light of the pandemic.”

And what the students are really doing is designing their futures.

“I want the students to feel empowered, to feel like they can be a part of something they can put on their resume or portfolio,” Chris said. “It’s more than just playing games, it’s an opportunity.”

The pandemic was the catalyst, but the project will likely outlive it. The entire Fordham realm will take a few years to build and might even be the future of campus tours.