Minecraft Architecture: 126 Million Devoted Users

We decided to write this topic because of its relevant social impact and because it ultimately is relevant to our core interests at EvolutDesign.com.

Minecraft, a single and multiplayer survival game, was released in 2011 and has changed many lives worldwide for its entertainment but also because of its visualization capabilities to plan and design. In 2014, Minecraft was acquired by Microsoft for $2.5 billion – yes, you read that right.  As of 2020, the game has 126 million active users or less than half of the entire United States population or just over 3 times California’s population.

Minecraft Creates Cottage Industry of Interior Designers

We won’t get into the game mechanics but it is an architectural game with a survivalist theme.  The game has created a cottage industry of home designers with a knack for interior design!

We were surprised about a blossoming yet positive subculture that has developed within the multi-player game that has everyone playing and building.  The game allows users to build virtual worlds with 3D textured cubes and represent different materials for homes, cities or underground bunkers. 

The game has spawned entire communities to rebuild real-world buildings and architectural structures as part of game play. You should not be surprised to find the White House, Taj Mahal or Burj Khalifa in the game.  

In an almost perverse way, this modern game injects retro elements with a pixelated landscape that reminds you of LEGO or games from the Atari or Apple II era.  This game reminds us of Second Life or the old…really old..Ultima game series that was available on Apple II and Commodore 64 game consoles almost 30 years ago. 

In the Ultima universe, game worlds were pixelated but mysteriously powerful as you entered castles and gained power and experience in search of the ever mytstical Lord British. In real life, Lord British was Richard Garriott, son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott. In 2008, Richard went to the International Space Station as a private astronaut.  Second Life, developed in 1999, became really popular around 2006 as people developed alter egos, developed virtual hotel complexes, rented virtual rooms and bought virtual land to create the first digital economy. Some users actually made money in this virtual world with Linden dollars that were convertible to US dollars.  Early investors in Linden Lab’s Second Life included Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO.

More on Richard Garriott aka Lord British, if interested. He discussed video games, space and future.

Apparently, Microsoft had said the game was due for a major update which would enhance game elements with shadows and fog, to improve lighting effects and incorporate motion with falling leaves and deeper, more focused texture.  The Super Duper Graphics Pack, announced at E3 in 2017 as a downloadable update, was cancelled in 2019 by Microsoft due to technically demanding requirements.

Gamer nerd playing the Minecraft video game on his console with an empty pizza box and messy game room

Minecraft Has Empowered Communities to Become Better Planners and Urban Designers

United Nations flag behind a barbed wire fence

We also discovered that Minecraft is making a bigger difference in the real world. Block by Block, is a UN-run foundation and programme which empowers communities to convert ignored urban areas into vibrant communities which improve the quality of life for its citizens.   

The organization uses Minecraft as the central planning and collaboration tool to visualize design outcomes with active engagement or contributions by neighborhood residents that have never had any say in how public projects are planned or developed.

Younf black children playing and building in Minecraft in a school room
“Creatief met Minecraft” by brunobib is marked with CC0 1.0

The first Block by Block workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013.   The results of the workshop led to some astounding results.  As Minecraft is a 3D environment, workshop organizers discovered that ideas and proposed plans improved participation and engagement by local community participants at a much greater level when compared to traditional architectural drawings!

Our brains are hardwired to think visually.  It’s not a surprise that when you are presented with a three-dimensional environment, you can express yourself more clearly.  Each workshop had 30-50 participants who live and work around planned public spaces that have been neglected.  The facilitators then convert the workshop into groups of 3-4 people who are then taught to build virtually within the Minecraft game.

However, it doesn’t stop there.  Officials from local government, the mayor’s office, planning departments and architectural teams listen to the workshop participants as they present their ideas or share their input.  It has literally transformed everything, breaking down sensitives topics that lead to resolution.  

The Block by Block methodology has empowered communities in more than 25 countries since 2012.   Community participants from young and old, to women and slum dwellers have participated in the design of their public spaces to solve local issues in Kenya, Peru, Haiti, Nepal and many others.  Together, these workshops have transformed lives and rebuilt urban areas with better access to clean water, public safety and improved economic opportunity, sustainable and general living conditions block by block.

Architecture and Urban Planning Among Other Disciplines Gamified by Minecraft

Minecraft’s Effect on Urban Planning

Minecraft’s phenomenon has generated further interest with academia producing research in areas such as architecture, urbanism and other disciplines such as economics and literature.  

As the world becomes more inclusive, sustainable and democratic through extremely scalable and gamified methodologies, tools like Minecraft can help bring many groups together to diminish under-represented voices by gender, color, sexual orientation, religion or disability.  This was proven with the UN-led Block by Block program which included women, young and old, and the poor in the public planning process with great success!

A group of African Villagers

Younger people (our next generation) growing up in a more inclusive world, have largely been under-represented in the planning stages, resulting in alienation of urban environments that do not cater to this group.  

Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) Sidewalk Labs initiative for the City of Toronto is a perfect example.  When it was announced with financial support from the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto (led by Waterfront Toronto, an agency responsible for its development), the project was continuously under attack for its initially limited transparency around privacy and other concerns raised my Toronto residents.

Google search words in the search engine google.com in the browser window. Google the most visited site in the world and have a powerfull search engine in the internet.

In July 2019, the Toronto Star highlighted how big tech companies like Google and affiliates took great liberties to subvert democratic practices in cities as documented by Partnership for Working Families, an organization that has worked hard to develop equitable, vibrant and inclusive cities.  

The organization points to communities in San Jose, Calif., who battled Google over plans for a 50-acre mega campus in the downtown core.  Citizens demanded transparency and a voice; instead, Google executed non-disclosure agreements with 18 officials including council members and the mayor.  In short, communities were denied development details for the valuable public land to be used for Google’s campus.

In May 2020, Alphabet Inc. cancelled the Sidewalk Labs initiative due to economic conditions accelerated by the COVID19 pandemic that swept the world.  Admittedly, the pandemic was the final nail but not the only nail in the coffin and came as a great relief to Toronto residents who did not feel they had an adequate voice even though many public town hall meetings were scheduled.

Cities are becoming more dense, more populated and more expensive.  Development projects are driven by active municipal government lobbying and rarely address the concerns of younger people who will live in these dense, urban environments as the population ages. 

A modern urban city skyline

By 2030, 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities based on various studies and more shockingly, 60% of those urban dwellers will be under 18. 

Does it make sense to exclude under-represented groups like young people from the planning process?  We think not. The COVID19 pandemic may also impact these projections as more younger employees are seeking to shift to less urban environments due to affordable accommodations and a new normal which could potentially shift the workforce to a hybrid-model which is a mix of remote and office work.

Minecraft and other tools are changing urban development, design and governance to improve citizen participation and younger people in particular because of shifting tastes including smaller homes, minimalist lifestyles, and greener approaches to urban or rural life that places less emphasis on traditional energy sources, for example.

Minecraft’s Effect on Architecture

CIRCA JUNE 2019: The Bauhaus art school iconic building designed by architect Walter Gropius in 1925

BlockWorks, a design studio in the United Kingdom,  states on its website that it uses Minecraft to create experiences, communities and learning environments.  The company was established in 2013 and has worked with Minecraft for seven years.  

The studio is a global team of architects, animations and other designers and now has 41 builders from 10 countries, between the ages of 14-44.  

James Delaney, Founder and Managing Director for BlockWorks, views the game as a computer-aided design tool that radically simplifies the process of building on the platform.  Real-time collaboration aligns perfectly with the millennial generation used to online sharing of thoughts and ideas similar to other architectural tools.

Here’s a short snippet from James Delaney on Youtube.

BlockWorks has worked on hundreds of projects worldwide with organizations such as museums, galleries, large film studios and advertising agencies.  They’ve also used the game for marketing, media and education.  Batman versus Superman with Warners Bros. is one of several featured projects on their website.

Other leading architectural firms like Bjarke Ingels have suggested that architecture should become gamified.   In other words, it is likely to happen as more and more young people design cities in Minecraft thanks to organizations like the UN’s Block by Block.

Minecraft’s Effect on Gamers Who Become Architects and Interior Designers

To our delight, we discovered that two of the most popular styles in Minecraft’s universe are…are you ready for it?….Modern Architecture and Contemporary Architecture!  Before we get to the why, let’s define the styles.  

You’ve likely seen Contemporary Architecture in homes and buildings.  It’s relevant, current and innovative (smart home, energy efficient, other design efficiencies) with strong minimalist design that represents the home of the future – yet available today.  Modern architecture, from the early 1920’s uses concrete and are simply beautiful!  Located in Murcia, Spain, the Casa Cruzada (Crossed House) is a perfect example.  It was designed by Clavel Arquitectos, from Spain, by lead architect Manuel Clavel Rojo.

The general view is that these two architectural styles simply integrate best with the game because structures are built with blocks and because of this, organizing blocks like floor-to-ceiling windows or sliding doors, cement pillars and other vertical elements auto-magically looks like a modern, real-life home in the game.

For many gamers, it’s a challenge no different to building an enormous puzzle.  Minecraft gamers are finding inspiration beyond the actual survivalist game play, by seeking out real floor plans online to create a replica of the real home using videos, pictures, Youtube and floor plans. What’s more exciting is that these same gamers really don’t have limitations and build something enormously bigger and more ridiculous within the virtual world.  

In the Youtube video called, “Minecraft: How to Build a Large Modern House Tutorial”, the channel has 1.56 million subscribers and over 31 million views!  Posted in 2017, it’s still attracting Youtube comments at time of this writing.  Some users have reportedly held 10-20 hour Youtube or Twitch livestreams as they build architectural masterpieces.

In Minecraft, no one has to be rich to build and own a contemporary or modern home.  We’re still amazed at the massive follower base of some Youtube-based Minecrafters.  

This real-life architect begs for his 166th subscriber on YouTube and since has opened up a Facebook Group, and has 1.89 million subscribers to his channel.  This Youtube highlights their latest modern architectural marvel.  It has over 7.1 million views!

Considering Minecraft for your Home Improvement Plan

With the plethora of iPhone and Android apps which focus on floor plans and interior design, you have options.  Almost all of these apps do not have community elements so you’ll need a lot of inspiration to go it alone.  Of course, there are inspirational platforms like Pinterest and Facebook Groups.  For Pinterest, you’ll get overwhelmed by images and no interaction.  On Facebook, you could get overwhelmed by very active groups that are simply time-consuming. 

If you love your home and your living space, then the popular Minecraft may be just for you. It has likely stolen your heart like many designs and art lovers worldwide and there are many examples, such as living room and design ideas found on Youtube and within the game itself. 

A Mini-Home in the Minecraft game

With the game, you gather resources, explore cave systems, and craft items that help you build and design unique ideas that could be replicated in your home. The game may improve your design skills as you are likely to get inspiration to help create your dream project.  Heck, do you want some blueprints for the game, well Grabcraft is your answer.

Developing Your Modern and Interior Design Style in Minecraft

Minecraft could help you bring modern elements to your own home which is clean, vibrant and energetic. In Minecraft, you can try and build anything and you might even get positive feedback or a following!  

Consider incorporating artwork in any room; a large art piece with minimal or no frame might be a perfect feature either for the kitchen or the living room. The art could depict your lifestyle, and you should not be afraid to use colorful paintings. Expansive walls might need smaller art series, but you might want to avoid a gallery wall arrangement as it would be cluttered and affect the modernist look you could want to achieve.

Neutral walls are a modern minimalist approach to interior design and is drastically different to the embellished styles of Victorian years. Neutral colors include white and grey for either the home interior and exteriors. Neutral colors also help you to incorporate other decorative elements that complement your living space.

Modern interiors designs have simple and clean lines, and you can achieve the desired look on Minecraft. Remember, it’s the most popular style in the game by a wide margin! You can build strong vertical and horizontal lines using modern architectural styles. The choice of furniture and designs would echo the simple lines creating a symmetrical look in the overall house design. You could have cylindrical column designs in your homes that add drama and class to the living space, contrary to the simple lines.

Modern design makes use of concrete, steel, glass, and other beautiful building materials thanks to technological advancement. You could pay homage to modernism but consider the aesthetic of industrial architecture and design. Your home’s finish could be done beautifully using steel, concrete elements, and beautiful colors to transform your home into a clean and minimalist masterpiece.

Modern interior design maintains clutter-free spaces that are efficient and clean for your household. The style supports decluttering of countertops, walls, mantels, and any other visual elements in the house. In Minecraft, the less the accessories, the more spacious and beautiful the house will look.  You could even experiment with storage combinations in the game to hide trinkets and the efficient use of wardrobes and drawers would be a must. 

If you’re brave enough, the use of bold color examples in your modern Minecraft home could be a welcome surprise. Considering walls with neutral colors, you could add accents to the house using brightly colored furniture pieces, rugs, or artwork. You could choose bright colors like blue, red, white, yellow, and black and arrange them to bring out your personality which will add life to the room.

An open concept layout is characteristic of modern homes and interiors, and you have a lot of flexibility here to between an open living room, dining room, and kitchen area. In mid-century modern homes in Palm Springs, ceiling height sliding doors expressed an easy transition from indoor to outdoor natural environments. Open layouts minimize obstructions in the home that restrict the natural flow of family members and your ultimate interior design.  These layouts also improve and introduce natural outdoor lighting because of wide, open spaces and large windows and doors. 

The Minecraft Way to Interior Design in Your Living Room

Many gamers are adopting game principles to practice building their virtual home but there are reports that many have been inspired to carry through their home or interior changes to the real world.  Some have accelerated their “building career” through the use of tools like World Machine and Worldpainter which helps make more realistic terrains.  Want to learn more?  Then head over to the Builder’s Refuge (LOL) which is a specialized server built for Minecraft builders which offer many additional tools and plug-in, including Fast Async World Edit (FAWE), a bulkediting device.  As well, tools like GoPaint and Arceon can be used to create smoother shapes and outlines.  

It seems that gamers have expanded their horizons from a peculiar interest to more serious activity as they aim for loftier goals beyond a pixelated universe. Minecraft is a sandbox video game since the gameplay gives you, the player, a great degree of creativity to complete tasks toward a goal and you can build anything you want to.  That’s what makes it interesting and engaging.  Some users have become famous in the real world because of it, turning hobbies into artistic form, and even transferring the knowledge and virtual blueprints into real-life home renovations.  Others have become social media famous, monetizing their Youtube channels, with advertising as their viewers and subscribers increase.  

Consider your living room the main space in the home where many family or social activities take place.  As we said, in Minecraft you can do anything and visualize it in 3D and make changes in real-time in an easy and fun way.  So consider living rooms as the center of life, where life-long memories are created, and consider design cues such as harmony, organization and space.  

Consider the functional layout and furniture plan that suits a modern interior home.  Large, open layout and space, refined furniture with clean lines or bold, bright colors.  Consider frameless paintings on some walls and flat-screen TV screens on others in your living room.  Don’t stop there! 

Involve your family in the planning phases like Block by Block; ask younger children for ideas on color, fabric, or furniture in a real democratic way that is inclusive to the opinions of the family.  Is there really any other game out there that could involve the entire family in the design of your home?  It’s probably not as fun as this!

Don’t forget lighting elements. Natural light thanks to large sliding doors and windows will bring in the natural environment but you should complement it with great lamps and overhead lighting.  You won’t need to overdo it as much because of the support from the natural environment.  Consider high and low lighting for the sculptural notes that will bring the living room to life.  Chandeliers can bring a strong lighting effect to the room but also act as art independently; especially, if you consider vintage or retro models that add some glam and sass reminiscent of 1950s and 1960s mid-century style.

You could add accessories such as room rugs and different table styles to your Mincecraft living room. Adding a large rug will make the room appear more extensive and enclose the furniture, like an island, with furniture legs on the rug.

Your Minecraft designed coffee table should be a focal point of your living room space. For this reason, it could help to choose tables that are timeless and have strong lines.

The Minecraft Way to Kitchen Design

You could discover inspirations on Minecraft on how to remodel and upgrade the kitchen, increase storage and organization. Before you decide on kitchen designs, you should incorporate other elements to make the kitchen functional. The kitchen area should have reduced traffic by considering a mudroom that controls the kitchen area’s to high traffic. The kitchen pathway should also be clear and free and should not be designed with obstructions to other vital features like the oven or refrigerator.

The distance between your Minecraft fixtures should be comfortable and support a functional kitchen space. A kitchen is mainly used for preparation, serving, and cleaning up after meals. The sink design should be strategic in relation to the stove/oven and storage cabinets. The position of these elements should not complicate your kitchen tasks.

The kitchen island, where most of your food preparation is done, should be carefully centered to avoid blocking access to major kitchen appliances. There should be enough room for door appliances to swing freely. The kitchen island should be within reasonable arm’s reach of other fixtures.

Your kitchen should have maximum storage capability, and you can achieve this using vertical storage.  Vertical storage is the new craze as younger millennials are faced with smaller spaces in large urban areas.   The typical condo in some real estate markets is only 600 square feet in size!

In a 600 square foot condo, millennials have used these hacks to make up for the small space. They’ve considered light-colored furniture and other accessories.  For example, a white sofa with lacquered white for wood elements, including light color rugs help to make a space feel bigger than it really is.  The use of clear ornaments and large windows and window coverings allow for more natural light to come into a small space.

In your Minecraft creation, play around with cabinet and drawer storage by conveniently adding them to the wall.  Your storage could incorporate pantry storage.  Another neat hack is to neatly tuck small, seldom used appliances in storage areas to save space. It could help if you incorporated wall hooks and overhead pot racks as they add dimension and make the entire space beautiful and organized.

Think how helpful it could be to share these kitchen designers with home renovators by providing a three-dimensional example of what you’d like to place to look like without getting into blueprints and measurements.  Let the professionals worry about that.  So use the game to save on costly mistakes and create kitchen floor plans, fixtures, cabinets and see how things turn out.  Involve your spouse and the children and make it fun.

Designing your Minecraft Bathroom

Re-designing a bathroom in real life is a major commitment.  So it makes sense to experiment a little in Minecraft while reviewing magazines and online videos for some design inspiration.

You should consider bathroom sustainability and use eco-friendly materials to personal preferences. Traditional white bathrooms are common again or you can choose a vintage style. A vintage style could echo the flair of the early 1900s but you can upgrade it to ooze with functionality by incorporating modern conveniences and technologies. Consider outlined segments and mosaic patterns using the resources available in the game.

You could also add aesthetic value to your bathroom by importing other decorative items from different rooms in the house. They could include drawers, holders, benches, ornamental mirrors, lanterns, art, paintings, or statement wall coverings. These items add functionality to your bathroom space but ooze with class and sophistication.

Minecraft: The Bottom Line

To our surprise, Minecraft has become more than a game. It’s become a design experience for younger children, for communities, for architects and designers, and even families to build equitable public spaces and homes that cater to every preference in a democratic way.  All because a 3D experience helps the mind visualize the results of your real-time collaboration.

The game is a haven for contemporary and modern architectural styles and while cannot claim any evidence of its impact, it isn’t surprising to see more and more luxury and residential homes adopt style elements in renovation projects.  

Thanks to Minecraft, the world home is your oyster.