Old Dorm Block (s): Building Reed in Minecraft

I’m walking across the Great Lawn and see Eliot Hall in all its glory. It’s a lovely spring afternoon and I have nowhere to be, no one to answer to. As I pass the flagpole, I hear an ominous noise… wait, is that… could it be… Subwoofer Lullaby by C418 from the Minecraft soundtrack? No… I walk into the pristine Eliot Hall and, lo and behold, it is empty inside. Nothing but the sight of the paved stone block floor. 

Then, I receive a message: ‘Doyle_Owl joined the game.’ Doyle_Owl is Christopher Bruns ‘86, who created a server to build a model of the Reed campus in Minecraft, inspired by other colleges like Cornell and University of Washington.

Bruns began the project in March 2021 after joining the campus project of his graduate school, Cornell University, and seeing “what a beautiful job they had done.” He searched online to see if there was a similar project for Reed, and there wasn’t, so he decided to create one using his expertise in geographic information systems and 3D modeling.

So far, the exteriors of Eliot Hall, ODB, the Biology & Physics building, Chittick, and MacNaughton, as well as the entirety of Russian House, have been completed. Several other buildings are in progress and many iconic features of the campus, such as the bridges, are finished. Many details of  Minecraft Reed remain faithful to its real counterpart, such as the presence of ducks. When I interviewed Bruns after our encounter, he noted that one of his favorite parts of the project was “turn[ing] the regular Minecraft chickens into ducks.” Other fun details include a localized weather mod, “so if it’s raining in Portland, Oregon, it’s raining in the Reed world in Minecraft.” 

He discussed the challenges of adapting Reed to Minecraft, describing a neat work-around for the lack of bicycles in Minecraft that are so present in real Reed: “There are no bicycles in Minecraft, but there are bike racks around. And so, on one of the bike racks in the breezeway between biology and physics, I put a horse on there, tethered to the bike rack and I named him Schwinn. Sort of like there aren’t bicycles, but maybe horses exist in Minecraft and they’re kind of cool in some ways. […] It’s ridiculous, but sort of fun and funny in a way.” In the future, Bruns hopes to put more historical characters in the world. The world currently has an NPC of A.E. Doyle. He also hopes to add NPCs of the main builders who have contributed to the project. 

Although Bruns has a penchant for details, his favorite aspect of the project is ultimately “seeing other people come in and enjoy building something beautiful. […] There’s this other universe that we travel to together. We recognize the landmarks that are related to a real-world place, but it’s also this separate parallel universe place of our own. And we build cool things there and […] genuinely admire each other’s work and that kind of social experience is beautiful wherever you have it.”

Anyone can join the server at any time by adding the server lovereed.my.pebble.host in Minecraft. If you’d like to help build on the Reed Minecraft server, fill out the survey at tinyurl.com/reedcraft. There is also a monthly Zoom session every third Thursday of the month. The next one is on April 21st at 5 pm.

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