In conjunction with the UK Environment Agency, Microsoft has launched a new mode of Minecraft: Educational Edition. Known as ‘rivercraft‘, the mode is designed to teach students about the impact of climate change-induced flooding on local communities.
RiverCraft focuses on the £54.7m flood defense scheme currently being built in Preston, a combination of flood walls, glass panels and embankments designed to reduce the risk of flooding for nearly 5,000 homes in the area.
The mode contains three different games, each of which focuses on a different area of combating climate change-induced floods. “Managing Flooding” sees players build their own version of Preston’s flood defences, before flooding the area to measure their success. “Flood Prevention” sees players exploring how individuals can help alleviate climate change. Finally, “Our Local Environment” involves conducting an in-game ecological survey to locate and record local wildlife species.
The mode was built on behalf of the Environment Agency by BlockBuilders, a Brighton-based company that specializes in building Minecraft worlds for educational purposes. “We took Preston’s 3D data, which is freely available online, and turned it into a Minecraft world,” said Megan Leckie, co-founder of Blockbuilders, said to Microsoft. “But this data creates generic buildings, so we collected screenshots and images of Preston and added detail to the structures to replicate what they look like in real life.”
Flooding is a growing problem in Preston and the county of Lancashire, with severe flooding occurring in 2015 and 2020. The former flood affected 2,500 homes and caused damage estimated at £1.3bn. About RiverCraft, Minecraft’s director of learning programs Justin Edwards said the mode is “at the forefront” of Microsoft’s vision of “making a better world through the power of play”.