By Pearse Anderson for

The day before University of Pennsylvania students were told that their college commencement would be held online, junior Andrew Guo thought of an alternative to holding the address over Zoom. Students could have a “Hey Day” and graduation inside Minecraft, just as a Japanese elementary school had organized days earlier.

Quickly, “Penncraft” students began to recreate dormitories, food trucks, and local sculptures in-game. Makarios Chung, an early builder, measured buildings’ dimensions and streets positions constantly to ensure their scale was as accurate as possible. The first day of building, students took an hour to decide the placement of one street. Their main goal was to have a completed campus, specifically Locust Street, for graduating seniors to walk down in-game now that COVID-19 ensured they wouldn’t return to campus and complete this UPenn tradition.

“I’m the first in my family to graduate from college so it wasn’t just my commencement, it was for the rest of my family too,” senior Nyazia Sajdah-Bey says. She left campus suddenly, and is now helping rebuild it in Minecraft, days after departure. “I didn’t have the chance to properly mourn or, finish out my senior bucket list, say goodbye to my friends and teachers,” she says. “I’m still trying to process that loss. So it’s really sweet working on the campus. It’s making the process of leaving feel less sudden and more gradual.” Guo, Chung, and Sajdah-Bey are a few of the hundreds of college students on similar paths of departing and virtually rebuilding.

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