Minecraft recreation of Robert Burns' farm launches for mobile phones

The game, created by students and academics at the University of Glasgow. allows users to explore the Bard's 18th century farm.

Minecraft recreation of the farm where Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne launches for mobile phones Martin Shields

A Minecraft recreation of the farm where Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne has been launched for mobile phones.

A new version of Explore Ellisland! created by students and academics at the University of Glasgow allows many more users to explore the 18th century farm and interact with Burns and his family.

An educational version of the game is also being released for use in schools, just in time for the Bard’s birthday on January 25.

The game recreates the 1788 farm – which still stands of the banks of the River Nith – in the world’s most popular computer game. Minecraft has nearly 140 million monthly active users around the world.

Players of Explore Ellisland! can hear an exclusive recorded version of Auld Lang Syne by the singer Emily Smith and also listen to the epic poem Tam o Shanter, which was written at Ellisland, the best preserved of all Burns’ homes and the only one he built himself.

The project is a partnership between the University, Robert Burns Ellisland Trust which runs Ellisland Museum and Farm, and The South of Scotland Destination Alliance (SSDA), the connection with the University’s Games and Gaming Lab being made by Interface Online.

It was funded through the Scottish Government’s Tourism Leadership & Recovery Fund to support business and community-led tourism enterprises taking the lead in the sector’s Covid-19 recovery. It was designed to encourage more visitors to the farmhouse museum in Dumfriesshire.

New version of the game unveiled allows users to explore Robert Burns' farm

The PC version of the game, launched in 2022, was shortlisted in last year’s Knowledge Exchange Awards’ ‘Innovation of the Year’ and Scottish Games Awards’ ‘Best Educational Programme’. All three versions can now be downloaded from the Robert Burns Ellisland Farm website by anyone with Minecraft enabled on their device.

It was built by students in the University’s Minecraft Society and academics from its Games and Gaming Lab. The students worked hard to create the new versions of the game which are coded in a different computer language.

Bailey Hodgson, the Minecraft Society’s president and one of its founders, who has been playing Minecraft for a decade, said: “These new versions will make the game more accessible to many more people ahead of Burns night. We were delighted with the success of the PC game and have had so many expressions of interest – it even features in some university courses.” 

The Minecraft Ellisland project was led by Dr Timothy Peacock and Dr Matthew Barr from the University’s Game and Gaming Lab – a cross-disciplinary lab – based in the University’s College of Arts and Humanities – on how games and gaming can be used in research and teaching.

Dr Peacock, lab director and a lecturer in History, based at the University’s School of Humanities | Sgoil nan Daonnachdan, said: “The success of Minecraft Ellisland has led to our being approached about similar projects. We are delighted with the interest in it, and in the opportunities provided to find new collaborative ways of exploring heritage through research-led gaming.”

Joan McAlpine, project director of the Robert Burns Ellisland Trust said: “Our visitor numbers increased last year and the publicity surrounding the Minecraft Ellisland game definitely helped.

“The game is a very rich experience, using Scots language and several of Burns’s poems. It reaches out to a different generation and modernises the understanding of Burns and the time he lived.

“The mobile and education version of the game will help us reach many more young people.”

Sarah Macdonald of the South of Scotland Destination Alliance said: “The mobile version of Explore Ellisland! in Minecraft will help us in our quest to raise the profile of Burns in Dumfries and Nithsdale and reach even more potential visitors to South Scotland.

“We hope that children and young people who play the game will encourage their parents to visit the heritage site in real life and in 2024 many more of them will be able to access it. With 140 million players a month worldwide, the potential is enormous.”

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