Cairngorms’ landscape recreated in video game Minecraft

Players can explore, interact with and modify a dynamically-generated map of the tourist spot.

The Cairngorms’ landscape has been re-created on Minecraft to help young people understand how to run a national park and build a new community.

Minecraft is a hugely popular game where players of all ages build, mine and explore ever-changing landscapes.

The game focuses on allowing players to explore, interact with and modify a dynamically-generated or purposefully designed map made up on one-cubic-metre-sized blocks.

Dan Harris, planning manager at the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has re-created the Cairngorms National Park without its buildings in Minecraft using open data from Ordnance Survey and Forest and Land Scotland.

It has taken Dan three months to create the online Cairngorms Minecraft map, which he did so in his spare time.

Explaining the inspiration behind the idea Dan said: “We know young people care passionately about the environment and we felt that by using a platform such as Minecraft, we could demonstrate how planning & development management has a hugely important role in tackling the climate emergency and caring for our environment.

“Using an online platform also means that we can deliver this youth engagement programme without having to worry about Covid-19 restrictions.

“Minecraft is extremely popular and while playing normally, there are no limits to your imagination, but the Youth Action Team – who are road testing the project for us at the moment – are asked to consider how they can build their communities while meeting the aims of the National Park.

“This means they have to start thinking about what policy making means and they will be able to see within the game what effect those policies will have.

“They need to consider whether or not they want to allocate land, apply design principles and so on, or simply take a more laissez-faire approach.”

Players are ‘dropped’ into the Cairngorms National Park and given the mission to collaboratively create a community that represents the sort of place they would like to live in.

In order to cut down on chaos and to encourage collaboration, players are asked to take on specific roles at the beginning of the game, for example builder, lumberjack or farmer.

Ellie Moore, a member of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team, said: “This has been a really great project to be involved with, finding out more about how planners work and the process that they go through – we’ve been able to learn and experience these things in an interactive, first-hand kind of way.

“It’s also been really fun wandering around the Park map in Minecraft and recognising real life landmarks.”

The CNPA Planning Committee Convener, Gaener Rodger commented: “Members of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team have been invited to a future CNPA Planning Committee meeting to discuss their experience of the Cairngorms Minecraft project. Having used Minecraft myself, I am really excited about having a Cairngorms Minecraft world and am looking forward to seeing the communities that our CYAT members have built.”