By KRISHNA KHAWANI
March 13, 2020 marked a momentous day for students in Irvine Unified School District (IUSD), for it was the day that the district announced the switch to Emergency Distance Learning (EDL). Many expected this decision, as the district followed the precedent set by a variety of other school districts and new state guidelines set by CA Governor Gavin Newsom. But the IUSD officials were not the only ones who made a decision that day. Students at UHS were all faced with the choice of what to do during this newfound quarantine, and some had more intriguing ideas than others.
The announcement of the closure came at 1:10 P.M., and not three minutes later, junior Arne Noori created what is now known as Bot Nation 2.0, a Minecraft server that has grown to over 100 members, and a scale replica of University High School, all built by those members.
“This was definitely something in the spur of the moment. I immediately rushed to my computer to create the server during 5th period, just to be the first person to do so. The server was up and running at that time technically, but we didn’t actually pick up momentum until the following day,” Noori explains.
Alongside Noori was senior Anshay Saboo, the co-founder of Bot Nation 2.0 who was also in the 5th period class when the server was made. The two had previously been part of the original Bot Nation, a server that was created over summer with many of the same intentions. For the two of them, it only seemed fit to revamp the server in order to deal with the newfound quarantine crisis.
The goal of any Minecraft server is to bring people together, to keep them in contact and give the members something to do to pass the time. EDL provided the perfect situation for this server to be utilized to its full potential, but Noori and Saboo had even bigger plans for the server. When the announcement came that IUSD closure would be extended, Bot Nation 2.0 began to expand and embarked on a massive project: building a to-scale replica of University High School.
“We initially began working on the Uni map during the summer, but that never went anywhere. With having more time during quarantine, and especially the announcement that we would not be coming back to school for the rest of the school year, we knew we had to finally build our school on Minecraft,” explains Saboo.
The task would not be an easy one, and without sufficient manpower, the server would be unable to complete its ultimate goal. In order to get this, Noori and Saboo began to spread the word, not only through word of mouth but also through social media. The two contacted the UHS AP Memes Instagram account which helped to publicize the server. A Discord server was also created in order to organize new members and make sure players were able to communicate with one another. The biggest source of publicity, however, came from another school Instagram, when the Minecraft school was in its early stages of being built.
“Uni Theater Arts posted a sneak peak of the build, and showcased the theater exterior that we had completed. From there we had a major influx of builders, who then brought on many of their friends, and the project just grew from there,” says Noori.
As membership increased, UHS began to take tangible shape on the server, with the builders working countless hours to make sure the school was as accurate as possible. Bot Nation 2.0 members used reference pictures, and a couple members even went on campus to take reference photos. In order to make sure the proportions were correct, satellite images were also used to ensure that everything felt real for any possible visitors. Once the initial frame of the school was built, members were delegated to specific rooms to decorate them exactly like they are in real life. Some of the first rooms to be built were those belonging to Mr. Mark Michalak, Mr. Josh Davis, Ms. Shannon Bunch, Ms. Barbara Kurdziel, and Mr. Nick Brighton. Members took other jobs across campus related to their activities at school, for example, seniors Madison Beltran and Kian Manafi, and juniors Henry Feuerborn and Elliot Welsh taking the theater, or sophomore Cyrus Mirsafian working on both gyms, the weight room, and the entirety of the pool, arguably one of the most impressive and accurate feats on the server.
But it’s not just the structures that are an impressive part of Bot Nation 2.0. An even bigger aspect is the sense of community between all of the students. Throughout the server, players follow the golden rule, and treat every interaction with respect, helping many of the members maintain contact with people that they would otherwise not hear from.
“For a Minecraft server, we’ve had a surprising amount of stability and growth, yet everyone respects each other not only through the builds but also through their interactions. It really shows how special the server is,” explained Feuerborn.
With the UHS campus close to completion, and word having spread to students across UHS, Bot Nation 2.0 has big plans for the future. While many have joked about the possibility of a virtual graduation or prom, these kinds of online events may become a reality. Currently, the Bot Nation 2.0 administrators are in contact with Mr. Pate to discuss the possibility of using the server to host 8th Grade Parent Night, so be on the lookout for more news!
If you are interested in joining Bot Nation 2.0 use the server ID: botnation.mcserver.us, and upon entering the server, type /warp uni to arrive on campus. To join the Discord, use the link: https://discord.gg/vJRXczs.