Arts and Entertainment

Bot Nation: How Minecraft is Connecting Students amidst COVID-19

2020-04-15_17.32.05

The swimming pool of UHS as depicted in Minecraft (Kyler Chin).

By NIMA MOVAHEDI
Staff Writer

Minecraft. Minecraft is arguably the most impactful game of the 21st century; ten years after its release, this game remains extremely popular and influential in modern society, with over 112 million players on the game every month. However, throughout its long lifespan, Minecraft has evolved from a simple single player mode from launch, to a diverse and creative multiplayer environment, connecting millions on many unique servers. 

So came the idea to create a Minecraft server for students in University High School to play in together. In the summer of 2019, junior Arne Noori and senior Anshay Saboo created Bot Nation 1.0. On this Minecraft server, dozens of UHS students joined and made their own bases. At its peak, the server even boasted numerous battle royale maps, with plans to create a map of University High School. However, as time passed and the end of summer neared, player activity began to decline from the server and interest in building the high school led to the project getting scrapped. 

Fast forward to March 13th: the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the United States and has forced many school districts across the nation to begin to shut down. After being texted by numerous associates about the upcoming three week quarantine due to COVID-19 health concerns, Noori and Saboo decided to recreate Bot Nation. 

“After hearing about IUSD’s quarantine announcement, we realized we had to do something for the Uni community,” Noori said.

Starting up the old Bot Nation server, Noori and Saboo began planning on how to make their server different from others. 

“We wanted our server to be unique and have stuff outside of vanilla (default) Minecraft…so we went ahead and installed various plugins to make the server more fun” Saboo said. These plugins would later become consequential to Bot Nation’s growth, as the new features kept the server fresh and fun to play on.

Now, with a semi-completed server, Noori and Saboo needed to get the message out that they were open for business. Looking to old friends, Noori contacted UHS AP Memes, a large Instagram meme page about UHS school life, in hopes of getting some publicity for Bot Nation. 

“They (UHS AP Memes) previously gave Bot Nation 1.0 a shout-out over the summer, and through their kindness this time, we were able to gain numerous members on both our Minecraft and Discord server” Noori said. 

With traction, the server began expanding, from a few founder players to eventually over a hundred. New players who joined began making intricate bases, going on long quests and fighting dangerous enemy mobs together. Thus, a community of Uni students came to fruition.

“I think the community makes the Bot Nation unique because everyone is really friendly with each other and plays in a very wholesome environment,” Noori said. 

As Bot Nation’s atmosphere has evolved from being a unique survival world to a social outlet, many quarantined students took to Minecraft. 

“Going into quarantine was really hard…I really missed my friends and the school community. But Bot Nation filled that gap, giving me back a taste of the community that is so cherished at Uni” junior Henry Feuerborn said. 

However, the survival world or social networking platform is not what made Bot Nation well-known to almost every UHS student. It was the recreation of the school. While only an idea in the first Bot Nation server, with near endless time and numerous players to contribute during quarantine, Noori and Saboo decided the time was now to build University High School in Minecraft. 

With over a dozen active builders and many more contributing players, the map of Uni in Minecraft is currently near completion. Taking a little over a month, the builders on Bot Nation have been able to transform a flat plane into the well known high school all UHS students have been unable to see in weeks. More info about the construction process and details of the Uni build can be found here.

Currently, most classrooms are completely furnished, and large school icons like the Big Theater, Stadium and Gym have been built with extreme accuracy to their real life counterparts. 

Although there were initial plans to make the UHS map into a battle royale field, such plans have faded away as players enjoy observing the map and roaming through their classes in Minecraft. “The Uni map is extremely detailed, with Easter eggs and true to scale representations of all the classrooms… it is incredible to see what a team effort can do in hard times” said junior Kyler Chin. Chin, one of the most active players and builders on Bot Nation, has had a strong connection to the server since the start of social distancing. To him, Bot Nation “has been a getaway location from reality during the new normal of lock-downs and 24/7 news about the pandemic.”

In addition to serving as a virtual museum for current students to see their high school, Bot Nation’s University High School map may soon be used to introduce incoming 8th graders to UHS’s campus. During normal school years, UHS hosts an 8th grade family night for future freshmen and parents about the school and its activities. Since COVID-19 has canceled all gatherings, UHS’s administration has begun looking into possibly using Bot Nation’s map as a substitute. 

“We’re currently talking to Mr. Pate, a Vice-Principal of UHS, to use our map to host 8th grade parent night,” Noori said. As the virtual family night day nears closer, the server staff remain hopeful that their work may be used to help the school during these troubling times.

Unfortunately though, attendance on Bot Nation has drastically dropped in the past two weeks. Ever since the end of Spring Break, Bot Nation’s server is usually void of players; whereas previously, the server may be filled with over 20 players on any given night. Despite this, hope is not lost. Unlike Bot Nation 1.0, Noori has a plan to once again revive Bot Nation and repopulate the empty worlds. 

His plan? Make a Bot Nation, except for the third time. Yes, just like the saying goes, if Bot Nation 1.0 and 2.0 was so good, why not make a Bot Nation 3.0? And through that, new plans have been organized to shift from the current Bot Nation 2.0 to a new Bot Nation 3.0. In this new server, like the last one, everything (but the existing Uni map) will be wiped, meaning players will have to work for their equipment again. 

However, unlike Bot Nation 1.0 & 2.0, this new server will be a world with the exact geographic terrain as the real world.

“We are going to use a realistic world map plugin where players will be able to take over nations and lead them…similar to other school activities like Model UN,” Noori said, with a joking reference to his favorite club. 

Although the upcoming Bot Nation 3.0 will not be a 1:1 scale recreation of Earth, players will know where they are traveling on Earth. 

“There will be seven kingdoms under the ownership of different factions. This will be a unique experience rather than the typical Minecraft” described Saboo. 

As the Bot Nation staff continue their work on UHS and their new server, only more time in quarantine can show whether Bot Nation will be able to survive and continue providing a community for isolated students during a year of social distancing.

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