Earlier this week the CIOB (Chartered Institute of Building) launched a competition to build some of the world's most striking and iconic buildings in Minecraft. Open to anyone with an interest in construction, from those working in the industry to children and gaming enthusiasts, the competition is to create the most realistic building choosing from a selection of landmark constructions including the Shard, Beiijing's CCTV headquarters, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Sydney Opera House and the Houses of Parliament.
Using Minecraft as a platform to reach out to an audience is no new idea. Many real-life organisations have created maps in Minecraft including Ordnance Survey and the Danish government and last year it was announced that the British museum was to be digitally recreated, brick by brick, using Minecraft, as part of a Museum of the Future scheme. A message was put out inviting the public to join in which was met with an extremely enthusiastic response.
So why use Minecraft as a draw and why is it proving so popular? It's certainly a keen strategy to introduce yourself and your work to a wider audience as it's both inclusive and engaging. Particularly relevant to our industry, it also speaks to a younger generation who otherwise might not be that interested in town planning and how a building is constructed.
It's been argued that Minecraft is educational as it develops a child's mathematical, spatial and analytical abilities and, of course, encourages creativity. It certainly provides children with the opportunity to express themselves through grand (and not so grand) designs. They can embrace the role of the architect and build pretty much anything they want.
Last year, Minecraft was sold to Microsoft for £1.5bn, which pretty much summarises the power of this online phenomenon. So what's driving it? A game of imagination and open-ended play, for Minecraft users, the possibilities are limitless. Appealing to kids as young as four or five, there is no upper age limit and it's pretty much inclusive to everyone.
Created by a lone Swedish programmer, Markus Persson, and enjoyed by over 50 million players worldwide, Minecraft allows the user to build anything they like in their own village out of blocks including a shelter for when night falls on the village and tools to provide some protection against the various spiders and zombies that come out at night.
If you take away the night critters and monsters, it's Lego for the digital generation. Everything has to be made from blocks.
Minecraft's tentacles reach offline too. There are books and instruction manuals on how to build Minecraft - some of which have made the bestseller list. Besides that, if you want immediate engagement, there is a multitude of tutorials available on Youtube. Not only can you build Minecraft, you can watch endless footage of other people building Minecraft - some of whom have got major online followings.
Director at the CIOB, Saleem Akram, was quoted earlier this week as saying that many of the individuals playing Minecraft "are showcasing amazing digital construction skills." If a proportion of those can be drawn into our industry via this game, that makes it a pretty attractive, not to mention cost-effective, recruitment tool.
Minecraft, we salute you, long may you reign.
For further details of the CIOB Minecraft competition - http://www.ciob.org/media-centre/news/how-closely-can-you-replicate-shard-or-sydney-opera-house-minecraft