Minecraft players given free rein to build up, tear down Ottawa
'We're one of the first in Canada to do this'
In the real life version of Ottawa, Parliament Hill looms over the downtown, the Rideau Canal bisects the city, and the Senators take to the Canadian Tire Centre ice way out in Kanata.
In Minecraft Ottawa, none of that's set in stone.
The recently-unveiled GeoOttaWow lets Minecraft players explore and refashion Ottawa's streets, houses, train tracks, as well as major buildings like Parliament Hill and City Hall.
"I think we're one of the first in Canada to do this, so that's a good thing," said Coun. Rick Chiarelli, chair of the city's information technology sub-committee, on CBC Ottawa's All In a Day Friday afternoon.
For those unfamiliar with how the game works, Minecraft lets players dig (mine) and build (craft) nearly anything they want using Lego-like blocks and bricks.
The game — which has no levels to complete or mandatory objectives to accomplish — has proven immensely popular. In 2014, its Swedish designers Mojang were bought by technology giant Microsoft for $2.5 billion.
GeoOttaWow came about after a staff member took the city's open data and uploaded it over the holidays, said Charles Duffett, the city's chief information officer.
Duffett told All In A Day host Alan Neal that the freedom of being able to shape the nation's capital to your liking gets people — especially young people — invested in the future of their city.
Game teaches 'principles of civil planning'
"Now you have kids who are experimenting with basic principles of municipal planning. So if they think, for instance, that an outdoor stadium should be somewhere, they can build one — and then they can look at what impact it would have on that area, and what the concerns would be," said Duffett.
"They may discover they're learning some principles of civil planning."
Other places in the real world have made themselves available on Minecraft, perhaps most notably the entire country of Denmark, which can be torn down and built back up according to players' whims and desires.
According to Chiarelli, in one important way, the Minecraft version of Ottawa is even better than the real thing.
"It also shows all the streets plowed."