The Uncensored Library

A special library in Minecraft to defend press freedom

A special library in Minecraft to defend press freedom

"In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands, a new spirit...” (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

Most of us only know Minecraft as a mainstream videogame but not so many people know it can be a useful plaftorm to share powerful messages and stories. In early March 2020, so, most people have been surprised when Reporters Without Borders (RSF) opened within Minecraft a special type of library, that could reach million of people around the World. Even those living in countries where freedom of speech is censored, where bloggers and journalists are banned or jailed, or even killed for their work. So “The Uncensored Library” was born, a safe place on an open server for Minecraft players around the globe to read articles that were censored in their country of origin, now available within Minecraft for everyone to read but with noone able to edit or cancel the content. 

We had a chance to interview Tobias Natterer (Senior Creative DDB), one of the minds responsible for this project to discuss about this story. He is a senior creative concepter and it is his job to create ideas and campaigns that attrackt attention by being “different”: "I like to use creativity to create awareness for good causes and help NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and their fight against press censorship. I believe we actually made a difference with this project and created a lot of awareness for an important issue and that is a good feeling. The creative concept was developed and executed by a team under the creative direction of Patrik Lenhart". 

So many people in Italy know RSF mostly because of its Barometer, monitoring each and every year the number of journalists, media workers and citizen journalists killed or imprisoned, and because it publishes an annual press freedom survey, the World Press Freedom Index, that measures the state of media freedom in 180 countries. However, this new initiative has been a surprise anyways because the idea to use a videogame as Minecraft for this project was not so expected. It was born because the team "wanted to reach a younger audience and teach them about the importance of press freedom. They are in particular vulnerable to government disinformation campaigns and manipulation and need to be provided with independent information to form their own opinions. So Minecraft was the perfect platform for this since it has a huge community of young players and also provides the creativity and flexibility needed for this project".

This was not, however, an easy job. It took over 3 months to put together the over 12.5 million blocks the library is made of. And it was important to find a way to use the mechanics of a videogame for more "serious" pourposes. "The fascination of Minecraft is an open world, that gives you a feeling of unlimited freedom and the ability to create unimaginable things out of blocks. We used the creative potential of this game to bring censored articles back into oppressive countries. In a way Minecraft is unique that way by offering unlimited creative possibilities in combination with a large community. Concepting and building the library definitely was a challenge but Minecraft also offers many ways of customizing the game experience such as texture packs (custom made designs for blocks and items).   

The Uncensored Library now living in Minecraft has been realized because several people, more than 20, worked together for a common goal: "It was a beautiful experience to see how people from 16 countries came together to work on this library and using a computer game to express their creativity. BlockWorks shows impressively what computer game communities are capable of." About this topic, James Delaney, Managing Director BlockWorks, Creators of The Uncensored Library, said that "As a multiplayer game Minecraft allows multiple people from all over the world to work together on the same project whilst being in the same virtual space. By bringing people from different cultures and different countries together, Minecraft offers a unique and valuable collaborative design process.”

In the age of the Internet not to find information online seems quite unlikely but it happens more often than anyone of us would expect. All of us, however, "can help by spreading the word about this library and share it on your social media channels, so more young people get to know about it and come to the 1.14.4 Minecraft server: Or download the 1.14.4 Minecraft map on our website and invite your friends".