- Students at the University of Pennsylvania recreated their campus on “Minecraft” after COVID-19 ended their semester early.
- On Friday, the annual Penn Relays, the oldest track event in the US, was held in “Minecraft.”
- The event was sponsored by the US Marines, and participants competed in four different courses.
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The Penn Relays are the largest and oldest track and field event in the US, taking place every year since 1895. This year was quite different from past relays: it took place inside the video game “Minecraft.”
A group of UPenn students set up a “Minecraft” server and coordinated recreating the campus together over the last two weeks of March. Since then, they have made plans to host spring traditions in the server, and one of the moderators told Business Insider that hosting the Penn Relays in some form was a major goal for the creators of the campus, who call themselves Penncraft.
The block-building game “Minecraft,” which Microsoft bought in 2014 for $US2.5 billion, has been one of the most popular games worldwide over the last 10 years. As of September, it had a staggering 112 million active players every month, a number that has reportedly grown to 145 million.
Here’s what the event was like.
April 24 was what would have been the second of three days for the Penn Relays of 2020. Instead esports organisation Gen.G and the US Marine Corps sponsored the event in “Minecraft.”
The organisations really made it feel like a real sporting event, with a pre-show and breaks for commentators to discuss strategy and teams who would be competing.
Penn Athletics Director Grace Calhoun even dropped by to talk the races.
While races took place in “Minecraft,” spectators could watch and discuss in Twitch, where it was livestreamed from 12-5 p.m.
Instead of typical track and field relay events, runners competed in races that would only be possible in “Minecraft.”
The first race was the most like real-life track, with a hurdles course.
Next, competitors raced through an ice course.
Teams rowed tiny boats through the icy water.
Ice seemed to make controlling the boat extra difficult.
The lava course was tricky for most teams.
Runners had to jump from block to block, avoiding landing in lava.
Penn student Andrew Guo, one of the moderators of the server and the one who first came up with the idea for the project, was a commentator for the first relay.
The final course was the Marine course.
Participants climbed blocks and jumped between them.
Each course had different challenges, with different teams pulling ahead at different times.
After each set of relays, times were totaled and winners were declared.
Members of the Penn community were allowed to apply to participate through a Google form, whether as an athlete who would have run in the real event, or just as a fan.