Since last spring, 20-year-old James Brodowski has spent hours designing and building the streets of his hometown, Cranford, on the popular video game Minecraft.
He is among more than 1,100 players who have joined together to re-create the Garden State inside the game, every jug-handle and pothole between Cape May and Jersey City.
“New Jersey feels very unique in terms of architecture and road layout. It’s pretty cool to see that represented in a video game... you can (build), for example, Route 22 and a jug-handle and you’ll immediately know that nowhere else has roads that look like that even though it’s a game made out of blocks,” said Brodowski, a student a Monmouth University.
The project began last spring, toward the start of the coronavirus lockdown, after well-known gamer and Seattle Youtuber PippenFTS started a website to facilitate the building of a life-size recreation of Earth in Minecraft on a 1:1 scale. He released modifications for the game that would allow users to construct at heights higher than normally permitted in the game.
Build teams representing different states and countries started to form. New Jersey’s team is the second-largest out of the 90 that have been created, with members communicating and strategizing on a Discord server. More scenes from what they’ve been created can be seen online.
Even with so many members pitching in, it’s no easy feat, says Anthony Mauceri.
The 20-year-old Stevens Institute of Technology student, who has built a few blocks in Hoboken and his campus, said getting the details right can be a difficult, “trial and error” task.
In the game, users can type in the coordinates of specific area in New Jersey on Google Maps to begin constructing in that spot, Mauceri said. The welcome challenge, he says, is matching the texture and color of buildings, roadways and the environment using the 256 different types of blocks available in the game to build with.
“Even though that might sound like a lot, when you consider all the different colors and all the different textures that items have in the real world, it’s actually quite limiting,” he said. “We’re limited with the tools that we have, which is part of what makes this project fun because you have to think a little bit out of the box. It takes a lot of creativity to make it as accurate as you can, but it’s fun.”
Mauceri, like most others, uses Google Maps and its street view and 3-D satellite view features as a reference when designing. But some roads and alleyways aren’t viewable online, so members will drive or ride bikes to those spots to take photos, he said.
One of Brodowski’s friends who joined the project is re-creating the small, Cumberland County town of Shiloh, with a population of only 400 people. He says his friend has had to snap photos of many spots in the town that don’t appear on Google.
“She went outside and took pictures of the school she was building and all of that,” said Brodowski, who is leading efforts to build Union County. His first build was a strip of professional offices along North Avenue in Cranford.
On holidays, the team holds special events to help quickly build major landmarks. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they re-created MLK monuments throughout the state. And for Easter, on April 2, they plan to build the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark and surrounding region.
For Mauceri, the undertaking has become more than something to pass the time during quarantine. He says there’s a sense of community among the members and a larger purpose.
“(Minecraft) has been a very significant part of my life,” he said. “The thought of building that will last forever, like ‘I contributed to this, I made this archive of the world in 2020 that will now live forever,’ it was pretty cool.”