In conjunction with the UK Environment Agency, Microsoft has launched a new mode for Minecraft: Education Edition. Known as 'Rivercraft', the mode is designed to teach students about the impact of climate-change-induced flooding on local communities.
RiverCraft focusses on the £54.7m flood defence scheme currently being built in Preston, a combination of flood walls, glass panels and embankments, designed to reduce flood-risk to almost 5,000 homes in the area.
The mode contains three different games, each of which focus on a different area of tackling flooding induced by climate change. "Managing Flooding" sees players build their own version of Preston's flood-defences, before flooding the area to measure their success. "Flood Prevention" sees players explore how individuals can help alleviate climate change. Finally "Our Local Environment" involves conducting an in-game ecological survey to locate and record local wildlife species.
The mode was built on behalf of the Environment Agency by BlockBuilders, a Brighton-based company that specialises in building Minecraft worlds for educational purposes. "We got the 3D data of Preston, which is freely available online, and turned it into a Minecraft world," Megan Leckie, Co-founder of Blockbuilders, told Microsoft. "But that data creates generic buildings, so we collected screenshots and imagery of Preston and added details to the structures to replicate how they are in real life."
Flooding is a growing problem in Preston and the wider county of Lancashire, with severe floods occurring in 2015 and 2020. The former flood affected 2,500 homes and caused damage estimated at £1.3bn. On the subject of RiverCraft, Minecraft's Director of Learning Programmes Justin Edwards stated the mode is "at the forefront" of Microsoft's vision of "making a better world through the power of play."