Play a killer whale, a polar bear and a bumblebee in Minecraft thanks to BBC Earth

The latest great documentary from BBC Earth is Frozen Planet 2, focusing on how life survives and even thrives in the coldest parts of Earth. As has been the case with BBC Earth's documentaries for many years now, it examines how climate change is upsetting the existing balance in these fragile ecosystems, the damage humanity has already done to such environments, and how nature is adapting (or not) to such conditions.

As you can probably tell I'm a bit of a junkie for BBC Earth shows: they're the best-of-the-best when it comes to showing the extraordinary beauty and extremes of our home. Part of BBC Earth's drive now is spreading the message of its shows, and so to coincide with the weekly release of Frozen Planet 2 episodes, it has collaborated with the Minecraft Education Edition team to produce five Minecraft 'episodes' that will release alongside the shows.

Minecraft is a neat fit for this not only because of its enormous reach, but because it's fundamentally a survival game. Available now is the Frozen Worlds map, in which players can take on the role of three creatures featured in the first episode of Frozen Planet 2: a polar bear, a killer whale, and the Lapland bumblebee.

"Submerge yourself in icy waters and learn how killer whales hunt as a pack for their prey as you play as their matriarch," writes Mojang's Sophie Austin. "Take to the skies as a special Lapland bumblebee, and discover how these resilient creatures gather nectar in such a harsh landscape. You can even play as a polar bear protecting her cubs across swathes of thick ice!"

The content shows players some of the challenges such magnificent animals face, albeit through the blocky and cute lens of Minecraft. Four more maps are releasing weekly until October 18, which will feature forest and mountainous biomes as well as one simply described as "vast continents of ice". Other creatures coming include a walrus, an Amur leopard, a golden eagle, a chinstrap penguin and… a human being. Yep, at one point you'll get to roleplay as a member of the BBC Earth documentary crew. 

The maps are of course free, and can be downloaded from the marketplace here.


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Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."