Despite current lockdown restrictions in place young gamers are exploring the Cairngorms – through the world of Minecraft.
The national park, which includes parts of the Highlands, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire, has been digitally recreated in the popular videogame allowing users to get an understanding of its sustainability.
Settlements have been stripped out to give members of the Cairngorms Youth Action Team free reign to build new communities and make planning decisions.
Built to scale, the map features locations like Ben Macdui and Loch Morlich.
Recreating the park was a lockdown project which Dan Harris carried out in his spare time.
During the day he is a planning manager for the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
He said: “We know young people care passionately about the environment and we felt that by using a platform such as Minecraft, we could demonstrate how planning and development management has a hugely important role in tackling the climate emergency and caring for our environment.
“Using an online platform also means that we can deliver this programme without having to worry about Covid-19 restrictions.”
St Kilda islands digitally recreated
Another recognisable landmark to feature in the game are the islands of St Kilda.
In 2017, Games company ImmersiveMinds spent more than 125 hours to digitally recreate the archipelago that lies west of North Uist.
The Minecraft version was built to help mark World Heritage Day.
Stephen Reid, director at ImmersiveMinds, said: “Building the island of St Kilda for World Heritage Day in Minecraft has enabled us to shine a spotlight on six stories from the island’s past.
“Pairing this technology with archaeology offers a unique opportunity for us to bring remote, and sometimes forgotten, places into homes, schools and museums, making St Kilda and its history accessible worldwide to a whole new generation.
“Not only can virtual visitors explore the island as it is today, but they have a unique opportunity to experience what it would have been like at six different periods throughout its past.”
Gamers can still visit the map which is available for the public to download.
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is a hugely popular game that attracts players of all ages.
They build, mine, battle mobs and explore ever-changing landscapes, with a focus on allowing players to explore, interact with and modify a dynamically-generated or purposefully designed map made up of one cubic metre-sized blocks.
The two main modes are called survival and creative. In survival, players must find their own building supplies and food, while interacting with block-like mobs and moving creatures.
In creative, players are given supplies and do not have to eat to survive.
The critically-acclaimed video game has won numerous awards and is often cited as one of the greatest of all time.
The Cairngorms National Park is not available to explore on Minecraft just yet. Once testing is complete it is hoped it will be on offer for all players.