The entirety of the Cairngorms National Park has been recreated within the world’s most popular video game in a project designed to help youngsters understand the planning process.
Click on the images below and use the sliders to transform the real-world Cairngorms into Minecraft! Try it here with the mighty Munro of Lochnagar.
Dan Harris, planning manager with the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), used real-world data from Ordnance Survey, as well as Forest and Land Scotland, to build the 1,748 square mile national park inside the Minecraft computer game.
It took Mr Harris, 38, around three months of work in his spare time to remake the park in blocky form – without any man-made structures like buildings or roads.
Loch Morlich, near Aviemore
Once complete, he tasked the Cairngorms Youth Action Team youngsters with logging in and creating a neighbourhood within the park, without breaching any planning rules such as having too much of an impact on the natural environment.
Now that the Minecraft recreation has been fully tested, the CNPA has made it free to download for anyone to try, and already a number of organisations, including charities and universities, have expressed interest in its potential for all manner of purposes.
Loch Muick, near Ballater
The project is also being shared with schools within the national park, to give pupils an engaging introduction to planning and policy making.
Mr Harris said: “One of our roles is to engage young people in the planning process, and help them understand what planning does.
“When lockdown came, we had to think of an innovative way of engaging with young people, because what we didn’t want to do was just a dry presentation, we wanted something really interactive.
Loch Kinord at Muir of Dinnet
“I’ve always been interested in maps, and thought about making the national park in Minecraft.
“I knew it was possible as I’ve played it, and realised it would be a great, interactive platform to simulate real-world decisions in.
“It was quite experimental, but we tasked the Cairngorms Youth Action Team to create a community or neighbourhood that met the aims of the national park.
“They needed consider things like sustainable use of resources and impact on the special qualities of the landscape.
A view over Ballater from Craigendarroch
“We set up meetings to reflect on what they had done, and it worked out quite well.
“They were able to recognise that what they had done did not meet the aims, and they got involved with creating additional policies for the exercise, and it enabled us to talk about enforcement – like what would happen if something did go wrong.
Aviemore, as seen from Craigellachie hill
“We asked them what they felt they got out of the project, and the response was really positive, they did feel they had a better understanding of how the planning system works, and how different people might interpret different things.
“As planners we’re very much mediators in a lot of circumstances, and they experienced that.”
Mr Harris added: “Coming up with the idea, I thought it would attract a lot of attention because Minecraft is the most popular game ever to be created to date, so there was always going to be a lot of interest.
“But I’ve been really blown away with is all the different types of groups that have shown interest, like outdoor organisations such as Mountaineering Scotland, and various universities are looking at using it for research projects.
A view over Braemar from the Corbett, Morrone
“Charities have been in contact looking to use it, or ask me for advice for what they can do.
“The map is now available for anyone to download, and we’re not charging for that, so hopefully we’ll see some really interesting uses for it emerging in the coming years.”