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Published on August 31st 2013

The World of Minecraft Exhibition at the V&A Museum

I do love it when museums acknowledge the impact of gaming has on society; enough so to put on an exhibition about a game. In this case, the Victoria and Albert museum organised a Friday Late event that promised to explore the design culture of the digital world of Minecraft. A game I love. Seriously, I have a Minecraft tattoo..

Needless to say, I was  thrilled when I got an invite and despite having a session of squash planned, I made the courageous (in my books anyway) decision to go afterwards. Going to the V&A smelling and looking like the back end of school bus on a Thursday turned out ok in the end.

Luckily for me everybody was too engaged in The World of Minecraft exhibition to smell me and throw grimaces in my direction, and I soon forgot my body consciousness myself (until I got home)!

So without further ado (waffle) what was the exhibition like? Did the V&A really capture and celebrate the Minecraft that almost 12 million* of us play and love? Well I’m happy to report that it did!

Upon arrival, we immediately started wondering where the exhibition was held and after a few minutes of “huh?” and “it’s not on the sign post thing?”, we cracked and asked a V&A attendant where to go. She looked at us in bewilderment and replied that:

It's all around, there are works dotted in the library, in the garden, Minecraft is everywhere.

After a brief moment of “awwwwe”, we started the treasure hunt for Minecraft stuff that kept us entertained for the next 2 hours, on a Friday evening…colleagues will snigger at how we spent our Friday evening but worth it all the same!

We saw some folks with gaming t-shirts (and thought “they look like Minecrafters”) and made a good decision to follow them as they looked like they knew where they were going.

Turned out to be a good tactic for the rest of the treasure hunt-whenever we saw a small cluster of people in the otherwise quiet museum, we knew that we’d find some Minecraft works there… The first place we hit was the John Madejski Garden where much of the action took place and what a great atmosphere it was. You could see lots of people chilling with the blocks like it wasn’t a thing:

Minecraft Diamond blocks in John Madejski Garden

Children splashing about in the water amongst 1 meter sand blocks: Minecraft sand blocks in John Madejski Garden

Steve chilling in the corner:

Minecraft Steve

All while some well known parodies from the internet were being played by this awesome DJ (@BrettBoothLDN):

Dj playing amazing parodies and Minecraft songs in John Madejski Garden

Then back inside we went, to start looking for the stuff hidden amongst the V&A permanent collection. I do have to admit it my Art Historian head took the liberty to remind me that there is a lot of historically significant stuff here, artists poured their soul into creating these sculptures, people spent years of their life training to create such ornate trinkets, but all I cared about was dashing in to the next room to see if there was any Minecraft stuff in it…It was fun though here are the works that we managed to find:

This stained glass sheep pasture in the stained glass section: IMG_20130830_201845

This paintings in the famous paintings section: IMG_20130830_202034

These swords in the silver section:

Gold and Silver Swords

And these miniature portraits of Steve, Notch, and wolf as well as some other mobs in the mini miniature portraits: Mini portraits

We then came to the Grand Entrance hall where there were some really projections on the ceilings arch ways which changed intermittently:

East Ceiling Projection Grand Entrance Ceiling projection Grand Entrance North Celing Projection Grand Entrance

These projections were coupled with the piano piece from the game played through a speaker hooked to a laptop in the corner:

IMG_20130830_203721

You have to hand it to the sound guys, in addition to the entrance hall speakers, they had also set up a couple of speakers in the rooms where there was Minecraft art to be found:

Speaker in the rooms

These ones just had water and lava sounds on loop (not sure why they chose those ones really but better there than not I guess…! Personally I think it would have been great to play some Creeper or Endermen sounds to freak you out a little bit!) but I was glad to see that they made a decent effort to create a soothing and euphoric atmosphere in the entrance hall. If you wanted to, you could have got a drink from the bar in the middle and sat down for rest if you felt the old “museum fatigue” kicking in.

But we decided to keep going and hit up the marble room where we saw this marble sculpture of Steve and his Wolf:

Marble steve and wolf

And some of the Minecraft Lego you can buy on pedestals:

Minecraft lego

After a brief diversion to the Medieval rooms (where there was nothing) we decided to head Japan room next where we found this awesome pixel Samurai sword on display:

IMG_20130830_210028

And an these porcelain models:

IMG_20130830_210045

Here’s a close up of the Enderdragon:

IMG_20130830_210107

Steve and a realistic re-imagining of a Creeper:

IMG_20130830_210121

And finally (of the art stuff anyway) a lovely vase with the Enderdragon painted on it:

IMG_20130830_210224

There were various talks (one with Jeb himself !) and workshops put on which we sadly missed because we arrived too late. But here’s a list of all the the talks that were on:

TALKS AND FILMS

Game creating with Jens Bergensten
Ever wondered what it’s like to be the lead designer of Minecraft? Listen to V&A Senior Curator Kieran Long speak with lead designer and developer of Minecraft Jens Bergensten about the art and craft of the game.

Block by Block
Minecraft has served as a fantastic design tool in order to visualise the process of urban planning and area reconstruction, enabling communities to be actively involved in the future of their neighbourhoods. Join Pontus Westerberg from the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) in a series of short talks about a three year partnership aiming to upgrade 300 public spaces in developing countries by 2016.

Hat Films
As the Minecraft community has grown, so have the offshoot videos and sideline projects surrounding the game. Watch some of the best ones here, produced by Hat films who draw upon this online, community driven experience to create exciting and inspirational content. Listen to Hat Films talk about the process in which they design these videos.
WORKSHOPS

Printcraft
Turn your Minecraft creations into a physical reality by 3D printing your designs with Printcraft. Watch Paul Harter from Glowinthedark as he demonstrates this technique on their customised Minecraft server, or sign up to get one of your own creations printed out in plastic for you to take home.

Skin Studio
Check out the new technology 57 digital has created to allow you to color a Minecraft skin in the real world and then move it to the digital world. 

As you can see there were some pretty cool stuff on which I’m gutted to have missed but luckily Printcraft was pulling a late one and we were lucky to see a 3D printer in action which was pretty cool:

3d printer in action

Here’s a close up:

3d printer in action close up

And the result (each model takes about 2 or 3 hours to print!):

3D printed minecraft models

Overall it was a lovely experience. It was so good to see so many players-some young (like 11 years old) and old (over 11 years old like me about 20+) gathered in one place. There was so much excitement gathered under one roof.

Although my only minor gripe with the exhibition was that there wasn’t as much Minecraft art on the treasure hunt that I would have liked, I love the effort the museum team put in to creating an amazing atmosphere in the Grand Hall and the Garden. well worth the Friday evening!

To summarise, I leave you with a picture of these girls dancing to the Minecraft songs played in the garden:

 

And this boy who just wanted to play Minecraft:

*At time of writing. Check the official Minecraft stats here. I’m sure what ever point I was trying to make still stands.

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