Gamers and educators can now use OSi Geospatial data in Minecraft

Minecraft Image

Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) have released Irish geospatial data for Minecraft, a popular virtual game that is fast becoming a powerful educational tool in schools all over the world.

What is Minecraft?

Minecraft is a game where players mine for resources and use these resources to craft 3D structures. It’s often described as being similar to building with lego, but in a virtual world of varying terrains and habitats.

Initially, Minecraft was a game of survival, where players built walls for protection against dangerous creatures. However, the build feature in the game quickly attracted an entirely separate genre of players who use the game as a creative outlet to construct imaginative structures.

Today, you can play to survive (survivor mode), or you can play in ‘creative mode’ with infinite resources, thus giving you unlimited freedom and endless possibilities as to what you can build. It can be a single-player or a collaborative game.

Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has rapidly risen to the forefront of gaming esteem. With tens of millions of users, and one million people playing it at any given time, Minecraft currently stands as one of the world’s most popular games.

Chesterfield Avenue, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Chesterfield Avenue, Phoenix Park, Dublin

Minecraft for education

Minecraft have a dedicated education edition, MinecraftEdu, for schools where teachers can create or adapt Minecraft ‘worlds’ (scenarios), and then assign tasks, which students can work on collaboratively or competitively, either as as teams or as individuals.

Teachers can search the MinecraftEdu World Library for worlds to suit specific age groups, subjects (arts, literature, maths, science, technology, social studies, etc.), or experience type (e.g. exploration, observation, puzzle, etc.).

Examples of some of the worlds that teachers can access in the MinecraftEdu World Library include:

  • Craft your Future: Craft Your Future, developed by the Chartered Institute of Building, is a construction game aimed at 12-14 year olds. Through it young learners explore the methods and skills to become a construction manager.
  • GPO Dublin 1916: MindRising champions the use of digital technology in schools & groups. MindRising is about telling stories about our past and our future. This is the GPO Building from 1916.
  • Magic Treehouse: After reading one of the first 28 books from the Magic Treehouse Series, students select the passageway, land and build a representation from the chapter book to depict an aspect of the story.
  • Missions of California: Follow the path of the Franciscan Priests along El Camino Real up the California Coast and build a mission! Also find some interesting facts about each of the 21 missions at the California Mission Center.
  • The Island: After shipwrecking on an island, the students set out to find hidden treasure. By solving division problems and using clues, the students travel by foot and boat from island to island.

The learning outcomes of game-based education

Minecraft’s adaptability allows it to be used for multiple learning outcomes. Not only is it fun and engaging, but when it’s used collaboratively, students naturally learn teamworking skills, such as assigning tasks, negotiation, cooperation and conflict resolution. The game also helps students to develop social confidence, and has been praised for its ability to effectively engage students that are usually shy or more withdrawn from the group. The type of learning fostered by Minecraft facilitates the teacher to guide the student rather than to dictate to the student. As a result, students are encouraged to be innovators, independent thinkers and self-directed problem-solvers.

Using real-world geospatial data for Minecraft

While most Minecraft worlds are fictional environments, many players have spent hours creating meticulously-detailed representations of real-world landscapes or structures. Having access to real-world scenarios appeals to both gamers and educators alike, because it facilitates users to virtually explore and build in geographically-accurate landscapes. This demand for geographically-accurate Minecraft data has inspired national mapping organisations to convert their geospatial data into a downloadable format for the game.

In 2013, after the brainwave of a intern, Ordnance Survey Great Britain began to make British terrain data available for Minecraft. More detailed British OS Minecraft data was later released showing accurate representations of road networks, lakes, forests, plains, urban areas and railway lines at a scale of 1 block = 25m2.

Commercial opportunities have arisen from the demand for factual geospatial gaming data and has led to the foundation of companies such as Geoboxers, a company that specialises in the transformation of real-world data into gaming and visualisation data.


Top of Carrauntoohil among the Clouds

Irish geospatial data is now available for Minecraft

This week, OSi made geospatial data publicly available for Minecraft. The data was extracted from OSi’s spatial data storage platform PRIME2 and converted into a downloadable format. Users can now explore Dublin City Centre and Limerick City in Minecraft. They can visit the lakes of Killarney or climb Carrauntoohil and the Sugar Loaf. There are plans to release data for other locations in the future. Download the OSi Minecraft data here.

The future of geospatial data and gaming

Maps are a core component of many video games. The maps used in Grand Theft Auto, while fictional, are highly detailed, complex and interactive, and they represent many real-life landmarks.

The future of gaming could see a greater use of real-world geospatial data. Real-world geospatial data has been used in the past, for example GIS data has been used for flight simulator games. Also, Ingress, the game from which the geospatial data for Pokémon Go was extracted, has been around since 2012.

Killarney Lakes

Killarney Lakes

2016 has been a year where the use of geospatial data in gaming has made a record-breaking impact. The success of Pokémon Go, shows how the use of geospatial data in games has enormous potential. Much of the geospatial data used for Pokémon Go was initially collected by users of Ingress. Players could submit places that they deemed worthy of being featured in the game as ‘portals’ (an FYI for the nerds: many of these portals were converted to ‘gyms’ and ‘pokéstops’ in Pokémon Go). Out of the 15 million submissions, approximately 5 million were approved worldwide. This shows us that games have enormous potential beyond just being a means of entertainment because they can be leveraged for geospatial data collection.

Another dataset used in Pokémon Go classifies geographic locations according to variables such as climate and vegetation. This enables the game’s developers to assign different types of Pokémon creatures to different habitats worldwide. Using a dataset like this shows that geographical data has enormous potential to further enrich the future of gaming.

Get more information and download the OSi Minecraft data here.

Further information & resources

Download Minecraft:
Download OSi’s Minecraft data:
YouTube video: Geospatial and Minecraft – Why you should care
Minecraft player demographics:

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