Image: Warwick Engineering Society

Digital Purple: how a Warwick society has created a virtual ball in ‘Minecraft’

On 22 February 2020, Damian Mikolajczak was sat at a table in the National Conference Centre, the location of Warwick Engineering Society’s New York, New York Ball. While not knowing it at the time, this would be one of the last in-person events he attended in his first year as a Warwick student – as just one month later, the UK entered its first lockdown.

One year on from the New York, New York Ball, hosting an event of the same scale seems unthinkable. Most societies across Warwick’s campus have suspended all in-person events, opting for virtual social and academic events instead. Indeed, later this month, Warwick Engineering Society will be teaming up with Biology Society, Chemistry Society, Physics Society, Astronomy, and Minecraft Society to bring its members the first virtual ball – held on a Minecraft server.

Warwick’s Disco Dave will also be in attendance at the ball, with the society creating a Minecraft skin and avatar for the infamous Warwick DJ

While the society had planned for an in-person ball, they quickly realised it would not be possible, and started looking for alternatives. ”We still want to have a ball, what can we do, what can we think of?”, said Lydia Cross, Warwick Engineering Society’s co-Head of Socials. “I was struggling for ideas, because at that point I just thought ‘I don’t want to do it on Microsoft Teams’.”

The idea came about after Damian Mikolajczak – Engineering Society’s other Head of Socials – attended a virtual rave on a Minecraft server. The virtual event was “an organisational mess” according to Damian, but ended up being a lot of fun when friends joined, leading him to pitch the idea to Engineering Society.

“It’s just something you never would think of initially, but you’ve got to do things differently,” Lydia said. “We’ve tried so many virtual events, but have struggled for attendance.”

The event – scheduled for 27 February – will take place on a bespoke Minecraft server created by members of Minecraft Society and Damian, and will encompass the Warwick SU building, SUHQ and the Piazza. Here, the team has begun work on the Copper Rooms, which will be kitted out to match the theme of the Virtual STEM Ball – retro video games.

In a bid to create the most authentic Warwick experience possible, the floors of the SU will also be littered with ‘Purple’ that will slow players down when they walk over it. Warwick’s Disco Dave will also be in attendance at the ball, with the society creating a Minecraft skin and avatar for the infamous Warwick DJ. 

The STEM Ball’s Minecraft server is not the first to replicate the University of Warwick campus, with a Warwick student previously creating a 1:1 replica of the Zeeman building.

Tickets for the STEM Ball are currently available on the Warwick SU website for free, with the society wanting to make the event as accessible as possible. For those who do not own Minecraft on PC, there will be a Twitch livestream showcasing the event, in which Disco Dave will make an appearance.

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