Breaking boundaries by building blocks

By Evan Lee, Editorial Staff 

By Leighah Beausoleil, Editorial Staff

A free press is fundamental to a free people.

Journalists, who provide crucial information about leaders, government, and society, allow citizens to decide for themselves whether their nation is on the right path or in need of change.

Informed by the press, the people voice their visions for the future. Reported by the press, their vision is published for their leaders and all others to see.

Without a free press, this fundamental connection is lost. And there is little to stop leaders from becoming oppressors as the people’s vision vanishes under unchecked power, corruption, and greed.

This, unfortunately, is the reality in many countries across the globe.

Oppressive regimes have censored, exiled, and even killed journalists in their attempt to suppress all other visions aside from their own.

They’ve shut down news outlets, banned social media, restricted internet access, and silenced free speech all in an attempt to prevent the people from becoming informed and threatening their rule.

But what haven’t they banned? Minecraft.

With 176 million copies distributed worldwide, the world’s most popular video game is not targeted by dictators who perceive it as little more than a children’s online building block game.

But, there’s more to Minecraft than meets the pixelated eye – there are books.

As an in-game item, books can be written by anyone for everyone to read – even in countries where literature is censored.

It’s a loophole recognized by Reporters Without Borders, an international non-profit NGO dedicated to freedom of information, which recently contracted the construction of a sanctuary of forbidden journalism within Minecraft – “The Uncensored Library.”

Banned articles of journalists from Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Russia, Egypt, and Vietnam among others have been re-published in these Minecraft books and cataloged within the library’s halls.

It opened to the public March 12, “World Day Against Cyber Censorship,” and allows up to 100 players at a time to browse through each of its halls.

Wanting to see this for ourselves after the concept blew up online last month, we attempted to join as well. However, the 100-player limit did thwart our efforts.

With attention from social media, YouTubers, and even major news networks, entering the server was effectively a matter of repeatedly clicking “join” until somebody else happened to leave at the same time.

The BBC noticed similar difficulties as well when it sent reporters to interview players there.

After several frustrating minutes, we were both finally able to log in. And our excitement for what we were expecting to see was through the roof.

Unfortunately, this was more literal than metaphorical for the roof and pretty much everything else on the server failed to load.

We found ourselves falling through an endless void as the grounds beneath us simply did not appear. And we were unable to move forward as the path to the library, as well as the library itself, never rendered for us.

The lag was also atrocious, qualifying as some form of cruel and unusual punishment – an opinion the public chat agreed with.

After a long and pointless struggle, we gave up and left. The books were never found.

But returning on a later date, after the library’s hype had died down and with fewer people online, we had better luck exploring the server, which is actually quite immaculate.

Upon spawning, we walked up a staircase leading to a monumental hand gripping a pen. Before us in the distance was the library itself.

With columns stretching several stories high and a classical marble facade similar to those found in Washington D.C., our curiosity for what was held within only grew.

Upon entering, we were greeted to a grand atrium displaying the flags of countries from around the world and labyrinths stretching to each of the halls dedicated to the library’s featured nations.

But for all its opulence and grandeur, we found each grand hall to only contain about 10 actual books.

They mostly revolve around the topic of censorship and criticisms of government. The Mexican Hall further honors writers who were killed for voicing their opinions through a display of their portraits.

Other books are scattered around crevasses and smaller halls in the library, and we applaud the inclusion of each. Though, we were puzzled to find one book in the Egyptian Hall that appeared to be some sort of Harry Potter fanfiction.

But our main concern in all of this is whether or not oppressed citizens are actually going to go through the process of visiting this library to read these books.

An offline version does exist for those who wish to avoid the chaos and confusion of joining the server, but are people seriously downloading it for the 10 books in each hall?

Or has it attracted fame more so out of the idea it’s supposed to represent?

The idea that free press advocates are banding together on Minecraft to fight back against the unjust censorship of journalists around the world.

It’s a noble idea, but one we believe The Uncensored Library falls short of achieving with its limited catalogue of re-published articles.

Added to this is the fact that the library itself seems to be the main attraction, with each hall built as tall as a skyscraper, as wide as a football field, and immaculately decorated to the theme of the country it represents – all to house just 10 books.

Not to mention the fanciful but fruitless gardens that surround the library itself. We’re here to read articles – not pick flowers.

In that regard, it’s all kind of pompous.

Perhaps the vast openness of the library will fill in overtime as Reporters Without Borders adds more books to its collection.

But we can’t help but think the concept could be so much more.

6/10 Blocks “The ‘Diamond Hoe’ of journalism – Innovative but Impractical”