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article imageQ&A: Berlin Wall history comes to life in Augmented Reality Special

By Tim Sandle     Dec 19, 2020 in Technology
Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The DDR Museum and VIRTUE have been able to recreate the wall in the popular game Minecraft Earth as part of a newly developed educational program.
The project has been undertaken to help further young people's understanding of the fall of the wall, bringing the historical into their everyday lives and providing a tool that can be used by both teachers and students around the world. Building materials and teaching notes have been made available online, and the following video sets out the basis of the project:
The project has been led by the creative agency Virtue (which is linked to Vice). Digital Journal spoke with several people involved with the concept.
Digital Journal: What is the historical significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall?
Emil Asmussen, Creative Director, Virtue: The fall of the Berlin Wall was a pivotal event in world history that marked the beginning of the end of communism in Eastern and Central Europe. The Wall was the global symbol of the division between East and West, the battle between communism and capitalism, and the fall marked a new era for both Europe and the rest of the world.-
DJ: Around three decades after the fall, is there a risk of today’s younger generation not knowing enough about the events leading up to the wall coming down?
Klaus Schroeder of the Freie Universität: 29 percent of Germans were born after the wall fell and have little memory of the injustice and grief it caused — and no way to imagine how that could happen again. The low awareness among Berlin youth is a real problem.
Multiple studies show that the less high school students know about the DDR, the more likely they are to have a positive image of it.
DJ: Why did you select Minecraft as the medium for the project?
Morten Grubak, Executive Creative Director, Virtue: First and foremost because it’s a widely popular game among young people with millions of downloads worldwide. We didn’t want to create a new app or game for people to download because the barrier to download new apps keeps growing.
Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta screenshot from the Windows Store
Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta screenshot from the Windows Store
Secondly, Minecraft Earth is the first game that allows users to place and interact with huge AR objects up to 60 meters (196.8 feet) so you can actually experience the real-life scale of parts of the Berlin Wall. Finally, the pickaxe is a key tool in Minecraft Earth to destroy builts and that was the same tool that hundreds of Berliners used to tear the Berlin Wall down in real life 30 years ago, so it was an obvious choice to recreate the wall in Minecraft Earth.
DJ: What will users learn from playing ‘Tear Down That Wall’?
Asmussen: We hope to engage a younger generation who might have forgotten or never known about the grim consequences of dividing cities and people with border walls. The surprising truth is that more than half of the world’s border walls have been built after the year 2000, with Trump’s wall being the most prominent, so we’re reminding the new generation not to let history repeat itself. “Additionally, by expanding the gaming experience into a fully-fledged teaching module, we fostered curiosity and critical reflection on the role of border walls in our own times.
DJ: How difficult was the ‘Tear Down That Wall’ program to develop?
Martin Nørgaard Furze, Creative Director: The project itself took more than 14 months. Building a project like this has never been done before so there were a lot of things where we had figure out as we went along. Minecraft Earth was still in a beta release when we started building the parts of the wall in it. So the game and its’ features also kept changing which meant we had to keep readjusting.
In total, we’ve spent +300 hours inside Minecraft Earth. First collecting 2.5000 digital building blocks in the game that we needed to build the parts of the wall and then we spent time on building the actual walls in real size to resemble the original walls.
DJ: What has been the reaction from teachers and students so far?
Furze: "The project just launched, so the results are coming as we’re writing these words. Even before launch, the project has been greenlit by UNESCO in Denmark who’re sharing it on its various channels.
Tear Down This Wall fits perfectly with the values of UNESCO: Education, culture and communication between nations. That’s why we’re supporting it and sharing it on our platforms” [Anna Enemark, Secretary-General, UNESCO].
More about minecraft, Berlin wall, Germany, History
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