UST gives campus tour to freshmen through Minecraft game

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2020 01:56 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2020 02:10 PM

UST gives campus tour to freshmen through Minecraft game 1
Freshmen of the University of Santo Tomas can explore the campus from their homes thanks to a sandbox video game. Photo courtesy of Charles Nobleza/ UST Minecraft

MANILA — As schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, freshmen from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) can still explore the campus without having to leave the safety of their homes.

A group of around 80 students from UST recreated the university's 21.5-hectare Manila campus through Minecraft, a popular sandbox video game where players can create virtual worlds.

This will allow some 12,000 freshmen to get a virtual tour of the UST campus, which will serve as an alternative to the Thomasian Welcome Walk, the university said in a statement.

The Thomasian Welcome Walk is an annual tradition where freshmen pass through the iconic Arch of the Centuries at the beginning of each academic year, symbolizing the start of their university life.

UST gives campus tour to freshmen through Minecraft game 2
An aerial view of the UST campus as recreated in the video game Minecraft. Photo courtesy of Charles Nobleza

"We thought of creating a virtual campus tour for our freshmen to instill the tradition that UST holds every year," said Charles Nobleza, an information technology sophomore who heads the UST Minecraft project.

"We thought of it as an alternative since we are in a pandemic and we really want the tradition to still push through," he said.

Nobleza said it took around 2 months for his team to reconstruct the entire campus as well as the buildings in the streets around the university.

UST gives campus tour to freshmen through Minecraft game 3
The statue of Miguel de Benavides with the UST Main Building in the background. Photo courtesy of Charles Nobleza

To make the virtual world immersive, students can have their in-game avatar wear their respective college uniform, said Nobleza.

"Students can enter the lobbies of each building designated to their college. We have an ID system," he added.

The virtual world will have a launch and tour on Friday, which will be streamed on the UST Tiger TV Facebook page. The UST Minecraft server will be open for two-hour tours on August 29 to 30 and on September 5 to 6.

UST gives campus tour to freshmen through Minecraft game 4
Students can stroll the Benavides Park, popuarly known as 'Lover's Lane,' in the virtual UST campus. Photo courtesy of Charles Nobleza

Students will be able to access the virtual campus through UST's online learning platform, said Nobleza.

UST started its week-long freshman orientation last Monday. Activities were conducted online as schools remain closed to avoid exposing students and educators to the risk of getting COVID-19.

For this academic year, UST said it would implement an "enriched virtual mode, with classes facilitated remotely using both online and offline strategies."