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University of Minnesota students create what coronavirus taketh

If you can't have a normal college campus life, you might as well create it online.

MINNEAPOLIS — College campuses nation-wide are closed and students have been sent home. It's been a month since many colleges made that decision, but it feels like forever.

Some students are already growing nostalgic of their home away from home. 

Naturally, a few students from the University of Minnesota decided they should take campus life into their own digital hands.

When U of M junior Khang Lu created "Goldycraft" in the fall of 2019, he did not expect to be in this kind of position.

"I really miss campus--I really do," Lu said. "I mean, I can go back to campus pretty easily, but I try to stay away unless it's very necessary."

Lu, who lives in Plymouth, not far from the University of Minnesota, said with classes being online, there's no reason for him to visit school. Plus, social distancing guidelines encourage students to stay away, anyway.

No amount of Zoom classes or online coursework will ever make up for the college experience that the Coronavirus robbed of students like Lu. However, he thought "Goldycraft" could be a good way for everyone to connect online.

"Goldycraft" is a Minecraft server that Lu created about a year ago. Minecraft is an online game that allows players to create worlds. When the coronavirus took campus away from Lu, he created his own, building on the already existing structures that he started a year ago.

From Coffman Memorial Union to Washington Avenue, the virtual tour of "Goldycraft" that Lu gave us was extremely impressive. The "Goldycraft" universe strives to be an exact replica of a place students cannot go to right now. The amount of detail in "Goldycraft" is mindblowing to say the least. It's accurate down to urban campus legends, like walking under the legs of the Platonic Figure.

"The statue is built here too," Lu said, in his virtual tour. "I guess in-game, it's probably safe to go underneath it without the risk of not graduating in four years."

Lu said he originally started "Goldycraft" as a joke. 

"A bunch of random people on Facebook, we got together and said, 'hey, let's just try to make the whole entire U of M campus on Minecraft,' because no one's ever really done that," Lu explained.

Little did Lu know, that joke would turn into something much more meaningful during a pandemic.

"It really started to hit, once you realize that we're not all on campus anymore, we can't go back to campus, people can't even graduate and celebrate on campus," he said. "For a lot of people, especially the ones who can't stay in Minnesota, it's a fun way to look back at the campus."

One of Lu's favorite structures in "Goldycraft" is "The Hub." Lu said he used to live in that apartment building. 

"The structure itself is done but the inside is again, not furnished," he said in the tour. "I used to live here, so it's nice to see the apartment again."

He explained that "Goldycraft" is a result of many different players. Their names and user ID's are immortalized in one of the structures that sits right behind the starting point in the server. A lot of East Bank is finished but he says it's still a work in progress as they have yet to finish the interiors of many of the buildings--let alone begin working on the West Bank as well as the St. Paul campus.

He's not letting the unfinished aspect of the server get to him though. He said it's work that he and his friends enjoy and one that brings people together. It's built block by block, by students who hope to return to campus in real life, just as coronavirus-free as the one online.

To join and take a peek at the server yourself, you can go on Minecraft Java Edition, Version 1.15. From there, go to servers and enter this server IP: goldycraft.crafted.pro. You can walk around and admire the work that Lu and his team have done.

Because the project has to remain a student project, only UMN students and alumni can participate in building. If you would like to participate in the building process, you need to get permission to do so. You can go to this link and fill out a permission form. 

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.