BeIMCraft is a Minecraft “Mod” that aims to engage the next generation of construction professionals by realistically mirroring aspects of real world practice and reflecting key aspects of the BIM workflow within the gameplay. Mark McKane, chair of NI BIM region, David Comiskey, chair of BIM4Educators NI along with Timothy Hegarty, principal at consultancy Ardvisory and Stephen Reid, director of education consultancy, ImmersiveMinds, talk BIM+ through the game, which is currently in its pilot phase.
What is the game you have developed?
The game is called BeIMCraft, which is an acronym for Built Environment Information Modelling Craft. It is a modification of the existing Minecraft platform, and builds on it to highlight the emerging role of digital technology in this sector.
It reflects the interdisciplinary nature and requirement for collaboration with the built environment’s supply chain by challenging young gamers to consider planning issues, health and safety risks, structural aspects, sustainability and cost when creating their 3D world.
For example, when creating a building the gamers need to firstly place foundations or else the building will collapse. They can also only build to a certain height before stability issues need to be considered.
We have also assigned costs to bespoke materials to highlight the importance of having an appreciation of material costs. Health and safety aspects have also been included, such as PPE and site safety. It is important to state that development is still at an early stage, but a first stage pilot has been created.
Who is the game aimed at?
Essentially any player of any age can grasp the basic concepts that are extolled through BeIMCraft. We believe it will appeal to educators and children in the 11-to-16-year-old bracket due to the number of crossover projects and lessons that can be taught by the basic parameters we have set.
However, recent feedback from primary school children involved in a pilot initiative suggests that it is equally appealing to them as they like the challenge the game presents and thinking about the different elements involved in planning and designing a building.
We also believe that industry will perhaps see an opportunity to align themselves with the product as part of their corporate social responsibility strategies.
How does the game educate about construction and BIM?
The game closely aligns to aspects of the BIM process. A particular focus of BeIMCraft is the collaborative requirements expected of the modern interdisciplinary design team to develop the near optimum design for complex structures from an infinite range of possibilities within the game play. Teachers can set design briefs and budgets and participants can be selected to work in teams to achieve a particular outcome, much like real life.
With the online gameplay, there is a similarity between the collaborative aspects with a real world CDE (Common Data Environment). In essence it aligns with the dimensions of BIM, allowing the players to become comfortable working in a 3D environment, appreciate how costs can be assigned to the asset and think about timings, site constraints and aspects of sustainability.
Why is it important that children play with a more complex version of Minecraft?
The reason that Minecraft was chosen is because of its familiarity to youngsters. While the game includes a range of constraints that reflect the complexity of the construction industry, the game play itself is not complex and the feedback to date is that it’s merely another level of game play, which players can and do adapt to playing very quickly. Children actually enjoy the added challenge which the game presents.
Some of the learning will come after the game is complete when they obtain feedback on how their design has compared to others in their class/region/nation etc. For example, if one team ignores the cost constraints and focuses of speed of construction and sustainability, they might find that they’ve exceeded their budgets, while other teams have managed to achieve all of their objectives through better planning.
This will hopefully encourage teams to have another go and take the additional constraint into consideration to come up with even more inventive solutions. Again this is reflective of competitive tendering within construction procurement and good pedagogic practice of developing problem-solving skills, learning through play and reflective learning within education.
What do you see as the future of the game?
We have ambitions to develop this initial pilot further and include additional aspects which align with real world practice. We also hope to get early adoption by those schools in Northern Ireland that are involved in the Minecraft Edu project and/or are currently delivering GCSEs and 1st Diplomas in Construction. Many teachers have already expressed a keen interest in the game.
We feel that the game can act as a catalyst to attract the next generation of industry professionals.