By Heather Fabritze
This story was originally published in the Nov. 9, 2023 digital edition of The Elm.
Communities at Washington College transitioned to digital this past week after Community Coordinator of Residential Life Michael Nichols ‘22 launched a campus Minecraft server.
Nichols first sent out an interest email to students on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 1. In the communication was a link to a feedback form where respondents could express their opinions on the idea, whether supportive or against. According to Nichols, though, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
The form elicited 45 students’ responses, with only three of them expressing disinterest.
Prior to graduating, Nichols said that he and his college friend group would keep in touch over breaks by playing on a Minecraft server together — this is where his wider idea originated from. It’s also not just exclusive to WC, as University of Texas at Dallas and Kansas State University both have their own servers for their students.
“Since the barrier of entry was low, and interest was pretty high, I figured there was very little to lose and potentially a significant amount to gain,” Nichols said.
The official server launched on Friday, Nov. 3, as was announced in another email to the campus. It also informed students that The End, a particular section within the game, will be disabled until server attendance is solidified.
Nichols also laid out a set of ten rules for participants. This list included reminders to be respectful, avoid discriminatory language and destructive actions, and to use no cheats or hacks. The 10th point stated that all members of the server must abide by the WC Honor Code.
According to Nichols, the initial feedback form expressed concerns that the platform would grow a toxic environment similar to that of the anonymous app YikYak. He said that the guidelines would hopefully act as a measure to “counteract” this.
To be added to the server, students must fill out a form sent on the Nov. 3 email. It includes various blanks for information, including confirmation that one agrees to the rules and the version of Minecraft they plan to play on.
Once they submit their answers, Nichols adds them to the server white list. Only people added to this list are allowed to access the server, preventing any outside players from joining. Nichols said that 33 students have applied so far.
Depending on the day, they are seeing periods of play with up to 10 concurrent players. Nichols expects this number to increase once WC goes on break and “people don’t have to worry about classes.”
While the server will be open year-round, it is expected that the server will see its highest traffic when students are separated and seeking connection.
“The thing about college is that when a large break arrives, most people end up going home,” Nichols said. “We have people here from different states, coasts, and even countries, so we wanted to provide them with something they could do together to maintain their current communities even while apart.”