Anyone with kids of a school age, and older, will no doubt have heard of Minecraft and it seems 3D game has even made an impression on Government for today, Finance Minister Arlene Foster MLA, has launched a Minecraft NI map meaning, for the first time, the game can be played in a 3D virtual map of Northern Ireland.
Minecraft is one of the most popular video games in history, with over 100 million downloads since its launch in 2009. In the game, players build, explore and play in a virtual world that now includes Northern Ireland.
The Minecraft NI map, which is free to download for PC and Mac versions of the game, has been developed using Land & Property Services Ordnance Survey NI (OSNI) digital mapping data.
Speaking at the launch at the PlayBall summer scheme in Stormont, the Minister said: "The Minecraft game has been hugely successful across the world, not least with our young people in Northern Ireland. This exciting new development will allow people here to play the game across all of Northern Ireland, in places that are familiar to them. Gamers can have a go at building structures including the Giants Causeway, the Marble Arch caves, their school or even their own house!"
''It,s important to recognise that this is about more than just playing a game. Minecraft inspires a high level of engagement and creativity in young people and it is an excellent tool for teaching children about a wide range of topics including geography, science, technology, engineering and computer coding."
The new Minecraft NI world contains more than five billion blocks, each representing 12.5 square metres and equates to an area of almost 14,000km2. Once players have downloaded the map into Minecraft, they will be able to freely explore, build and create across the whole of Northern Ireland in a map based on OSNIs digital maps.
The Minister continued: ''This new programme showcases a new and innovative way of using OSNI mapping data, which is among the most detailed and comprehensive in the world.''
Ordnance Survey GB have already created a hugely popular Minecraft map of England, Scotland and Wales from OSGB and provided LPS with the software to assist with the Minecraft NI project.
The map will be of particular interest to Northern Ireland post-primary schools using an educational version of the game as part of a new project. CultureTECH the organisation behind the project, is already using the Minecraft NI map to develop new classroom activities.
The Minecraft NI map is available to download for PC and Mac versions of the game at http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/osni-minecraft-ni-map.'