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The Exploding Bookshelf

The Story Museum project happened when I was in year seven. I'm in year eight now. It was open to any Minecraft fans, builders and that. Minecraft is a computer game where you can build anything you want. You survive, really, in this massive infinite world. It's randomly made, like they have different biomes and stuff. You start with a completely flat world, and you just build up from there. I've been playing six or seven years. There's lots of different stuff you can build. There's infinite ways you can do it. So The Story Museum called out for people who had been playing the game for ages. The way it was specifically meant for us, really, sort of drew me to it. Couple of my mates did it, and other people from older years. I’m at Wheatley Park, it’s a big secondary school. It's all right. School’s a mixed bag.  


The Story Museum was a whole new experience. They have different scenes from books taken out and recreated into rooms. They gave us tours around it during the project. Like we had little 20-minute breaks where they’d take us around, see the Narnia room, or the Snowman room, and then we’d go back to planning and building and that. Really interesting. They also have histories of different stories and stuff in there. It was the Minecraft thing that got me there but I like that it’s a museum, I'm sort of into museums. I've been to Natural History a couple times, and I went to the Ashmolean with my Grandad. I like a good museum, particularly on a rainy day. After we finished the project, they gave us dream tickets, free tickets to go around the museum again. I took my sister, she’s ten. You see something different every time you go round.  


For the first couple of weeks they'd have a member of the team come down to Wheatley to pick us up. Then after a couple weeks, we just had to go ourselves. They gave us these U1 passes, and we'd all get the U1. And then we'd enter the museum and we'd go in this party room, where they had PCs set up. There'd be some snacks on the table, and then you’d just sort of get started building the Minecraft world. Once a week, 4:00pm until 6:00pm, over a few months.  


We started with planning what stories we were gonna do, to make a kind of virtual Story Museum in Minecraft. Some of the books I knew, but some I was learning about for the first time. We were given paper and we'd have to draw out what we would build. And then we'd gather the blocks, and try and recreate what we drew. We split in four groups, and we'd all work on different parts. I worked on two worlds. The Art of Being Normal, where there’s this abandoned swimming pool where they have a party. And I also did Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, so we worked on a massive house with a secret tunnel. There were four other people in my group. They were quite nice, they were funny as well. A couple of them I knew, but there were maybe two people from other schools. It was quite nice to get to know them and work with them as well. It was a mix in genders and ages. It was sort of a bit awkward at first, but then, as we did it more, it just became a thing, we'd all know each other's preferences and that. At the end it felt a little bit sad to say goodbye to the people that weren't in my school. But it felt good when we finished, like, yeah, we achieved it.  


Towards the middle bit there were moments where we were like ‘Oh, what are we going to do?’ because some people quit. We thought we wouldn't finish. So we had to split up a bunch of groups to get it done. Building takes a long time. After that I haven't played Minecraft in a while, probably needed a break! But we got finished. Also we had help from a big developing team behind Minecraft, they took it and edited it and that, and they gave us access to things we couldn't access before. Like talkable characters, NPCs and stuff, so there'd be people in the world. They were really nice, and the museum people, too. They made sure they got the most out of us with the building.  


The bits that really stand out were the session where we brought it all together, towards the finishing end. It sort of just came all together, it looked really awesome. And then recently was the first time we were presenting it to the public. So we'd have people from the public come in and they got to play it. It was really incredible to see that people were actually playing our creation and enjoying it. There's different portals to different stories. And you go through them and you get to learn about the story. You can go online, too, because it's virtual, so you can access it from anywhere. So you go through the enchanted library. That's one of the worlds, there are lots. In Theseus and the Minotaur, you have this massive maze you'd have to go through to find the minotaur. There's Alice in Wonderland where you jump down the rabbit hole. And further on there's an 'Eat me' and a 'Drink me'. There's The Secret Garden, with the manor. The manor was massive. And it looked really nice from the outside as well. Then in the Jekyll and Hyde house, there’s a bit where you find a secret lever and you click it and the bookshelf would blow up. And it reveals a secret tunnel that goes to this lab.  


It was cool experiencing things like the gaming industry technology. Maybe in the future I’d like to do it again, if I could. We learned things about Minecraft I didn't know before, like how developing big games works, and developing teams. You play the game but you don't necessarily think about what’s behind the game. All the setting up and the thought process.  


I think it helped my confidence, like the independence of coming in on the bus with people that I didn't necessarily know. They sold tickets online for the reveal, which were free tickets and hardly anybody turned up, which was a shame. But I sort of sourced a family in the museum, in the café, just went and asked if they wanted to come up and join in. And when we showed the project to all these people I felt quite proud of myself that I'd sort of helped make it. Just the fact it was being presented to the public really. Awestruck me, I want to say. I made the exploding bookshelf function, so that was pretty nice to see. I saw a couple people find it, and they were sort of amazed. It was nice going around and hearing nice comments about what we made. Just seeing the kids’ smiles, really. It's boosted my confidence a lot. I'm doing stuff that I wouldn't have done. Year seven camp, I wouldn't have done before. You go on this camping trip for a couple days, just on the outskirts of Oxfordshire. It was really fun. I put myself forward for another one in September, it's a bushcraft one. Gutting fish and no showers! There would have been a time where I wouldn't have done that, so I think the confidence is the biggest thing. 


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