Bemjie Roberto's Minecraft rendering of Windsor, Ont.'s Catholic Central High School's outdoor athletic field. Screen shot

Minecraft imaging brings school to life

  • January 6, 2023

The power of a Grade 12 student’s imagination has made it possible for the Windsor-Essex Catholic school community to experience the interior and exterior of the new Catholic Central High School (CCHS) building before it opens on Jan. 10. 

Benjie Roberto, 17, received the blueprints of the building and proceeded to design an uncanny replica using the 2011 video game Minecraft.

Roberto told The Catholic Register that his passion for Minecraft, which invites users to create immersive blocky 3D worlds, began nearly 10 years ago when friends introduced him to the game. 

“The thing about Minecraft is that the only limit is your imagination,” said Roberto. “Whatever you imagine, you can create. If you want to build this giant school like I did, you can do that. Or if you want to build a little house that you can be proud of, that is also something you can do.”

He began the project to digitally build the new CCHS in 2020 during the infancy of the COVID-19 restrictions. He saw an advertisement for a school talent show and was keen to enter. He was also looking for an activity to keep his mind stimulated as the isolation from school kept him from engaging in his passion for athletics and student government. 

After pouring 170 hours of work into this project over 47 days, his masterpiece was completed in May 2020. Ultimately, Roberto prevailed in the digital art category of the talent competition and earned a $75 prize. The reaction of school leadership and his peers blew Roberto away. 

“There are no words to describe their excitement when they saw the creation,” said Roberto. “It was just pure surprise at the scale of the project. They were all excited for the new school to open in January, but had no idea what it would look like. Seeing this at the talent show, they were speechless.”

Building the bleachers and the outdoor sports field that will host the CCHS Comets was a favourite aspect of the project for Roberto. He distinguished himself as an adept athlete in his years at school, earning district first-team all-star honours in volleyball this past fall. His Minecraft rendering also imagined the gymnasium, the new library, classrooms and places of worship.

The school board was so impressed by the professional calibre of Roberto’s work that it used his creation as part of a virtual school open house event for Grade 8 students during the pandemic. He was also paid $50 by a school guidance counselor for the rights to use this video to promote the new CCHS. A copy of the video is also buried in a time capsule outside the new Catholic Central building. 

It was a surreal and cool experience for Roberto to enter the new CCHS following the time capsule ceremony in the autumn. He said he was filled with “a warm feeling” witnessing that his Minecraft imagining vividly echoed the real-life building.

Roberto said he feels gratitude to CCHS for empowering him to use his talents in this way. 

“The school community here at Catholic Central always inspires you to do your best. Before going into this high school, I was shy and I didn’t really have much going for myself. My Grade 10 year I joined student council and created a name for myself. I contributed to the school community with countless volunteer hours. It is just a beautiful thing to do some things for a school that built you into who you are today. If not for this school, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Upon graduation, Roberto aims to enroll in a post-secondary kinesiology program.

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