Virtual fireworks popped and sparkled over the Minecraft beach where the Intercollegiate Minecraft League’s (IML) held their Fourth of July celebration.

Players stood among umbrellas and chairs, looking up towards the firework shows crafted by the participating universities and IML staff. Behind them was a massive marbled structure all decked out in spiral staircases and ornate chandeliers that hung down next to floor to ceiling windows, while above the beach a balcony adorned with tables and umbrellas overlooked an infinity pool that stretched towards the beach, looking out towards the bay beyond.

Fireworks above a beach in the UC Berkeley
Fireworks above a beach in the UC Berkeley "Blockeley" server.

It was the inaugural event for the IML, a Discord organization founded towards the end of June which aims to unify the host of university Minecraft servers. Since the dawn of quarantine, students from around the world have been recreating their university campuses in Minecraft in an effort to continue their college experience online.

USC's Minecraft campus under construction
USC's Minecraft campus under construction

“Our goal is to be inclusive in sharing ideas and resources and helping one another out and having fun doing it,” said Mura Sana, a rising Senior at the University of Washington and a member of IML’s administration. He says the organization currently doesn’t have a clear leadership, and he and a group of other students mainly keep up the back-end.

The July 4 event was a test of IML’s structure, and was hosted on UC Berkeley’s famed “Blockeley” server. He and the other staff members put it all together in a week, building the college house, setting up the minigames, crafting a fireworks show and programming the United States and Canadian national anthem using Minecraft note blocks.

Over 100 students from universities around the United States and Canada shuffled into the Blockeley game server to compete in a series of minigames. The victor was awarded the illustrious prize of a potato, and Berklee College of Music won four, the most of any other school.

The entrance to the IML college house
The entrance to the IML college house

A driving source of participation lies in IML's roots in competition. "We know schools can be competitive and have rivals, they like their rankings and it's a good way to represent your school," he said.

The competitive system was based on a popular video made by Jasper, a student from PennCraft (the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel Minecraft server). He ranked the efforts of 10 American universities who recreated their campuses in Minecraft. Sana hopes to extend the scope of this list to beyond the USA, but doesn’t have a formal ranking system as of now.

The current leader board has Berklee College of Music as #1, Rochester Institute of Technology as #2, and University of Manitoba as #3 due to their performance at last night’s games.

Sana and the rest of the team are looking to include schools from around the world, as well as making a dedicated IML server to act as a hub for future intercollegiate events.

“Having different perspectives from around the world helps. Although the time zone can be very hard to do that,” said Sana.

Kevin Braza from UC Santa Barbara is also in the administration. He saw the July 4 event as an exciting start to IML. “We now have a college house, fireworks, games and a growing team of people and new ideas,” he said, and continued on to praise Sana, Onnowhere from UC Berkeley, Marshmallows from the University of Manitoba, Alexa Amoriello from RIT, proteinguy from the University of Washington and Ellie Choi from UC Berkeley for their help and expertise.