Designing with Minecraft

Minecraft as an alternative CAD tool

University of Cambridge Department of Architecture: Undergraduate Thesis by James Delaney


Minecraft as CAD

In the right hands, Minecraft transforms from a computer game into a computer aided design tool, and more than that, an entire language of digital design. If we are to consider Minecraft as a CAD program, an interesting comparison can be made with other available CAD software to help put the scale of Minecraft into perspective.

Sketchup claims to be the world’s most used 3D design software - however with over twice as many users Minecraft could be considered the world’s most popular CAD tool by a significant margin. Each time Minecraft is played, a digital environment is created or altered - more digital environments have been created through Minecraft than any other tool or software.

3D Design Software

Notch hasn’t just built a game, he’s tricked 40 million people into learning to use a CAD program.
— Cody Sumter, MIT Media Lab. 2010

Because of its simplicity, Minecraft can be used as an intermediary 3D model format; other 3D digital models can be easily imported into Minecraft, and likewise Minecraft models can be exported to other 3D formats, and then 3D printed for instance. In recent years, the role of architecture and architects in the design of video games has been given much attention; game developers have sought the advice and assistance of trained architects to create increasingly more convincing and engaging virtual environments. On the other hand, little attention has been paid to how video games and game developers might benefit the field of architecture. Minecraft stands as a convincing argument for why the collaboration between the fields of architecture and video games should be a wholly reciprocal and mutually beneficial cooperation.