Gamified platform breathes life into history of the Berlin Wall

The DDR Museum and VIRTUE are encouraging a new generation of learners to take part in the historical demolition of the Berlin Wall via Minecraft Earth

Three decades after the historic fall of the Berlin Wall, the DDR Museum and VIRTUE – the agency created by media company VICE – have partnered on a gamification platform to encourage a new generation of learners to take part in the historic demolition.

Recreated on the popular Minecraft Earth game, the project is designed to enhance young people’s understanding of this important snapshot in time, bringing history into their daily lives while providing a tool that can be used by teachers and students worldwide.

Supporting more than 300 hours of game to gather the exact materials required for a credible and historically accurate AR (augmented reality) reconstruction of the Berlin Wall, Tear Down This Wall is the first ever educational tool to be built into Minecraft Earth.

With 29% of the current German population being born after the event, many can not comprehend the grief and injustice it caused. This lack of awareness is a problem, according to Klaus Schroeder of the Freie Universität. “Multiple studies show that the less high school students know about the DDR, the more likely they are to have a positive image of it,” he explained.

The primary purpose of this interactive learning experience is to give youth a taste of what German life was really like before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Morten Grubak, executive creative director of VIRTUE, commented: “I’m proud that the DDR Museum and VIRTUE have transformed the traditional history lesson into an immersive learning experience to spark [the] interest of younger generations.”

Minecraft Earth – the newly-launched phone-based version of Minecraft – uses AR to put constructions directly into the physical space as an image overlay viewed through a phone.

Once immersed in the game, users can see the Berlin Wall reconstructed in iconic locations such as Brandenburger Tor and Mauerpark, constructing a historically-correct, 1-1 full-scale model of the wall in its original location – or any other global location.

The creators used Buildplates, a social gaming feature that lets Minecraft Earth users invite friends to explore their creations and allows them to jointly tear down the wall with a pickaxe – just like when the wall fell back in 1989.

“This is the first time we’re actually able to let people from all over the world tear down the wall,” said Gordon Freiherr von Godin, director of the DDR Museum.

The AR experience forms part of a new teaching programme, developed in collaboration with teachers and the DDR Museum, allows teachers, students and people all over the world access the wall through Minecraft Earth and use it to support and inform the historical teaching and learning process.

The course provides a full curriculum, group exercises and conversation guidelines to drive critical reflection and historical empathy, directed at students in grades 6–9. The full educational plan guides and inspires teachers on how best to implement this AR experience in their classroom, encouraging the adoption of a fully immersive micro-course.

“By using a beloved gaming platform, we brought an overlooked piece of history to the attention of a new generation by using AR applications and interactive elements,” said Emil Asmussen and Martin Nørgaard Furze, creative directors of VIRTUE. “Additionally, by expanding the gaming experience into a fully-fledged teaching module, we fostered curiosity and critical reflection on the role of border walls in our own times.”

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