The Uncensored Library educated gamers about press freedom in a playful manner. In order to get young people from oppressive countries engaged in reading independent journalism, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) used Minecraft and the gaming community in an unprecedented way and bypassed censorship. In combination with a social media campaign, this led to high levels of engagement and social reach, gaming influencers got involved and a vast amount of user-generated content helped to turn gamers into press freedom activists. In addition, the project captured the attention of the mainstream media and brought the importance of press freedom to international attention.
After the acclaimed “Uncensored Playlist”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted a new awareness campaign for press freedom and overcome censorship. The target was to reach millions of young people who grow up in oppressive countries under strict online censorship. They are especially vulnerable to disinformation by authoritarian governments and lack access to independent journalism. RSF wanted to find a way to bring the truth back to them.
But the NGO also wanted to create general awareness for their global fight against press censorship. In order to raise donations, RSF needed to convince people around the world about the importance of press freedom so they would support the cause.
Describe the creative idea
How to overcome censorship and at the same time excite young people about press freedom? By bringing it to their world: Minecraft.
Because even in countries where almost all media is blocked – Minecraft, one of the world’s biggest computer games, with more than 126 million active players per month, is easily accessible. In these countries that increasingly restrict the rights of their citizens, young people flee into games like Minecraft. The game still provides freedom in a virtual world and has the characteristics of a social medium. In addition, Minecraft has books that can be freely written and read inside the game.
RSF used this loophole to build a huge digital library in Minecraft: The Uncensored Library.
A monument for press freedom, impressive enough to grab the attention of the international gaming community. And for the first time ever, a game was transformed into a tool to overcome censorship.
Describe the strategy
To reach young gamers in oppressive countries without access to mainstream media, RSF needed to activate the well-connected Minecraft community to spread the word inside the game. To catch their attention, it really needed a bold use of Minecraft combined with a fun gameplay experience. An organic social media campaign was directly targeting the Minecraft community, who are constantly on the lookout for exciting new projects to talk about. Letting them know gamers now have the power to fight authoritarian governments and bypass state censorship simply by playing their favorite game – got them really excited.
Hundreds of press releases were sent to media outlets all over the world to focus their attention on the library and raise general awareness for the cause of RSF. With pictures, videos and interviews of censored journalists, RSF documented the fascinating story of overcoming censorship with a computer game in a truly news-worthy way.
Describe the execution
Censored articles from acclaimed journalists became uncensored Minecraft books, available in English and the language of their origin in the library. It took 12.5 million Lego-like blocks to build the enormous library inside the game and it uses Minecraft’s in-game resources in an unseen and innovative way. A giant digital library that has a jaw-dropping effect on Minecraft players at first sight.
On World Day Against Cyber Censorship, the library opened its doors inside Minecraft. Along with a whole social media campaign featuring Instagram and Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Reddit threads and tweets – all with the call to action to visit the library inside the game and share the news. Since Minecraft is the biggest game on YouTube, an emotional launch film and a making-of film about the project played a key role in getting the community engaged and win the attention of gaming influencers.
Describe the outcome
The Uncensored Library reached 25 million gamers from 165 countries, including all target countries (Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Mexico and Saudi Arabia). The total playtime is adding up to +17 years.
Gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez talked about it and the community created more than 500 YouTube videos about the project – and what governments tried to hide suddenly was a trending topic.
The library went all over the news with more than 790 news articles (total media reach 2.9B), all with a media budget of €0. The campaign generated huge international awareness for the importance of press freedom and donations for RSF increased significantly by 62% (YOY), helping them to extend their global fight against censorship. The library even became a teaching tool in many schools and universities and the Design Museum in London made it a permanent part of their exhibition.