Bypassing firewalls and activating a young target group to talk about press freedom would take a totally new approach. We needed a channel that was available globally and was not subject to authoritative censorship: Minecraft.
The game is available in most repressive countries and by using Minecraft in an unprecedented way, we were able to create the Uncensored Library. A library for independent journalism.
The choice to use Minecraft as a social platform to publish journalism was key to reaching our audience and leading to press freedom becoming a trending topic within the Minecraft community and global mainstream media.
After the acclaimed “Uncensored Playlist”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted a new campaign to overcome online censorship and especially reach young people in oppressive countries. The challenge was to find a new channel to bring the truth back into countries where most media is blocked. To achieve this, RSF used Minecraft in an innovative way to get gamers engaged in reading independent journalism. By using Minecraft to republish formerly censored articles, RSF created a hub of free speech inside a computer game. For the first ever a computer game was used to bypass censorship.
Describe the creative idea / insights (30% of vote)
How to bypass strong firewalls and excite young people about press freedom? By bringing it to their world: Minecraft.
Because even in countries where most media are blocked – Minecraft, one of the world’s biggest computer games, with more than 126 million active monthly players, is easily accessible. And 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.
And for the first time ever, a game became a tool to overcome censorship and bring the truth back to young people in oppressive countries.
The countries featured were picked by comparing RSF’s “World Press Freedom Index” with Google data (Minecraft interest by country). Accordingly, journalists from countries with poor press freedom rating but high Minecraft interest were chosen by RSF and their censored work got republished in Minecraft books.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
In order to reach young gamers in oppressive countries with no access to the 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 and exciting gameplay experience. A social media campaign was directly targeting the Minecraft community and big gaming influencers, who are constantly on the lookout for exciting new topics to talk about.
The key strategy was to see Minecraft not as a game, but a social platform were players meet and talk to each other. By using Minecraft’s in-game resources in an innovative way we created an impressive new medium to bypass censorship. Letting gamers know they now have the power to fight authoritarian governments and bypass state censorship by playing Minecraft – got them really excited.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
Censored articles from acclaimed journalists became uncensored Minecraft books, available in English and the language of their origin inside the library. It took 12.5 million Lego-like blocks to build this exciting gameplay experience, where young people can educate themselves in a playful way about the importance of press freedom.
On World Day Against Cyber Censorship, the library opened its doors in Minecraft. Along with a campaign featuring social media posts, YouTube videos and a website, giving background information about the project. Here visitors can access the library by an interactive walkthrough outside Minecraft and download the library map “censorship-protected” by blockchain technology. It can then be hosted again in Minecraft – allowing it to multiply fast and making it impossible to censor. (+300K downloads)
The library will stay open and more uncensored articles are being added. In March 2021 the library was updated, and three more countries got added.
List the results (30% of vote)
The library reached 25 million gamers from 165 countries, including all target countries (Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Mexico and SaudiArabia). The total playtime is adding up to 17 years – and counting.
Big gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez talked about it and the community created more than 500 gameplay videos inside the library on YouTube – and what governments tried to hide suddenly was a trending topic.
But the library went beyond the game: resulting in more than 860 news articles (total media reach 2.9B) – all with a media budget of €0. The campaign was a huge international PR success for RSF and generated general awareness for their cause. Donations for RSF increased significantly by 62% (YOY), helping them to extend their global fight for press freedom. The library even became a teaching tool in many schools and universities and the Design Museum London made it a permanent part of