Why is this work relevant for Social & Influencer?
Minecraft has developed the characteristics of a social medium with a huge community and young people from all over the world meet in this virtual world. In order to get young people from countries with press censorship engaged in reading independent journalism, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) used Minecraft in an unprecedented way and actively bypassed censorship. In combination with a social media campaign this led to high levels of engagement and social reach within the gaming community, top influencers got involved and a vast amount of user-generated content helped to turn gamers into press freedom activists.
After the acclaimed “Uncensored Playlist”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) wanted an awareness campaign to highlight the importance of press freedom and overcome censorship. This time aiming to reach millions of young people who grow up in oppressive countries. They are especially vulnerable to disinformation by authoritarian governments and lack access to independent journalism.
The challenge was to reach young people in countries where most media is either controlled or blocked and at the same time excite young people all over the world to engage in a difficult topic such as press freedom.
Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)
How to overcome strong firewalls 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, especially young people flee into games like Minecraft. The game still provides freedom in a virtual world 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.
A monument for press freedom impressive enough to get the international gaming community engaged. And for the first time ever, a game was transformed into a tool to overcome censorship.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
The countries featured in the library 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.
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. 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.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
Censored articles from acclaimed journalists became uncensored Minecraft books, available in English and their original language 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 monument for press freedom that has a jaw-dropping effect on gamers 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 involvement of big YouTube gaming influencers.
List the results (30% of vote)
The Uncensored Library went viral within days. Big gaming influencers like CaptainSparklez talked about it and gamers uploaded +500 gameplay videos on YouTube. The international gaming community couldn’t stop talking about it and spread the word in- and outside the game – and what governments tried to hide suddenly became a trending topic.
The library reached 25 million gamers from 165 countries, including all target countries (Russia, Vietnam, Egypt, Mexico and SaudiArabia). While the total playtime added up to 17 years – and counting.
Young gamers getting excited about press freedom made the news all over the world (+860 news articles). They took the library into their schools and universities and it became a teaching tool. Whilst donations for RSF increased significantly by 62% (YOY), helping them to extend their global fight against censorship. The library will stay open to give young people back their human right to access information.