Dig It: The British Geological Survey’s Minecraft Britain

I don't know. Scotland?

Some of you, our dear readers, saw the Ordnance Survey’s Minecraft scale version of Great Britain as an opportunity to terrorise portions of this green and pleasant land. Surrounding London with a magma moat was one popular idea, while someone wanted to smash North Ormesby. You are a curious lot. That was only a surface recreation, using the mapping agency’s data to recreate the layer we walk on, but now we can go deeper–either to learn more or to get really destructive.

Building on (or under) that OS scale-model world, the British Geological Survey have released their own Minecraft world with Britain down to the bedrock.

The map generalises the underlying geology then fills it with a Minecraft equivalent. Sandstones are Sandstone, obviously, while serpentinite is Emerald Ore because they look similar, metamorphic rocks are End Stone as it’s so tough, and so on. This is still imperfect, mind. The BGS Minecraft Britain assumes the geology stays the same from just beneath the surface all the way down, when it’s often a mish-mash of layers. “Watch this space!” they tease on that front.

It’s a shame that most video game recreations of real-world spaces are murderarenas. I’ve spent enough time in some FPS levels based on the mapper’s office to do the tea run or replace the copier toner (you would not believe the mundanity of my dreams), and have visited enough Disneyland versions of New York City that I’m confident I could lead a very shoddy guided tour. The only knowledge of them I really use is where to scurry for cover in a firefight. Video games!

I dig how this Minecraft world works with what the game is and does–digging and discovering. We find things which are, in reality, only metres away yet unknown to us. On a similar-ish note, I enjoyed Michael Rose last year on Gamasutra using SimCity to look at traffic problems of his hometown.

Download the British Geological Survey Minecraft world this-a-way. The world starts you at the GBS office in Cardiff, but if you’re looking to go somewhere specific the site has a map that’ll give you coordinates to jump to.


  1. Koozer says:

    I can’t wait for a version with proper layers. I always thought Geology would be much easier if I could just blow up vast portions of the land and have a look at what’s below; much easier than making a million strike dip readings.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Dynamite. Is there nothing it can’t do?

      • P.Funk says:

        I immediately heard this comment in Homer Simpson’s voice.

    • BenMS says:

      My Structural Geology lecturer said he always dreamed of just grinding off the entire surface of the field area he did his PhD in, leaving a perfectly flat, smooth surface to walk over and observe.

  2. JamesTheNumberless says:

    Sorry British Geological Survey but you’re a bit late with this particular piece of political satire, Monty Mole beat you to it.

  3. int says:

    Minecraft Team, with Tony Robinson.

  4. Dave Tosser says:

    Now to get South Ormesby. Or, rather, the geological region where South Ormesby ought to be.

  5. kirkbjerk says:

    A step in a great direction. As a geologist and a devoted gamer, I always thought being a geologic consultant for game design would be cool.

    I still think RAGE had it closest with art direction of rocks, and dwarf fortress for attempting to emulate more than just sand and bedrock.

  6. Sakkura says:

    Denmark should sue the UK for infringing on our Minecraft map intellectual property. :P

  7. rexx.sabotage says:

    Suggesting that you posses any affinity to NYC through the exploration of virtual spaces is the absolute most pretentious bullshit anyone could ever shovel. it is a microcosm that confounds even it’s own residents by the simple act of departing their own borough. It stands as a testament to the many worlds/ parallel universe theories, you absolutely cannot reproduce or synthesize it’s esoteric absurdities (although many try). Either you have been or you haven’t, simple binary.

    mind you, this is coming from someone who hates the place profusely.

    • Reefpirate says:

      “Suggesting that you posses any affinity to NYC through the exploration of virtual spaces is the absolute most pretentious bullshit anyone could ever shovel.”

      I’m pretty sure your comment would be more successful in your pretentious bullshit shoveling contest.

    • libdab says:

      … “the absolute most pretentious bullshit anyone could ever shovel” … Maybe just a wee bit of exaggeration here? Also, your comment is hardly a bullshit-free zone is it? Or is it just hyperbole?

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Yes that was absolutely what she meant, you are a genius.

      What’s wrong with the internet at the moment? The level of general arseiness seems to be rising proportionately to the amount of shit that’s being slung around on Twitter. Is this really just because the kiddies are all grumpy about going back to school?

      • Gap Gen says:

        Unless it’s the Ferguson effect, and a level of dickery that’s existed for a long time has only recently poked its head out in a big way to expose itself as dickery?

    • SRTie4k says:

      On a semi-related note, I recall a few years ago I took a trip to NYC with my in-laws. Later that evening, as we were driving out of the city, I kept getting this massively overwhelming sense of deja vu, as if I had done all of this before. It took me about 10 minutes to connect the dots, but I soon realized that everything I saw that triggered this crazy sense of familiarity was due to me having driven the streets and flown the skies of GTA4. I have a very keen sense of direction and landmarks, and having remembered some massive chunks of the obviously painstakingly recreated sections of the city, I was subconsciously relating our drive through the city with portions of the game.

      I don’t really feel an “affinity” to NYC because of my time playing GTA4, but playing the game definitely made some type of connection when I visited the real city itself.

    • Tssha says:

      Humour is evidently lost on someone like you.