We all know that gay gamers are awesome, but this one is going above and beyond. Davin Taylor (aka Bohtauri) has undertaken a task that is so massive it's almost mind-boggling: He founded Project 1845 to create a 1:1 scale replica of the entire 18th century of Beijing City in Minecraft! The very idea was so crazy, I had to find out exactly what was going through his head when he decided to do this!
Wanting to do something never done before, Taylor found that there was no scale replica of the forbidden city, and decided to change that. "I was living in Beijing at the time," he says, "so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to use my personal experiences in exploring the forbidden city in person and put that into practice in Minecraft.
"About two months later, after searching the national archives in Beijing," he continues, "I found what is now called the Qianlong Map, which is the oldest complete map of Beijing dated to around 1750. Knowing this was a rare map and still soul searching for what to do that I would find meaningful in life, I began planning to use this map to help teach western society about Chinese culture in a way that has never been done before."
After working on Project 1845 for over a year Taylor is currently only about 2% done with it, but insists his enthusiasm hasn't waned. "When it takes over 80 hours to build a tourist route around what's been built, you begin to realize the true scale," he muses. "It's almost as if you're building an entire city by yourself which, in many ways, I am."
The trick, it turns out, is focusing on the details. "I try to avoid thinking about the big picture," Taylor explains, "and find a small niche area inside the project I find interesting on a day-to-day basis. In the long term, it will slowly rise and be completed someday."
Even building a virtual city takes time, but Taylor is glad he chose Minecraft as his building material. "Since I was already building the forbidden city in Minecraft and it can be ported out into other 3D environments," he says, "and because the Minecraft community is an extremely supportive one, I decided to continue building and expanding past the forbidden city section." The limited detail available in Minecraft also ensures that Taylor won't get bogged down in a project that he couldn't complete in his lifetime!
Moving from Beijing back home to New Zealand in early 2012 slowed the project down some as he returned to university and focused more on his studies, but he continued plugging away at it. "In terms of construction, I may spend 20 minutes to three hours at least every other day in Minecraft," Taylor reports. "I probably spend just as much time if not more on research and promotional stuff to get the word out about the project.
"It has affected my life deeply," he continues, "because not only is this a building project in Minecraft, it's also getting curriculum modules so teachers in schools can use the project to teach topics in history, language and social studies. There is also a 650-page book coming out in the next 12 months about the original rare map that is currently undergoing restoration that I am organizing."
Having finished school, Taylor most recently moved to Australia, and continues working on Project 1845 both for others and himself. "The ultimate goal," he says, "as warm and fuzzy as it sounds, is to help bridge the gap of how the west perceive and understand the Chinese culture. Seeing it in person taught me a lot about the world and how the world sees China.
"If people saw its beauty and saw it unbiased, they would enjoy each others' company a lot more," Taylor adds. "There is most definitely a Cold War-biased feeling that western media gives to China which I hope this project makes a small step towards breaking down. I don't get fame and I definitely don't get fortune for this project. I'm doing it purely for the warm fuzzy feeling in doing my part to making the world a happier place."
If you'd like to help Taylor with this undertaking, you're more than welcome to reach out to him, but he warns that it's not going to be a lot of fun! "I get a lot of requests to help," he says. "19 out of 20 people I have to decline. Most people don't understand that building outlines, holes and walls 90% of the time is boring labor. But eventually with patience, the rare few get to build interesting stuff. If people do want to help build, they can live on the multiplayer server's survival world. When I need help doing something faster, I'll call out to everyone online and anyone interested can put their hand up."
If you don't want to help with the actual building, you can also assist with the project by donating via PayPal at the Project 1845 website. "This money is spent on server costs and developing resources alongside the project so it can be used by schools more efficiently. I am planning a volunteer program to help more users help contribute in more ways. Keep an eye on the project's Facebook page for more information!"