Brooklyn school wins Minecraft Battle of the Boroughs Mayor’s Cup for inclusive, futuristic city designs

Mayor Adams hands trophy of the Minecraft Battle of the Boroughs
A team of students from Gravesend’s John Dewey High School took home the prize at the 2023 Minecraft Battle of the Boroughs Mayor’s Cup.
Photo courtesy of April Renae

Brooklyn takes the trophy!

Students from Gravesend’s John Dewey High School won the city’s Minecraft Education Challenge Battle of the Boroughs this month for their their inclusive, future-ready city designs.

The competition challenged 400 teams of five students each to redesign some aspects of New York City using the computer game Minecraft and sustainability and development guidelines set forward by Mayor Eric Adams. 

Students competing at the minecraft cup 2023
The finalists competed for the first time in-person at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Photo courtesy of April Renae

Adams launched “NYC Summer of Games” in June — a citywide set of events around the booming digital games industry featuring expos, tournaments, exhibits, workshops and programs across all five boroughs. The kickoff event, the Battle of the Boroughs, challenged students to imagine and design safe community spaces where the different communities of New York City could come together.

“New York City has always been the world’s center of innovation, but our administration is dedicated to taking that to the next level by becoming the world’s leader in the digital gaming space,” said Adams, who later handed a giant golden goblet to the team of five Brooklyn high school students who presented the best design in the seniors’ category.

The cup was launched online three years ago by New York City Public Schools in partnership with Microsoft and Minecraft Education. The Director of Microsoft’s Modern Work Space division was one of this year’s judges.

Signups for the cup have increased each year since, and last year, Adams designated $2 million in an investment for the first-ever bachelor’s degree program in Digital Game Design at City College of New York.

minecraft battle of the boroughs
Hundreds of students from across the five boroughs gathered in Manhattan for the championship event. Photo courtesy of April Renae

“Games and competition are often a critical part in igniting a child’s creativity and can play an important role in developing critical-thinking skills,” said Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks.

Some gaming companies offer average salaries of around $115,000 nationwide for senior game developers, so the event also included a digital games career expo with representatives from Adobe, Lego, Computer Science for All, City University of New York, Gaming Pathways, EPIC Games, Play NYC, Sphero, The Animation Project and many others.

Minecraft is the best-selling video game in history, with 140 million monthly active players as of 2021. The game world is composed of rough 3-D objects, and players can move freely to build all kinds of things. The core gameplay revolves around creating imaginary cities, but at the Mayor’s Cup, students interacted with scenarios that replicated real conditions in the city. 

The winning team proposed a series of adjustments that would make the city cleaner, safer and more accessible.

“I would definitely make some changes if I could,” said Brit Llanos, a senior student from Bensonhurst who is planning on majoring in computer science and becoming a software engineer. She is one of the members of the winning team the Blockhamptons along with Esraa Luna, Jay Mallette, Enrique Hernandez and Jolin Jiang. 

minecraft mayor's cup
The winning team worked to make New York City’s public spaces cleaner, friendlier, and more accessible to all New Yorkers. Photo courtesy of April Renae

“Our public spaces need to be cleaner, safer and easier to get to,” said Llanos. “What mainly stood out from our design was our idea of integrating all cultures. We wanted to make sure everyone could feel like they’re in a safe place and wanted, so, if they see something that they’re familiar with or recognized, they would come and everyone would just enjoy each other.”

For their final entry, the Blockhamptons turned a virtual wasteland into a public park with a converter to turn methane gas into electricity, solar panels, a cell phone charging station, space for food vendors, a dog-friendly area and a dancing floor.

“We really came from nothing,” said Llanos. “There were a lot of people who didn’t believe that Minecraft, a game that has been out for like over a decade now, would really bring us the successes that we have right now. So, this shows that if you really put the power of education through a video game, you can really do it all.”