Cannes Lions


AKQA, London / MOJANG STUDIOS / 2020


1 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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When the pandemic hit, there was an outbreak of confusion as scientists, governments, and even parents had differing views on social distancing.The UNDP reached out to major brands to help younger audiences make sense of the crisis.

The brief from Mojang Studios, creators of Minecraft, was to use the world’s most popular game, with 145 million players, to help kids understand this strange new world in one they were already familiar with.


Blockdown is a pandemic simulator built within Minecraft, the world’s most popular game of 145 million young players. It was purpose-built to educate kids about the effects of social distancing in the pandemic, using in-game zombies. The map was free to download, giving millions of children access to understanding this complicated topic.


We knew for a fact that young children were unlikely to follow mainstream news outlets, let alone understand the complicated data and theories coming from scientists and governments. Our strategy was to present the information of pandemics and social distancing in a way they were already familiar with - through playing Minecraft.


Using an interaction every child who plays Minecraft will understand — zombie infections — we designed and built a village that allowed children to simulate a zombie pandemic by providing shelter for villagers or locking them in. Under this village was a “zombie hospital” where kids could cure zombies. But it came with limited wards to demonstrate how crucial lockdowns were to ensure they weren’t overwhelmed. Through Blockdown Simulator, kids quickly learned why staying at home was so crucial.


The simulator was free to download from Minecraft’s official website with 40M+ hits a day, giving 145 million players access to understanding this new social behavior. It was featured on major social channels, top gaming blogs and global news outlets, while becoming a hit among Youtubers, with an estimated reach of 100M+ impressions. One year on, Blockdown Simulator remains free to download, in support of the UNDP’s sustainable development goals for Good Health and Well-being and Education.

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