John St. threw a 20th birthday party in Minecraft

A lot of special events and celebrations have been cancelled outright or moved onto virtual video platforms in the last year-and-a-half.

But as John St. approached its 20th anniversary, the creative agency came up with an appropriately creative way to mark the occasion. It invited a Toronto gamer to painstakingly reconstruct its office inside the popular world-building videogame Minecraft.

So rather than Zoom drinks (so 2020), John St. threw a Covid-safe office party inside the game, with staff invited to complete some playful challenges and visit with the office’s “favourite elevator-riding dog, Doug.”

“John St. and the people who have made this agency what it is deserved a big celebration,” said chief creative officer, Cher Campbell in a release. “That’s why we had to find a way to be together when we couldn’t do it in-person and, most importantly, why we had to make it fun.”

The virtual office was revealed to staff on the morning of July 23. They were given the day to explore a retrospective of John St.’s most successful work, and complete “quests” that included putting out fires in the production department, picking up strategy buzzwords, and finding hidden Easter eggs based on agency inside jokes.

On the roof, the party really (virtually) took off, with a dance floor, fireworks, bar and agency alumni. The day ended with the entire agency taking in a Twitch stream walkthrough of the space.

While Minecraft remains a massively popular platform for gamers, the ability to create and recreate places inside the game have also made it popular among marketers.

Reporters Without Borders created a virtual library within the online world that allows citizens in countries with repressive governments to access information that is otherwise blocked or controlled. And here in Canada, H&R Block decided to it would be a fitting place (because of its blocky graphics, get it?) to open an an in-game tax centre where players could ask questions and get tax advice from H&R Block professionals.

John St.’s office was created by Toronto gamer and YouTuber Gamefruitpulp, who has spent years recreating the city’s downtown core, including the the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and the Flatiron Building, inside the game.

“Our location has been very important to us—we’re named John St. after all,” said CEO Stephanie Hurst in the release. “The experiences we’ve shared here—from sneaking chocolates from the reception desk, to the random pigeons who like to visit the first floor—have helped form who we are over the past 20 years.”

David Brown