Interview with Mitchell Jacobson, Head of Staff for Cubed! In-Game Convention

Cubed! is an in-game Minecraft convention that people can attend for free. It has its own map, plugins, and a plethora of opportunities for the participants to dive into — such as Youtuber panels, minigame areas, and even interviews with notable figures in the community.

Before MINECON Live (formerly MINECON Earth), there weren’t many Minecraft conventions that tinkered with accessibility. There were live streams of convention floors, but not many used a centralized experience for its convention attendees. There also wasn’t a prevalent use of the game itself to create an available experience to the public, but that changed back in 2012.

Cubed! is an in-game Minecraft convention that people can attend for free. It has its own map, plugins, and a plethora of opportunities for the participants to dive into — such as Youtuber panels, minigame areas, and even interviews with notable figures in the community.

It is a pretty impressive feat if you put this into perspective: It’s a Minecraft convention held on a server — free of charge — and people have to volunteer, develop, and plan it all out so it can go successfully without much delay. This same convention has continued to do this for eight years running!

Cubed! has a planned 2019 run from August 30th and September 1st, which is in a few months! You should take a look at more information about their scheduling if you’re planning to join. While we’re waiting on the big day, we decided to reach out to one of the Cubed! team members, Mitchell Jacobson (Head of Staff), to ask some questions about the event and his experiences with the team.

With that, let’s start the interview:

We know that the convention was founded in 2012 by AyreTV and Tekon. Can you give us specifics on the origins of Cubed!?

MJ: Well, originally under the name MineconSE, SE being shorthand for Server Edition, the goal was to bring Minecon to the masses who couldn’t afford to travel all the way to where it was being held. It was designed to be the virtual and accessible solution to the issue. Players could come from all over the world and connect with their peers who had the same interests. It also was and remains to be a great way for smaller servers and creators to get their name out there.

MD: That’s a pretty ambitious goal so I’m glad the convention is still going on strong for eight years!

MJ: Absolutely, I joined prior to the 2013 convention and haven’t looked back. It’s honestly been quite life-changing.

A lot of your team members are in their young adult/adult years, so that means personal life usually gets managed alongside this. The convention is free to attend and has a lot of effort put into its plugins, management, and organization, so it’s astounding how much work all of you have done without any form of monetary compensation — unless there is and we’re not truly informed on it. Is there a reason why there’s no mandatory paid entry?

MJ: It goes back to the original intent of the convention, and what I’m sure would also be some legal hoops to jump through. The conventions started so that the Minecraft community as a whole could attend, no matter what means you come from or find yourself in. Our staff and management teams are volunteers that want to see that continue. While it’s true we don’t get any financial compensation for our time, we get so much more than that. We’ve developed a community and a place where anyone and everyone is welcome.

The staff are their own family and a lot of us have been together and friends for years. Instead of having people pay to enter our servers, we’d rather people join the community and donate during the event of their own free will. SpecialEffect, the charity where our proceeds go, does so much for gamers that don’t have the physical capabilities that so many of us do. Personally, I’d rather that money go to those kids than in my pocket.

What I’ve noticed is how familial the community is with its members, and there’s a lot of veterans who stay and help out in any way they can. After years of managing these events, does your team have any memories that stick out the most?

MJ: Gosh, sometimes I can’t believe it’s been 6 years since I wandered into this whole thing. I think a lot of us would have different answers, to be honest with you. We experience things differently and are in different places most of the time. One that is most prevalent to me is during the set-up for 2017. That was the year myself and my former partner had been hired to take over the Staff Team.

That summer I had also been moving from New York to Nevada where I live now. I had begun really developing stronger relationships with people during that time, but it got scary. On the drive across the country, my dad and I were in a bad accident. Truth be told, it was the kind most people don’t walk away from. When I told my superiors at the time, there was so much overwhelming support and concern for my well-being. I’ll never forget how they made sure to ask if we were okay and what we were doing to make sure of it.

Another was meeting and hanging out with a Youtuber, streamer, and amazing person: thedisabledgamer. He’s an amazing dude and I’ve had the privilege of getting to sit down with him a few times to talk and even do a panel with him. He suffers from cerebral palsy and is an avid advocate for what we do. His strength of heart and character has affected me greatly these last few years. He actually just recently released a short film he’s been working on and it’s really really good.

You stated earlier that Cubed! supports the non-profit organization, Special Effect, and you do this each year. How did you get involved with SpecialEffect? Was this your first intention or did it develop over time?

MJ: Supporting charities with the proceeds from Cubed! was something that we transitioned to. We initially supported Child’s Play in 2013 and 2014, but took a specific interest in SpecialEffect after. They are UK-based, as are Tekon and AyreTV, and at the time were much smaller. There was a lot more personal passion in the product.

This is the type of convention that can change someone’s life, I am sure of that — it’s all in the amount of effort and kindness put into it. So, has your team been contacted before by a previous participant about the convention changing them for the better?

MJ: I can’t recall a specific instance of someone approaching us to say that, but I’d like to think that anyone who’s attended one of our events and participated in the activities would say it affected them positively. We work very hard to ensure that our guests have the best experience possible. There’s a lot of heart that goes into doing this and it really shows when we see how many people feel like they want to give back and donate to the charity.

MD: It goes to show how far the Minecraft community will go just to make a positive impact on someone’s life. With all of the non-profit organizations and programs I’ve seen, the Minecraft community has a very loving majority even if the vocal minority tries to direct all of the media attention, so I’m glad that all of you are working really hard towards making a great experience.

MJ: I’m very proud of all the people that chose to be a part of what we do.

That does lead us, sadly, to our last question. Do you have any advice for the ones planning to attend the event? Any basic information about how to join in on the fun. Are there any protocols for people who are blind, deaf, and/or busy that still want to be involved?

MJ: If you’re planning to attend, I’d suggest having some of your settings lowered to deal with the amount of people and chunks that are physically on the server. A lot of people have a hard time with their rigs and the unexpected amount of lag it can cause. Also, keep an eye on the Discord and Twitter. We love doing surprise giveaways, special events, and flash sales.

The Discord is also just a fun place to hang out and meet new friends during the event. Play the minigames, explore the booths, rides, and other activities we have during the weekend event. Our stage is one of the most popular spots but is really only to catch a glimpse of the live stream participants as the panels air on stream. We have a lot of fun stuff planned for everyone to do.

One of the best parts about featuring servers, creators, and streamers in their booths is the ability to go out and explore those options with your friends. If there’s no stream currently active, go check out the servers that are advertising and give it a shot.

Catering to the differently abled is difficult when the medium is strictly digital, but our hope is that between the physical server and our interactive live stream via Twitch, that most people are able to feel involved with Cubed! while it’s on. If you find yourself busy during the live streaming events, we have for the last few years left the convention server online and operational for the week following the closing ceremony.

I’d like to thank Mitchell Jacobsen for taking some time out of his day to come talk with us about Cubed!. It’s inspiring to see people work on these events and churn out so many happy memories as a result of dedication to the community. People, like Jacobsen, were able to find a network of friendships and support even in the darkest moments, and Cubed! aspires to be the type of convention that gives you the time of day — no matter who you are.

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