Whether you’re an avid player or have one in your life, you’ve probably had at least a brief encounter with Minecraft by now. Here are a few things you might not know about the gaming juggernaut.
1. The first version of Minecraft was created in just six days.
In 2009, Swedish programmer and designer Markus Persson set out to create a sandbox game—one that allows for free and organic exploration of a virtual world—for the launch of his new company, Mojang AB. Persson began work on what is now Minecraft on May 10 of that year, amending the product in increments until May 16. The “alpha version” of Minecraft made its public debut the very next day.
2. Minecraft wasn’t deemed complete for another two years.
Following Minecraft’s release on PC, Mojang would periodically update and tweak the game until delivering what the company considered its full version on November 18, 2011.
3. Minecraft’s first name was much more straightforward.
When Minecraft's creator kicked off the development process, he referred to the project as Cave Game. The name was soon changed to Minecraft: Order of the Stone, and, ultimately, just Minecraft.
4. Minecraft was inspired by several other games.
Minecraft’s creator has heralded PC video games Dwarf Fortress, Dungeon Keeper, RollerCoaster Tycoon, and Infiniminer as the primary influences for Minecraft. He has expressed particular esteem for Infiniminer, stating that he wanted to match its aesthetic charm with RPG-style gameplay.
5. Creepers began as a coding error.
One of Minecraft’s stranger native species is the creeper, an electrically charged predator with a haunting mug. The game's creator didn’t actually set out to design such a monster; he was trying to create a pig, but accidentally switched the figures for desired height and length when inputting the code. The result was the monstrosity that players know and love.
6. Gamers theorize that the Enderman language is actually English in reverse (or pitched down).
Another haunting Minecraft species is the Enderman. While this creature’s speech is nearly incomprehensible to the human ear, some fans believe it's simply English words and phrases (including “hiya,” “here,” “this way,” “forever,” and “what’s up?”) played backward or lowered in pitch. The game's developers, however, have disputed this theory.
7. Ghasts are voiced by a sleeping cat.
One other Minecraft monster owes its vocal rumblings to a real-world creature. Any player will recognize the high-pitched whine of the ghast, the game’s resident block-shaped fire-breather. These sounds are actually the result of an accidental audio recording of Minecraft music producer Daniel “C418” Rosenfeld’s cat as it was suddenly awakened from a nap.
8. Minecraft plays a big role at a Swedish school…
In 2013, the Viktor Rydberg secondary school in Stockholm introduced Minecraft as a mandatory part of its curriculum for all of its 13-year-old students. A teacher explained what made the game worthwhile for students: “They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future.”
9. But Minecraft is an even bigger deal in Denmark.
Sweden’s neighbor to the south has touted an even more impressive affection for Minecraft. In 2014, state employees Simon Kokkendorf and Thorbjørn Nielsen of the Danish Geodata Agency completed a scale replica of the entire nation of Denmark within the digital world-building game to help drive interest in geographic data.
10. Minecraft’s fame is the product of free marketing.
According to a study conducted by Annenberg School of Communication doctoral student Alex Leavitt, one-third of early Minecraft users first heard about the game from friends and another third discovered the game through YouTube videos.
11. Despite claiming an infinite span, Minecraft’s world has seen its limits.
In 2011, Minecraft's creator took to his personal blog to address the limitations of the allegedly boundless world of the game:
"Let me clarify some things about the ‘infinite’ maps: They’re not infinite, but there’s no hard limit either. It’ll just get buggier and buggier the further out you are. Terrain is generated, saved and loaded, and (kind of) rendered in chunks of 16*16*128 blocks. These chunks have an offset value that is a 32 bit integer roughly in the range negative two billion to positive two billion. If you go outside that range (about 25% of the distance from where you are now to the sun), loading and saving chunks will start overwriting old chunks. At a 16/th of that distance, things that use integers for block positions, such as using items and pathfinding, will start overflowing and acting weird."
12. However, one devoted fan chose to set off on an endless quest.
Players would have to walk an extreme distance—the digital equivalent of approximately 7500 miles—before witnessing serious coding meltdown. This virtual wasteland was known, appropriately, as the “Far Lands.”
Right around the time of the aforementioned blog post, gamer Kurt J. Mac decided to test the limits of Minecraft and travel to the Far Lands. He began his quest in March 2011. Don’t think it a total waste of time; Mac earned a good deal of notoriety on YouTube, and he's still streaming his adventures while raising money for charity today. (The Far Lands, sadly, were removed in an update to the game in 2011; you’d need version 1.7.3 or earlier to follow in Mac’s virtual footsteps.)
13. Minecraft's creator’s avatar boasts a unique trait.
Appropriately enough, Minecraft's creator reserved a special trick for his personal avatar. In the first few versions of the game, his character was the only resident who dropped an apple when he died.
14. Minecraft's creator opened up bidding with a tweet.
In June 2014, Minecraft's creator sent out a tweet hoping to gauge the interest of any outside parties in purchasing his Mojang shares. Three months later, he officially sold the company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion.
15. Every once in a while, Minecraft gets its own name wrong.
One in every 10,000 times you play the game, its introductory menu will flash a misspelling of its own title, reversing the “E” and the “C” to read, “Minceraft.”
A version of this story ran in 2015; it has been updated for 2021.