Have you heard of Minecraft? If so, have you ever wondered how it came to be? How is a video game made and how does it grow from its first player to millions of players all over the world? Listen closely, because today you’re going to find out.
The story of Minecraft goes back to the year 1979 in Stockholm, Sweden when a boy named Markus Persson was born. Growing up, Markus’s father had one of the early personal computers called a Commodore 128. Markus first learned how to program the computer when he was just seven years old! Programming is when you type instructions into a computer to make it do something. Markus created his first basic video game when he was eight years old. When he got older, he worked for a company programming video games for the Internet. This company was called King. In the evenings, Markus enjoyed creating his own games. Over time he shared them with friends and other people online. After playing games like Infiminer, Dwarf Fortress and Dungeon Keeper he had the idea to create a game with a blocky visual style and RPG elements. RPG means role playing game and usually means you can find loot in the game and build up your character over time. He programmed this new game in a language called Java and decided to call it Minecraft.
In May 2009 Markus released the first version of Minecraft and shared a video of it on YouTube. He made it available online and people played it and gave him ideas about how to make it better. This is called collaboration and a great way to improve anything you create. In Minecraft players explored a 3D blocky world, mined ore and other elements and used the materials they mined to craft tools and build buildings or earthworks. One reason Minecraft was different from other games, is it allowed players to use their imagination and be creative. Similar to a toy like Lego, using Minecraft players could use the blocks to bring their imaginations to life.
A year later Markus released the next version of Minecraft. This version had new items, new blocks, new mobs (or non-player characters, or NPCs for short) and a new survival mode. At the time he was still working for someone else’s company, but eventually he left that job so he could focus all of his time and effort on making Minecraft better. He started his own video game company, hired other programmers and business-people to help their company grow, and named it Mojang. By this time millions of people had bought Minecraft and were playing it on their own and with friends. Players loved the freedom Minecraft gave them to explore the interesting and diverse worlds and use the elements within it to express themselves and be creative. In Survival Mode players crafted items and built shelters during the day, so they could protect themselves from zombie attacks at night.
Over the next few years Markus and Mojang continued to make Minecraft better. They fixed bugs in the software (a bug is a problem in the software) and added new items and new elements that made Minecraft more fun and interesting.
By the year 2014 Mojang had sold over 17 million copies of Minecraft and it had become one of the best selling computer games of all time. The same year Microsoft bought Minecraft and Mojang for 2.5 billion dollars! This gave Microsoft not only the game, but ownership over the intellectual property — which means they could sell or make anything using the Minecraft name.
Microsoft continued to improve on Minecraft and also made versions for the Xbox and Playstation and a Pocket Edition for mobile devices like Android and iPhones and tablets such as the iPad.
Another reason Minecraft has become popular, is that it allows its players to modify or “mod” the game. This means if you have the idea for a new weapon or skin for your character, or a new type of block or element in the game — if you take the time to learn the coding skills, you can create whatever you want in the game. This has led to thousands and thousands of unique “mods” that players create and make available to other players. Minecraft is the way many people first learned how to write code. They were interested in “modding” Minecraft, so they read books or online articles and figured out how to do it by writing computer code. For any kids who are interested, there are many great websites out there that teach kids how to code or “mod” Minecraft.
Over the years, the Minecraft community has spread across the world. To date there are around 126 million users. Some players have become famous sharing their gameplay on YouTube and to date, Minecraft is the most watched video game on YouTube. A few of the most popular YouTubers are Stampy, PrestonPlayz, TheAtlanticCraft and Popular MMOs. But don’t be deceived that this job is an easy one. YouTubers who have gone far have spent countless hours perfecting their craft and presentation. Preparing videos to share with their fans takes many hours of focus and dedication.
With such a huge community, Minecrafters now meet once a year for a Minecraft Convention called MineCon. At Minecon they meet at a huge convention center in different cities around the world and come together to play Minecraft, meet YouTubers, make costumes, and learn more about their favorite creative video game. The first Minecon was held in November 2011 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. More recently, Minecon Live is streamed online so players all over the world can tune in to join in the fune, too.
Often Minecrafters join together and work on huge worlds and creations. Looking on the Internet we found cities with hundreds of buildings, a gigantic Space Shuttle, castles from Lord of the Rings, and a Spanish Galleon. The planning and dedication to create these structures is pretty amazing if you think about it.
With its popularity, Minecraft has become more than just a video game. Now it has movies, several book series, toys, t-shirts, action figures and all types of collectibles to give its fans plenty of other mediums to experience and enjoy their favorite game world.
Minecraft is considered one of the most important games of the last 20 years and in 2010 it was inducted into the video game hall of fame.
It’s pretty interesting to learn how things come to be, right? Often we see them or play them in the case of Minecraft and just take them for granted. But the original creator and thousands of programmers and designers and fans have put countless hours into making games like Minecraft into what they are now. Have you ever had the idea for a video game or other creation you’ve dreamed up in your imagination? If so, take the next step and use a pencil and paper to write down your ideas. Create a story and draw a few pictures of what it might look like. If you’re interested in coding there are plenty of great tools out there for kids like Scratch, CodeAcademy, Code.org and CodaKid is one of our favorites. Also, ask if your library uses Prenda Code Club. You can learn more about it at PrendaCodeClub.com. It’s actually a website I helped create, so I recommend checking it out.