Let me tell you a story about Herobrine.
If you’ve never played Minecraft, it’s a game of relatively endless possibilities. What began as nothing more than virtual LEGOs has evolved into one of the best sandboxes ever created, selling over 4.5 million copies. You can build, fight, excavate, explore. You’re limited only by your imagination, and even then I’m not so sure.
But there is, you know, a dark side.
Some of that comes in the form of various creatures. Zombies, cave spiders, creepers. The Nether and lightning storms. Abandoned mines and strongholds.
The Enderman, the game’s most recent edition, is a particularly frightening entity that quietly rearranges blocks. If you make eye contact, don’t look away. Don’t blink. Like the weeping angels in Doctor Who, the moment you turn away, he’ll attack.
(Endermen are actually based on the Internet urban legend of the Slender Man, something I hope to talk about at length some time in the future.)
But today I want to talk about Minecraft’s original urban legend.
The Legend Of Herobrine
When you first enter a world in Minecraft, unless you’ve modified your skin, you’ll look like an ordinary block person. Turquoise shirt, dark purple pants, with that kind of dumbstruck, “Do I need an axe to chop wood?” look on your face.
You’ll mine ores and dirt and sand, all in the form of singular blocks. You’ll build shelters and explore deep underground caverns in search of better ores and diamonds, so you can create better stuff.
For the most part, aside from the aforementioned creatures that exist in all the dark places, it’s a fairly ordinary, trouble-free experience.
One fateful day on the Minecraft forums, a user posted a topic regarding something strange that had happened on his single-player world:
“I had recently spawned a new world in single-player Minecraft. Everything was normal at first as I began chopping down trees and crafting a workbench. I noticed something move amongst the dense fog (I have a very slow computer so I have to play with tiny render distance). I thought it was a cow, so I pursued it, hoping to grab some hides for armor.
It wasn’t a cow though. Looking back at me was another character with the default skin, but his eyes were empty. I saw no name pop-up, and I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t in multiplayer mode. He didn’t stay long, he looked at me and quickly ran into the fog. I pursued out of curiosity, but he was gone.”
The poster went on to explain that, as he continued to play, he noticed odd happenings: tunnels through rocks that appeared player-made, small sand pyramids built in the ocean, and trees without leaves. And every once in a while, out of the corner of his eye, he claimed to see the doppelganger, if just for an instant, “in the deep fog,” quietly watching.
Even more curious, after inquiring about this strange character on a forum, the poster claimed to have been sent a private message by someone using the handle “Herobrine.” It was a simple, ominous message:
Finally, the poster was contacted via e-mail by another player who had also witnessed the strange doppelganger in his own world.
Together, so the story goes, they found that Herobrine was the handle of a player in Sweden, possibly the brother of Notch, Minecraft’s creator. But, after asking Notch if he had a brother, his only response was, allegedly, “I did, but he is no longer with us.”
The poster also shared the now famous image of the white-eyed doppelganger (off in the distance, center-left):
White Eyes, Wake Up
Herobrine may be a hoax, but he’s an interesting one.
The original post didn’t garner much attention. The legend’s popularity came after a video stream of Minecraft called “Brocraft” staged an event that showed Herobrine near the end.
Another hoax involved a webpage that displayed a cryptic message that, once decoded, read:
It has been reported that some victims of torture, during the act, would retreat into a fantasy world from which they could not WAKE UP. In this catatonic state, the victim lived in a world just like their normal one, except they weren’t being tortured. The only way that they realized they needed to WAKE UP was a note they found in their fantasy world. It would tell them about their condition, and tell them to WAKE UP. Even then, it would often take months until they were ready to discard their fantasy world and PLEASE WAKE UP.
Presumably, the message can be interpreted as being for the person reading it. Meaning you. Or me. It added a very unnerving piece to the Herobrine puzzle.
“He’s not in the game.”
The creepy post (creepypasta, as it’s often called). The video streams. The ominous message. It didn’t take much else for Herobrine to become legend.
And just like any urban legend, he’s seen a lot of variation. In some cases, Herobrine is as he originally was: quiet, watching. Solemnly constructing pyramids and placing torches, forever wandering and sometimes appearing in the distance.
Another version casts Herobrine as a “vengeful miner” who is aggressive towards the player. He builds dungeons and sets traps, and waits for an innocent adventurer to stumble into his domain, who he’ll follow and, eventually, murder.
Officially, Herobrine has never been added to Minecraft. A tweet by Minecraft’s creator, Notch, stated plainly:
“Herobrine isn’t real in any way, no. I never had a brother (well, there’s a half brother I never meet..), and he’s not in the game.”
He does, however, exist in certain mods and plugins that players can manually add to the game. It’s even possible that the Minecraft developers may eventually end up implementing him, but for now he’s strictly a work of fiction.