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15 Fun Facts About Minecraft

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 (known affectionately to fans as “Notch”) 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. THE GAME 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. THE GAME’S FIRST NAME WAS MUCH MORE STRAIGHTFORWARD.

When Persson 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. Persson has expressed particular esteem for Infiniminer, stating that he wanted to match its aesthetic charm with RPG-style game play.

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. Persson 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. 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, most of its exclamations are in fact English words and phrases (including “hiya,” “here,” “this way,” “forever,” and “what’s up?”) played backwards or lowered in pitch.

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. Rosenfeld originally planned to have his cat voice the game’s ocelots, too, but was only successful in eliciting a meow mixed with a purr and ended up having to download real ocelot audio.  

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 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. THE GAME’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, THE GAME’S WORLD HAS SEEN ITS LIMITS.

In 2011, Persson took to his personal blog to address the limitations of the allegedly boundless world of Minecraft:

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 raised over $250,000 for Child’s Play Charity. (The Far Lands, sadly, were removed in an update to the game later that year; you’d need version 1.7.3 or earlier to follow in Mac’s virtual footsteps.)

13. THE CREATOR’S AVATAR BOASTS A UNIQUE TRAIT. 

Appropriately enough, Persson reserved a special trick for his personal Minecraft avatar. His character is the only game resident who drops an apple when he dies.

14. PERSSON OPENED UP BIDDING FOR MINECRAFT WITH A TWEET.

Ostensibly fed up with the corporate politics that accompanied running a video game developer, Persson sent out a tweet in June 2014, 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, THE GAME 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.”

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Cahoots Malone
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Revisit Your Favorite '90s Screensaver With This Free Game
Cahoots Malone
Cahoots Malone

In the '90s, a significant amount of computing power was devoted to generating endless brick mazes on Windows 95. The screensaver has since become iconic, and now nostalgic Microsoft fans can relive it in a whole new way. As Motherboard reports, the animation has been re-imagined into a video game called Screensaver Subterfuge.

Instead of watching passively as your computer weaves through the maze, you’re leading the journey this time around. You play as a kid hacker who’s been charged with retrieving sensitive data hidden in the screensaver of Windows 95 before devious infomancers can get to it first. The gameplay is pretty simple: Use the arrow keys to navigate the halls and press Q and click the mouse to change their design. Finding a giant smiley face takes you to level two, and finding the briefcase icon ends the game. There are also lots of giant rats in this version of the screensaver.

Screensaver Subterfuge was designed by Cahoots Malone as part of the PROCJAM 2017 generative software showcase. You can download it for free for Windows, macOS, and Linux from his website, or if playing a game sounds like too much work, you can always watch videos of the old screensaver on a loop.

[h/t Motherboard]

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Brain Training Could Help Combat Hearing Loss, Study Suggests
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iStock

Contrary to what you might think, the hearing loss that accompanies getting older isn't entirely about your ears. Studies have found that as people get older, the parts of their brain that process speech slow down, and it becomes especially difficult to isolate one voice in a noisy environment. New research suggests there may be a way to help older people hear better: brain training.

The Verge reports that a new double-blind study published in Current Biology suggests that a video game could help older people improve their hearing ability. Though the study was too small to be conclusive, the results are notable in the wake of several large studies in the past few years that found that the brain-training games on apps like Luminosity don't improve cognitive skills in the real world. Most research on brain training games has found that while you might get better at the game, you probably won't be able to translate that skill to your real life.

In the current study, the researchers recruited 24 older adults, all of whom were long-term hearing-aid users, for eight weeks of video game training. The average age was 70. Musical training has been associated with stronger audio perception, so half of the participants were asked to play a game that asked them to identify subtle changes in tones—like you would hear in a piece of music—in order to piece together a puzzle, and the other half played a placebo game designed to test their memory. In the former, as the levels got more difficult, the background noise got louder. The researchers compare the task to a violinist tuning out the rest of the orchestra in order to listen to just their own instrument.

After eight weeks of playing their respective games around three-and-a-half hours a week, the group that played the placebo memory game didn't perform any better on a speech perception test that asked participants to identify sentences or words amid competing voices. But those who played the tone-changing puzzle game saw significant improvement in their ability to process speech in noise conditions close to what you'd hear in an average restaurant. The tone puzzle group were able to accurately identify 25 percent more words against loud background noise than before their training.

The training was more successful for some participants than others, and since this is only one small study, it's possible that as this kind of research progresses, researchers might find a more effective game design for this purpose. But the study shows that in specific instances, brain training games can benefit users. This kind of game can't eliminate the need for hearing aids, but it can help improve speech recognition in situations where hearing aids often fail (e.g., when there is more than one voice speaking). However, once the participants stopped playing the game for a few months, their gains disappeared, indicating that it would have to be a regular practice.

[h/t The Verge]

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