Minecraft is haunted and Twitter too

10.08, Tuesday 22 Dec 2020

It turns out that Minecraft is haunted.

Herobrine is Notch’s dead brother, somehow embedded into Minecraft. (Notch is the creator of the game.)

Herobrine appears as a Minecraft character and he stalks the player, disappearing if approached.

And: Herobrine shows a lot of characteristics of being a form of virus, such as manipulating game worlds, deleting threads and sending messages through the Minecraft Forums.

BUT: Herobrine is not in unmodded Minecraft, and never has been. There are no references to him at all in the source code, and there is no code to allow for any entity to act like Herobrine.

Does Herobrine play a social role?

I don’t know enough about Minecraft to say. But here’s my guess. If there’s a group of 10 year olds playing together, and somebody messes with someone else’s favourite construction while they’re offline, or messes with their own stuff and regrets it, or leaves a rude message due to poor impulse control, it’s an easy thing to do: uh, yeah, I think I saw someone around, maybe it was Herobrine…

Twitter has a device like this, the face-saving unfollow bug – which has been haunting Twitter as long as I remember. Me: your good friend. You: notices that I don’t follow you. Me: uh I’m sure I do, oh look at that, we must have been bitten by the unfollow bug.

At which point your options are (A) to call me out on the unfollow bug excuse being unalloyed bullshit, but also implicitly taking the punch of the rejection; or, (B) say sure, sure and accept the face-saving throw, leaving both of us feeling better off.

We choose option (B).

Does the unfollow bug exist? If you ask around, many people will strongly insist that it does, even giving examples, albeit examples that could also be from fat-fingering the UI, or a real and unconscious commitment to face-saving and avoiding the pain of rejection. I’m not convinced. Did the unfollow bug ever exist? Perhaps once. But today it’s a consensus ghost, a precipitation of the community’s collective and deeply repressed need for harmony.

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