Minecraft players have talked about this figure Herobrine, who basically looks like the character Steve but without eyeballs, for a few years. You summon Herobrine by making an altar our of gold, nether, and torches. It’s less common to see Herobrine himself – although some players have claimed to – but you can tell he’s been in an area in a number of ways. For example, the trees might have no leaves, you might see a random 2×2 tunnel, something you built could be on fire, he might put up signs with threatening messages … those are a few things that players have linked to him. Some people claim to have seen him even without spawning him using the altar; there are some blurry screenshots circulating online as proof, but it’s been debated whether those are edited or not. It’s most likely that if he’s real, he’s a glitch, based on the way he acts. But some people have started a rumor that Herobrine is the dead brother of Notch [the founder of Minecraft].
The informant, BN, is my classmate at USC. He is an avid Minecraft player, and came across this legend through posts on Reddit and YouTube related to the game.
Personally, I think Herobrine is real. Although I’ve never seen the ominous character himself, I have tried to spawn him in using the gold/nether altar – and soon thereafter I saw leafless trees, as well as a sign in front of my house in the game, saying “You will burn.”
The development and spread of the Herobrine legend shows the nature of the Minecraft community. The square-based universe of Minecraft is one adjacent to our real world, so it has its own folklore and urban legends. Players’ thoughts on whether Herobrine is real or not stem from their personal experiences with the game, as well as the YouTube and Twitch content they consume of it. This is similar to how many people’s belief in ghosts comes from their own perceived encounters with one, or convincing video content that someone else has interacted with/seen one. Plus, most Minecraft players belong to Gen Z and grew up with the game. This demographic was in their early teens when the Herobrine legend first originated and gained traction. This young age group is significantly more likely to believe a story about the paranormal, allowing the legend to take off and maintain relevance.