Entire known universe recreated in Minecraft by 18-year-old

In a game where you can build nearly anything, one 18-year-old spent two months creating and sharing the whole observable universe.

Christopher Slayton, 18, is a long-time aficionado of Minecraft, a game that allows people to create castles, cliffs and other objects using old-school blocks. But Slayton supersized the effort. 

He created black holes, stars and galaxies using his desktop computer and shared the epic results on YouTube (opens in new tab) and in the Minecraft Reddit community (opens in new tab) earlier this month, swiftly going viral in the process.

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The family-friendly Minecraft is not a traditional space game in any sense, but the mods Slayton implemented and shared on Patreon (opens in new tab) appear to place it among the best space exploration games out there.

"What am I doing with my life?" Slayton said in the YouTube video, which is now pulling close to a million views. "I've been sitting in this tiny, sweaty room for eight hours trying to build the curve on a black hole."

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Craft your gaming experience in Minecraft, where you can explore your own worlds in creative mode or battle it out with others in a survival situation. The pack includes the base Minecraft game and several skins, such as villains or Greek mythology.

Minecraft, first released in 2009 and taken to a wider scale in 2011, now has more than 141 million active users worldwide, according to Statista (opens in new tab). It has attracted its fair share of small-scale space mods over the years, like this Baby Yoda in an official Star Wars DLC in 2021. But the universe? That's another challenge altogether.

"Everyone freaks out about the power and expansiveness of the universe, which I never really got that much," Slayton told the New York Times (opens in new tab). But after six weeks of work on the Minecraft universe and two weeks creating the YouTube video, he added, "I realized even more how beautiful it is."

The first problem Slayton encountered was trying to replicate the dark and light sides of planets like Earth in a game that doesn't even have a source of light. He manually put in light blocks and dark blocks, a process that took him days, only to find new issues at ringed planets like Saturn. "It took me an entire day just to space out and tilt all of its rings," he said in the video.

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One of the biggest challenges in building the universe in Minecraft is accurately rendering the dark and light sides of planets. (Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-CalTech)

The journey to galactic-scale builds pushed Slayton to his limits, as he pursued ventures like skydiving to see the Earth from on high, and advanced math to recreate the continents of a planet accurately. 

He built solar flares, the famous "Pillars of Creation" in the Eagle Nebula and galactic-scale structures, all to scale and all with numerous technical challenges to overcome. The big reveal at the video's end shows a true journey that feels like you're flying through galaxies.

Slayton has almost 25,000 subscribers on YouTube. For now, he told the Times, he's planning to collect a lifeguard's salary and reduce expenses (such as by living with his family) while continuing to pursue growing his online business. 

Over time, Slayton hopes to share stories through Minecraft to engage the community and to try projects like the multiverse, the metaverse and multiple dimensions. 

"I want to tell a real entertaining story, unlike how anyone else has done it in the Minecraft community or just the gaming community," Slayton said. "I kind of want to up the standards a bit."

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace