Christopher Slayton spent two months exploring black holes, identifying the colors of Saturn’s rings, and observing his home planet from outer space.
Slayton, 18, didn’t have to leave his desk to do it. He set out to build the entire observable universe, block by block, in Minecraft, a video game where users build and explore worlds.
In the end, he felt as if he had traveled to all corners of the universe.
“Everyone gets scared by the power and expansion of the universe, which I never really understood that much about,” he said. But after working for a month and 15 days to build it and an additional two weeks to create a YouTube video revealing it, “I realized even more how beautiful it is.”
Slayton, known as ChrisDaCow on his Minecraft-focused YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok accounts, has been playing the game for nearly a decade and isn’t a user of any other games, he said. He began posting videos of his “builds,” which are landscapes he creates within the game, on YouTube in 2019. This channel has become his top priority since he graduated from high school this spring. .
College may be on his radar, but it’s not yet, Slayton said. He will soon start working as a lifeguard, while continuing to grow his YouTube content to reach more followers.
With nearly 25,000 subscribers on YouTube, Slayton said the response to this video motivated him to keep pursuing ambitious ideas.
His intention is to make the videos more interesting than just narration combined with videos of a player using the interface, he said. Slayton, who lives in San Diego with his mother, stepfather and his brother, said his goal is to tell stories through Minecraft.
For the video on the quest to build the universe, he began by skydiving to see the planet from a different perspective before working to create his version of the universe. “The only way to truly appreciate the beauty of our planet is to jump out of a plane,” she said in the video.
He consulted photos of every detail of the Minecraft universe and relearned math concepts to build his creation to scale, making sure the angles and proportions were as accurate as possible. In his first attempt to make Africa, the result was too small, for example.
Slayton keeps a notebook and sketchbook on hand to organize his videos, jot down ideas, and take notes on the subject he’s studying. In the videos he demonstrates his artistic skills on a whiteboard, such as when he talks about the rings of the planets while explaining the concept he created in Minecraft.
“It’s really satisfying to be able to fly through some galaxies or look at a black hole, not just through the movie ‘Interstellar’ or something like that,” he said.
To his knowledge, Slayton isn’t the first to attempt to create the universe in Minecraft, but he said he made an effort to be precise and meticulous. The UK Xbox Twitter page praised Slayton’s work, and users on various social media platforms posted comments to express their amazement.
“I want to tell a really entertaining story, unlike how anyone else in the Minecraft community or just in the gaming community has,” Slayton said. “I want to raise the standards a little bit.”
Slayton’s last build was a rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night.” He said that he hoped to explore topics like the fourth dimension, the multiverse, and the metaverse in future compilations and videos.
Initially released in 2009, with a more complete version in 2011, Minecraft is more than just a hobby for many; for B. Reeja Jayan, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, it’s the way she teaches a materials science class at Carnegie Mellon University.
Since 2017, Jayan students have used Minecraft to connect their engineering learning with the concepts that interest them. A student created an aquatic world, where the water had a different property than it does in real life, and could control what floated and sank.
Exploring and learning concepts through Minecraft can be seen as a generational change, said Ken Thompson, an assistant professor of digital game design at the University of Connecticut.
Thompson said that youngsters, like Slayton, could apply problem solving and critical thinking when tackling projects like creating the universe. For Slayton, there was some relief after finishing the Minecraft universe: he said he hadn’t gotten enough sleep during those two months, he felt overwhelmed while finishing the video, and he ended up with a cold during a stressful period.
He hopes to move production from his bedroom to a studio soon to continue creating his builds.
Despite the response, Slayton said he won’t be happy until he gains a more permanent following on YouTube. “I’m a little restless until I can do that consistently.”
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