Student launches successful Minecraft server

Sophia Maxim

Senior Kai Anderson, a Minecraft server owner, visits his Avatar bending server, which has more than 250,000 users. “I didn’t just have a good feeling about this place,” Anderson said. “I knew the effort that I was putting in here, 12, 13 hours a day for like an entire month straight, just trying to put this place together, I knew that was gonna mean something.” (Sophia Maxim)

Eight months ago, senior Kai Anderson began working on his most ambitious project yet: an Avatar-themed Minecraft server.

Known by his screen name, Blitz, Anderson serves as the face and owner of BendersMC, a server with an estimated market value between $50,000-$100,000 and with more than 250,000 users. Players from around the world can bend and duel each other using the four elements in the animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” 

Anderson’s server blew up online when he posted his first video promoting the server’s bending features to TikTok. The account now has over 250,000 followers.

“I’d never even used TikTok before, and I literally got three and a half million views, and I was like, ‘Well, this is my life now,’” Anderson said.

From the beginning, Anderson dedicated himself to the project, confident in its potential. 

“The colleague I started with had said to me, ‘Man, we shouldn’t do this. We’re going to look like losers if we actually make this Minecraft server,’” Anderson recalls. “I said to him, ‘Listen, if we work hard enough, and if this works out for us, nobody can laugh at us, as long as we take this part of the process seriously.’”

Server deletion, comeback

On Jan. 1, Anderson’s team faced its toughest obstacle yet. A former co-owner who no longer wished to be part of the company had terminated the server’s entire world file. For the following two weeks, the team worked tirelessly to rebuild everything that had been lost. 

“It really showed us who was present during the server’s biggest time of need,” said Ezra Lowry, the creative director and head builder for the server.

This wasn’t the first time someone had attempted to sabotage the server and destroy months of work. 

“In the company’s history, people have tried to dismantle my company three different times, and so far, none have been successful,” Anderson said. “That just proves the resilience of my team. We’re very committed to our project. We basically fight to the bitter end.”

Anderson has learned the importance of security from these experiences.

“Even though these people were some of my best friends, the power I gave them was too much,” Anderson said. “I feel like I compromised [the server’s safety] by letting these individuals have this much control over my company, especially since there were no legal bindings, no contracts being signed. It was us doing it as friends, and there’s nothing to protect you from getting screwed over by your friends.”

 He now makes certain to be extremely careful when choosing the people he entrusts with the power and responsibility that comes with the job.

“You got to make sure you can’t just trust anyone,” Anderson says. “Even the people you trust the most can still get in your way. It’s a brutal reality.”

Anderson and Cody have been Minecraft fans since childhood. “We both grew up on the game,” Cody said. “We played together. We both considered it the best game ever made. Kai and I both really respect the survival part of the game where you can create things and use the game mechanics and algorithms to your advantage.” (Sophia Maxim)

Leadership

For a large portion of his life, Anderson had wanted to join the Air Force and commission as an officer. He established strong leadership skills through an ROTC program with the Civil Air Patrol.

“They made me an extremely confident leader,” Anderson said. “I could say that after I had done that program, I was very confident in conducting large groups of people, following-up with people and in maintaining a schedule, a protocol and standards that we have to follow. I learned to hold myself and other people accountable for what goes right and what goes wrong.”

Leadership and discipline have been essential to Anderson’s success in expanding the server. However, he has maintained a humble mindset throughout the course of his rise to online popularity.

“Kai is very proud of his achievements, and he knows what he’s capable of,” senior Spencer Cody, Anderson’s best friend, said. “He isn’t conceited, but he has that confidence. He doesn’t overplay what he’s done; he just knows that he can do his certain thing very well, and he sticks to that.” 

Image and community

Following its deletion and restart, game server provider Novonode sponsored BendersMC. Anderson used to see users and channels with sponsors, and he looked up to them as celebrities, but now he has a new perspective.

“When I was younger, I’d see these people and be like, ‘Wow, these guys are superstars; they’re famous or whatever,’ but being here, it’s just not true,” Anderson says. “I’m just some high schooler just sitting in my bedroom playing Minecraft.”

Some players have begun to idolize “Blitz,” Anderson’s online persona. The moment he logs on to the server, users quickly surround him and grapple for his attention. Other users have expressed viewing him as their hero.

Frequent player Musaed Almudhaf recalls his experience in a Discord call with Blitz: “People treated him like a god,” Almudhaf said of Anderson. “They praised him, and I don’t understand why. He is a human teenager living his life, and we shouldn’t treat him any different.”

Anderson is thankful for his position and his fans, but his new image sometimes stirs mixed feelings.

“Blitz”, Anderson’s online alias, goes fishing on his server, surrounded by players. (Kai Anderson)

“It puts you in a really awkward position, even if it’s recognition that you want,” Anderson reveals. “At times, I’ve felt with some people even, it goes as far as almost worship. There’s been some negative interaction, but for the most part, it is very positive. These guys are super supportive of me and my project, my team. They motivate us, they boost our morale. It’s like fuel. I really appreciate that stuff, but again, it doesn’t come without drawbacks.” 

Once more people learned of the server, Anderson realized his success influenced their perception of him. He wanted people to see him for the person he is, rather than as an internet celebrity. Ever since, he has made an effort to keep that facet of his life somewhat private. So far, only Anderson’s closest friends know about the server.

“When people started to figure it out about me, they would just treat me differently,” he said. “It’s not in a bad way, per se, but it doesn’t feel real to me. I value these genuine, real interactions with people, and me not telling people that I do this makes it so that people can still just see me for just Kai Anderson.”

The BendersMC warzone at nighttime, built by Lowry and staff builders. Players can bend and duel in the warzone using the four elements seen in “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. (Kai Anderson)

The supportive community of BendersMC motivates Anderson to persevere despite personal challenges. 

According to Almudhaf, “the players in the community of Benders MC really love and accept the person known as ‘Blitz,’ who provides [them] with entertainment and fun.”

Anderson cherishes the positive feedback he receives from players and fans. He thinks they appreciate him for his authentic self.

“I’d give an arm and a leg for these people,” Anderson said. “I love every single one of them, but one of the things I’m glad about with this entire process is that I’ve never had to compromise the person I am. I never had to make a fake character or act a certain way to get what I wanted. It’s a great marketing strategy honestly: just to be yourself.”

Anderson checks the menu screen to view all connected players on his Minecraft server. The server typically has over 100 users playing simultaneously. (Sophia Maxim)

Anderson and his staff of more than 35 prioritize giving back to the community for its enthusiastic support by staying involved on the server and its social media platforms.

“I like to communicate and absorb myself in my community,” Anderson said. “It is important that every single day, I reach out to these people because I gotta let them know that I actually care about them.”

However, Anderson has had to set some limitations on the amount of time and energy he dedicates to the server and community every day, considering its impact on other areas of his life. 

“I can’t always get up and out of bed at three in the morning just to help someone out because it has also interfered with my academic life and my school life quite a bit,” Anderson said. “I mean, it’s a huge project. It is quite literally the largest project I have ever been a part of in my entire life, as well as the most ambitious, I’d say. I could easily say it is more work than school. I mean, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Staff members have taken much of the responsibility and weight from Anderson’s shoulders. “It would have been impractical of me to pursue this alone,” he said.

Media presence

Anderson has always observed algorithms in different social media platforms. In his opinion, keeping a consistent marketing campaign is key to social media success.

“The more you insert your presence into TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, whatever you’re trying to do, the more attention you’re going to get,” he said. “You need to remind people that you exist; you need to remind people that you’re on the internet, otherwise they will forget. What you go viral for, what you’re relevant for it, you’ve got to keep doing that as long as you can, and you’ve got to focus on that as specific as you can as well.”

Anderson’s set of personal strengths has been an asset to the company, particularly with marketing expertise and interpersonal skills. 

“Kai is a very talented person, especially when it comes to his marketing capabilities,” Lowry said. “He is phenomenal at putting a message out to the public and being the public face of any project that he has his hands on.”

According to Lowry, Anderson excels at adapting to the social level of being in an online space.

Anderson’s avatar, Blitz, has become a well-known online persona. (Sophia Maxim)

However, Anderson wasn’t always so comfortable with portraying himself publicly online. According to Cody, during the early days of the server, “his former colleague was pushing him to start making actual voice-overs for his promotional TikToks and become the face of the company. Kai said it was so hard for him to do it at first because it was so far outside of his comfort zone, but then he started accepting it and started enjoying it.”

Cody believes that the structure of the business and its approachable, engaging marketing strategies give BendersMC an advantage against larger servers.

“He became a figure that can be associated with this big entity,” Cody said. “Compared to other servers like Mineplex or Hypixel, for example, these massive corporations, it’s competition because having a more personal face of the company is often more appealing to the player base. They have someone to connect with and feel like they’re a part of something bigger rather than just a consumer that a corporation can make money off of.”

Ultimately, the main reason Anderson enjoys his work is that he doesn’t have to try and be someone he’s not in order for his company to succeed.

“It’s a place where I can just be myself, and people, they love to see me being myself,” Anderson says. “That warms my heart, honestly, because I can just go and play video games and do what I enjoy, and people find that entertaining.”

 

BendersMC can be found at play.bendersmc.co on Minecraft.

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