Through the Nether: A Critical Examination of Minecraft as a Social Construct
Minecraft has become one of the defining video games of the 2010s, selling over 144 million copies, and receiving critical acclaim, with reviewers praising Minecraft’s open-world sandbox gameplay. This thesis is concerned with online communities within Minecraft, and how they are formed. The research project examines how players interact with one another in a virtual online environment, how an online identity is formed through an avatar, how players learn how to play Minecraft, how language affects the way people play Minecraft, and how intentional harassment towards other players help create online communities. This thesis explores these questions through the lens of participatory culture and fandom. The research findings reveal players are more likely play Minecraft with friends, highlighting the game’s social element. Furthermore, Minecraft players perceived their in-game avatar to be dissimilar to their offline identity. Participants mainly used online resources, including wikis, forums, and YouTube, when they needed help. The findings also reveal players predominately do not use specific in-game language when playing Minecraft. Furthermore, participants were divided in their opinion as to whether male and female gamers spoke differently or not, with some participants stating male gamers are more aggressive, while other participants found it difficult to discern a person’s gender from how they speak. Finally, although the research findings reveal a larger percentage of players take part in griefing – intentional harassment towards other players – than expected, which affected a substantial number of players, the research findings did not find evidence for a community built around intentional harassment.