Sociology of fun: Is Minecraft fun?

Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) indicates that pleasure is absorbed, while fun is distracted. In field of video gaming, most of the genres such as sport games, action games, strategy games etc. would be more of a pleasure than fun because they are players are intentionally consuming the background of the game and aiming for specific ending. Yet, Sandbox gaming might generate more fun than other video game genres. Sandbox gaming is referring to a type of games that do not have a specific ending or goals. Not like the other genres of video games, which eventually aiming for winning or have an intended ending, sandbox gaming is giving a comparingly more freedom to players gameplay experiences. Minecraft is a game that allows players to experience in a virtual realm with a first-person angle. Minecraft is one of those games, as mentioned by Riordan & Scarf (2017) that the non-specific goal feature of Minecraft has provides the opportunity for players to “immerse themselves in their own narrative, build, create, and explore” (p.2). Rather that other genres of game that has more intension, Minecraft as a sandbox gaming provides more flexibility and creativity.

Given that Minecraft provides more freedom to players than other games and thus seemingly more accessible to fun, this essay will be centralized to the evaluation of fun in Minecraft with my own experiences. This essay will firstly provide a conceptualization of fun with literature for a grounded framework to discuss Minecraft. Secondly, this essay will go on to discuss the fun part of my Minecraft gameplay with the framework of fun. For the last part, it will be the critics over Minecraft gameplay as fun drawing on the concerns of major thoughts and power.



Conceptualization of Fun with Literature


It seems that the definition of fun is fluid as it would change depend on moralism. For example, Wolfenstein (1951) indicates the relation between fun and morality. She draws on the back then religious norms and convention in 1912, discussing how infant was seen as a substance that is inherently impulsive and sinful and thus infants’ moves were deemed as immoral and need to be curbed. Yet, in mid of 20th century, infants have no longer be deemed as sinful. “we find in 1942-1945 that the baby has been transformed into almost complete harmlessness. The intense and concentrated impulses of the past have disappeared.” (Wolfenstein, 1951, p.20). People’s attitude towards baby’s play has change from curbing to encouragement, fun among babies is thus allowed. Meanwhile, Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) indicates that fun is transgressive as ““laff” in the workplace involves a transgression, albeit temporary and playful, of accepted forms of work behavior” (p.99). Fun is subverting the work ethic and thus against the morality.


Fun might also show sign of against the moralism and norms. For example, the fun can be a joke in relation to sex, which initially deemed as immoral. When people subvert such norm, it became fun as it shown sign of frivolity. Yet, fun is only allowable in a certain extent of immorality. It might not be deemed as fun but instead impolite when it has overly subverted the moralism. Fine & Ugo Corte (2017) indicates that “Fun is outlawed in the face of intense temporal concentration, as when dangerous weather is near, when an animal is ill, or when a skateboarder has been injured” (p.71). So does cultural jamming, if the cultural jamming is the humiliation from capitalists to marginalized group, it would more likely to be deemed as immoral rather than fun. Wettergren (2009) discusses the affiliation of cultural jamming and capitalism. It indicates that cultural jamming is a form of art that carries bottom-up public opinion (Wettergren, 2009). Moralism occurs in the point that the capitalist hierarchy has contribute to different inequalities, which the has been curbing people and lose their liberty. When the inequality embodied, cultural jamming become a part of the discourses of expressing dissatisfaction over inequality. Cultural jamming is thus deemed as fun as it against the power that is curbing their liberty but may however completely different if the humiliation is from capitalists to the marginalized group.


Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) discusses the notions of fun and pleasure. While Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) acknowledges that the notions of fun as well as pleasure are closely related, there is do some dichotomy. They frame their discussion that “pleasure as a specific type of enjoyment rather than as a superordinate category” (Blythe & Hassenzahl, 2004, p.95). In general, according to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) fun is a distraction because it is trivial, repetitive, spectacle, and transgressive. Pleasure is an absorption because it is relevant, progressive, aesthetics and with commitment. In terms of the duality of triviality and relevance, Blythe et. al (2004) suggests that fun is less serious than pleasure. Thues, the enjoyment that people have when they are practicing “High” arts, is derived from pleasure but not fun. It is because when art has been defined as “High”, that means the activity that people having enjoyment of has already been normalized. Rather than an activity of distraction with triviality, practicing “High” arts is more of an absorption because people intended to affiliate their practice with the cultural context, which they are representing features that are embedded to the pre-set culture. “Opera, ballet, classical music, poetry, do not carry cultural connotations of fun but of pleasure.” (Blythe & Hassenzahl, 2004, p.95).


Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) also mentions that fun is repetitive as it seeks formulae, while pleasure is progressive because how much enjoyment they get from pleasure depends on how unexpected the outcomes are. Progression might involve the notion of deviation, as it routes away the things that is used to be, to another level that is not in expectation and thus people seek for progression if they want a pleasurable enjoyment. Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) indicates that fun is repetitive because activities such as soap opera, sitcoms, game show, Hip Hop are utilizing their pre-set formulae to make fun. Not like pleasure, that people would seek progression for more unexpectation, fun seems to have some specific unchanged notions.  This is also occurring in computer game according to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) as it indicates “In computer games there is not only the physical repetition of hitting buttons on a keyboard or a joy pad but also the repetition of virtual action on the screen: running, jumping, hitting, shooting, dying.” (Blythe & Hassenzahl, 2004, p.98).


Meanwhile, Fine & Ugo Corte (2017) also indicates that fun is spontaneously occurs as it mentioned “Fun is the precipitate of expressive social relations, enticing because it cannot be enforced or fully scripted” (p.79). This might also relate to the interpretation of fun in Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) that enjoyment from practicing an activity is pleasure but not fun because people would intend to practice rather than spontaneously derive the fun enjoyment. Fine & Ugo Corte (2017) also discusses the mechanism of collaborative fun. It suggests that the moment of an interpersonal fun requires time and space to spontaneously happened. While fun has to be spontaneously happened and thus should not be planned, Fine & Ugo Corte (2017) indicates that interpersonal fun requires a staged “emotional and physical environment” (p.79) as a base to occurs. Both time and physical space can set up as a base for people to interact which has then constructed their memorial moment of fun. There is a shared moment among a group, which has then become the “Shared Narrative” (p.76) according to Fine & Ugo Corte (2017). “Shared responses create a commitment to sociability. Occasions become meaningful, grounded in the memory of actors and based on reciprocal expectations.” (Fine & Ugo Corte, 2017 p.76). Those emergences of a shared narrative would be “repeated jokes and stories, along with nicknames and memories” (Fine & Ugo Corte, 2017 p.76).


In whole, fun against towards moralism or norms. It seems that only in a certain extent of fun through subverting the morality would be acceptable. Fun convey a notion of frivolity, transgression, and spontaneity. Hence, fun is distracted, which have very less relevance to a pre-existed value. Also, fun relies on a shared memory, and a shared memory requires time and space to construct. Fun is then adherence by the shared narrative of a collaborative group.



The fun in Minecraft


  “Sandbox gaming” is referring to a type of game that allows players to perform as a free will characters in a realm of digital game (Lobel et. al, 2017). One of the sandbox video game called Different form other types of gaming such as action games, sports games and simulation games, which they have the intension of winning and achieving one or several preset endings, the mechanism of Minecraft comparingly have more” free will features when playing. In Minecraft, two main mode is provided for players gameplay experience. For survival mode, players act like a normal human who need to find their own resources manually. For creative mode, players are able to control a character that can play and have unlimited resources. This is a mode that intended to provide player a platform for creating their work, while survival mode is intended to provide players original survival gameplay experience. There is not a very normalized way of playing Minecraft because players are able to utilize all the materials around them to build things that they want rather than only intended to achieve the ending or winning. Minecraft also allows multiple players for gameplay experiences.


As Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) indicates, a collaborative fun requires time and space to set up an “emotional and physical environments” (p.79) for fun. The gameplay of Minecraft might meet this requirement. For time, in my memory, most of the time that I play Minecraft with my friends was in my secondary school life. Me and my friends would have commitment on a particular time to start playing Minecraft together. For space, Minecraft as a digital video game do not provide a physical space, but a virtual realm. Within this real, we presented as another substance. We are able use the mouse to control our moves and interact with each other. In addition, Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) also indicates that the reason of needing a space is because collaborative fun may need an emotional occasion to let fun spontaneously happened. I may argue the realm of Minecraft is emotional. This is because Minecraft is a realm that’s is different from the reality. I might be seeing the gameplay of Minecraft as an escapism because the realm could give me some other experience such as a very original way of living, which I was lacking in my daily life. I was looking forward and expecting what would the experience be. Hence, the realm of Minecraft is emotional. Therefore, the collaborative gameplay of Minecraft has met the requirement of both time and space for spontaneously derived fun.


Triviality also appears in our collaborative gameplay. When playing Minecraft, we would have specific goal. Normally we aim for doing architectural work such as housing, and constructing the infrastructures such as framed farmlands etc. However, boredom did occur when we had already played for a while of the game. We then got distracted form those work that we were aiming to do. Instead of doing the above work, we initiated some random fights with laughter in our voice call. Sometimes would be typing command code to make together fall from a high place and died. I argue that these random fights as well as typing command code to kill each other with laughter are trivial and frivol because it distracted us from the things that we were intended to work on. In comparison, random fighting was not deemed as the important thing to do. That was just generated to against our boredom. Therefore, this might affiliate to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) indication of triviality.


Besides of that, the repetition according to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) also emergence in out gameplay experience. The above random fights, typing command code to kill each other, had been repetitively utilized by us to distract ourselves from building work. Our fun moment also against the morality. We would start to build objects that migt be deemed as immoral such as building sex “objects”, sear words etc. We think that are fun as the know these things has been deemed as immoral, but we subvert it.


In terms of the shared narrative, when we were distracted during out gameplay, it seems that the fun we have is mutually related together. As Fine & Ugo Corte (2017) indicates, “Shared responses create a commitment to sociability. Occasions become meaningful,

grounded in the memory of actors and based on reciprocal expectations, not only through

affective energy as performed but also through repeated references in talk” (p.76). During we got distracted and thus started to have some random fights, our way and sound of laughter became similar. Given that laughter represents an “intense emotional state” (Fine & Ugo Corte, 2017, p.81). It seems that there is a shared way for us to express fun emotion.



My sovereignty of fun was taken by Minecraft


In above section, it seems that Minecraft do have relevance to fun. I have applied my personal experiences in relation to the memory of playing Minecraft with my friends, to the literature that has discussed what fun is. Indeed, there is some affiliation between fun and a collaborative Minecraft gameplay as we showed signs of distraction in a specific time and space. However, it seems that the fun that is derived from Minecraft gameplay overly rely on materiality. And this materiality is clearly quantified. Eg. To access fun through Minecraft, I must to use a computer, I also need a good broadband to communicate with other players smoothly etc. What is needed for having fun from Minecraft can be clearly quantified. Unless I have those materialistic devices, I am not able to access the fun through Minecraft. This seems to be reasonable enough but would be argued later as losing autonomy of fun.



  • Minecraft shows the contemporary fun has a high dependency on materiality


Heidegger suggests that “technology is not equivalent to the essence of technology” (p.310), Rae (2012) then explain his suggestion as “In other words, we cannot simply look to technological objects to delineate what technology is or means. The essence of the computer, for example, is not simply discovered by looking at the components of the computer itself” (p. 310). Rae (2012) interprets the criticism discussed by Heidegger that thoughts has been dominated by the metaphysics of science and technology due to modernism, “As a world-view, technology shapes how human being pictures and thinks about itself and the world” (p. 2012). Indeed, modernism has the impact on the contemporary world, driving people thoughts centralized to the matter of metaphysical materials. Such as the contemporary climate crisis, anti-environmentalists who only believe in scientific interpretation that the damage towards ecology is non-reversable. This is the embodiment of human thoughts dominated by science, a scientific ideology that authorized them to ignore the other possible meanings of being environmentally friendly.


Indeed, the world is full of metaphysics. From architectural construction that create concrete spaces, to the technologies which allows Minecraft to set up a virtual realm for user to play with. The mechanism of many things requires actual martials to work. These are all belongs to the impact of modernism, which is what Heidegger criticized in his post-modernism interpretation (Rae, 2012). Yet, before science has become what’s people believes in, religious belief was the dominated narrative as Venn & Featherstone (2006) indicates that there was a tradition from the religious before modernism, but then when religious met modernism, people start to believe the scientific interpretation of the mechanisms rather than following the norms. Venn & Featherstone (2006) indicates that the idea of modernity was brought by Descartes, as it says “The notion of a break with ‘tradition’ and with the old, central to the modern imaginary, has its exemplary instantiation in Descartes’ gesture of tabula rasa, that is, of brushing aside from the table of knowledge the authority of ancient texts” (Venn & Featherstone, 2006, p.460), which Descartes critics the authoritarian norms and convention from the ancient religious texts, and suggests that a quantified way of thinking is more appropriate. Venn & Featherstone also draws on Habermas indication towards modernity, that “democratic societies new public spaces have emerged for the formation of public opinion about matters concerning the good order of the state; they facilitate the free exchange of information and rational debate, and thus help to constitute an informed public capable of making rational choices about issues relating to group and national interests.” (p.450). With Habermas interpretation that space has allowed people to form discourses over the idea of how to make a “rational choices”, which the “rational choices” is intended to make group and national interest, it implies that space also play a role of accelerating the formation of society thoughts that is centralized to modernization.


With science and technology, the fear from nature such as natural disasters towards human beings have significantly reduced (Magrini, 2012). Human beings no longer have to face the challenges from different kinds of disasters of the nature. Instead, human has been gradually utilizing science and technology to manipulate the nature. Such as medical care, which has quantified the body’s bio-mechanism, and do the accurate medical treatments. Human beings no longer have to be afraid of normal sicknesses. The nature hierarchy has then occurred as Rae (2012) indicates “metaphysics takes humans to be the measure and the center of beings” (p. 309), which human are able and even think themselves have the right to manipulate the nature in their interest.


The technology empowered human and thus human started to rely on technology. Maybe hence, when people want fun might start by looking at the materiality that can derives them the enjoyment of fun. Even tough Minecraft is the sand box gaming allows more freedom for their gameplay experiences, fundamentally it is a commodity from the Microsoft. With the technology, people can play video games and thus they would rely on technology to fulfill their demand of fun. Indeed, Minecraft ay gives player more freedom and thus more likely to access fun when fun is a distraction. However, the notion of Minecraft as fun is depend on the comparison to the other genres of games, but not in comparison with other possibilities.




  • The loss of players autonomy of fun in Minecraft


The thoughts that human think themselves have the right to manipulate nature not only occurs in human beings towards the nature but also within human themselves. The word “human resources” might linguistically pre-assume that human can be manipulated through quantifying them into different characteristics such as skills, experience, education etc. And these quantifications will serve to the capitalists or the people with power. With these metaphysical, clearly stated abilities, mercantile are able to sort out their choices for commercial purposes


Capitalists not only manipulate their staff through the sense of “human resources” but also manipulate consumers. Beckett (2012) interprets the relation between mercantile and the consumers, suggesting that mercantile has took the sovereignty of the consumers. It is because the mercantile has quantified consumers habits through their algorithmic system, which has “rendered them into an ordered object of knowledge” (Beckett, 2012, p.10). Beckett (2012) draws on Foucault suggestions of Governmentality to argues this as the sovereignty of consumers taken by mercantile. In the work of Foucault, he used to be interpreting power as dominative. For example, In the “Panopticon” from Foucault (1977) Discipline and Punish, Foucault interprets the that the power performs from direct domination, to prisoners’ self-discipline through surveillance. But then in his late work, power has been understood by Foucault as governance more than domination. Instead of just the domination of people, the form of power can also through developing people desire, and the government shows their ability of fulfilling their desire to get people favor and trust and thus easy to achieve the government’s goals. In this way people would less likely to see themselves as being curb but instead they think the government is beneficial to them and thus support the government. This has mention by Beckett (2012) that Foucault argues “modern societies freedom and power are reconciled through governance; individuals are not disciplined but encouraged to exercise their freedom appropriately” (p. 3) and thus “Power is exercised indirectly, through the shaping of the Consumption Markets & Culture desires and aspirations of individuals that in turn shapes their conduct” (p.4). Given that Foucault suggests power can occur in different form, Beckett (2012) drawn on this notion to explain the sovereignty of consumer choices is governed by the mercantile. The power from the mercantile to consumers do not directly goes from top to down, but the mercantile is trying to develop the desire of the consumers by enhancing the meanings of commodities. The incident is, Tesco through their algorithmic system noticed people would suddenly consume more flowers during the summer than usual. After Tesco has figure out that people bought this for their teacher to show thankfulness at the end of the summer, Tesco then claim that they can make sure to the supply of flowers during the period for fulfilling customers needs. Yet, Beckett (2012) exposes that “An alternative interpretation is that Tesco are positioning the provision of flowers for teachers as a norm that they encourage consumers to follow” (Beckett, 2012, p.7). This is somehow an emergence of power through commodities as “In articulating these norms Tesco “frames” consumption; linking the everyday practices of life, expressing thanks to a teacher, with the possibilities of consumption” (Beckett, 2012, p.7).


Minecraft as a commodification of the Microsoft, is pre-set as an ordinary virtual world, with different materials such as muds, grass, wood, stone etc. presented as same size blocks. Same with the linguistic meaning of “Minecraft”, the mechanism of this game allows people to utilize all the blocks to craft things in their interests. This notion, besides of referring that human has been in the center of the world, it also seems to imply that Minecraft is a game that need people to build to have fun. Probably would have boredom if players are not building. It reminds me that every time when I was playing Minecraft, either alone or with my friends, building was the ultimate intension. Finding “resources” to build, making tools to build, eating to survive so we can keep building. There was not a single time that we commit to get into the virtual realm of Minecraft just for hanging out. Instead we did collaborative work (dividing the work of finding “resources”) every time. Minecraft could be fun as I have argued previously, in which players can used blocks to build some objects that are against morality and thus fun. Yet, this fun requires me to follow the preset mechanism of Minecraft.


In Beckett (2012), it has drawn on the interpretation of Foucault over power to indicate that the sovereignty of consumer choices has been taken by the mercantile. Although it seems that the racks in shop have a diversity of consumer choices, but the desire of consumers to purchase these products may initially developed by the capitalists. Indeed, the “desire” of me to play Minecraft can affiliate to my previous memory of playing Minecraft with my friends. This has explained on the above part, among the Minecraft group we are able to have space and time to virtually stay together and naturally generate fun. These has then become my memory of a collaborative fun. Every time when we are playing Minecraft again, I was intended to recall to and re-experience my last time memory. Thus, the “desire” here might constituted by my previous experiences. Yet, if interpreting in this sense, just keep saying the current time of Minecraft playing is the due to the previous experience, this may not able to explain the first time of gameplay. With that in mind, Beckett (2012) interpretation of the passively developed desire of consumers by the capitalists might give it another angle. Minecraft do not have many advertisements, but it does have the diffusion on YouTube.





  This essay has first conceptualized fun with literature as the grounded framework for interpreting fun in Minecraft gameplay. In whole, fun is conveying the notion of distraction (Blythe & Hassenzahl, 2004). Fun is also affiliated to norms and moralism, which the fluid definition of fun is due to the difference historical context. Fun according to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004) should also be happened spontaneously. Although in a collaborative fun time and the materiality of space is needed to create a collective memory, the preparation of space and time only provide a chance to have fun but not guaranteed.


Minecraft provides a virtual realm for players to spend times in and thus fulfilled the condition for generating fun spontaneously according to Blythe & Hassenzahl (2004). In my gameplay experience with friends, fun occurs when we got bored with out building project. These actions are fun because it shows frivolity and out of the absorption of building work. The fun is occurring among a group, this has constituted to a shared moment of fun. Thus, we would affiliate Minecraft as fun because we have previous share experiences.


Yet, although my Minecraft gameplay shows signs of fun, this essay then argues that Minecraft has taken my autonomy of fun. Even tough Minecraft is a sandbox game that would comparingly provide more creativity and freedom for the players and thus soother for generating fun, players still cannot have the autonomy because the fun is authorized by the mechanism of Minecraft. This has then argued in this essay as an embodiment of modernization that we deeply rely on materiality to have fun. This embodiment of overly human relying on materiality for fun purposes has noticed by the mercantile and utilized it for commercial purposes. Drawing on Foucault suggestion that power can be presented as an encouraged form rather than just direct domination only, the desire of playing Minecraft is created by mercantile which is Microsoft. They created a mechanism and defined the pathway of accessing fun. As mentioned, Minecraft is intended to build, or would have boredom if not. Although still can have fun, but this has eliminated other possible pathway to fun in a same time and space.






MAGRINI, J., 2012. Worlds Apart in the Curriculum: Heidegger, technology, and the poietic attunement of literature. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 44(5), pp.500-521. Available at:


Wettergren, Å., 2009. Fun and Laughter: Culture Jamming and the Emotional Regime of Late Capitalism. Social Movement Studies, 8(1), pp.1-0. Available at:


Wolfenstein, M. (1951) The emergence of fun morality, Journal of Social Issues, 7(4), pp. 15–

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Fine, G. and Corte, U., 2017. Group Pleasures. Sociological Theory, 35(1), pp.64-86. Available at:


Blythe, M., Hassenzahl, M., Monk, A. and Reed, D., 2002. Funology : From Usability to Enjoyment Ch8. ACM SIGCHI Bulletin – a supplement to interactions, 2002, pp.91-110. Available at:


Rae, G., 2012. Being and Technology: Heidegger on the Overcoming of Metaphysics. Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 43(3), pp.305-325. Available at:


Riordan, B. and Scarf, D., 2017. Crafting minds and communities with Minecraft. F1000Research, 5, p.2339. Available at:



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