Abandoning the Magic Circle

Woodford, Darryl (2008) Abandoning the Magic Circle. In Breaking the Magic Circle, 10-11 April 2008, Tampere, Finland. (Unpublished)


As a concept, the magic circle is in reality just 4 years old. Whilst often accredited to Johan Huizinga (1955), the modern usage of term in truth belongs to Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. It became in academia following the publication of “Rules of Play” in 2003. Because of the terminologyused, it carries with it unhelpful preconceptions that the game world, or play-space, excludes reality. In this paper, I argue that Salen and Zimmerman (2003) have taken a term used as an example, and applied a meaning to it that was never intended, based primarily upon definitions given by other authors, namely Apter (1991) and Sniderman (n.d.). I further argue that the definition itself contains a logical fallacy, which has prevented the full understanding of the definition in later work.

Through a study of the literature in Game Theory, and examples of possible issues which could arise in contemporary games, I suggest that the emotions of the play experience continue beyond the play space, and that emotions from the “real world” enter it with the participants. I consider a reprise of the Stanley Milgram Obedience Experiment (2006), and what that tells us about human emotions and the effect that events taking place in a virtual environment can have upon them. I evaluate the opinion espoused by some authors of there being different magic circles for different players, and assert that this is not a useful approach to take when studying games, because it prevents the analysis of a game as a single entity.

Furthermore I consider the reasons given by other authors for the existence of the Magic Circle, and I assert that the term “Magic Circle” should be discarded, that it has no relevance to contemporary games, and indeed it acts as a hindrance to the design and study of games. I conclude that the play space which it claims to protect from the courts and other governmental authorities would be better served by the existing concepts of intent, consent, and commonly accepted principles associated with international travel.

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ID Code: 75824
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Magic Circle, Games, Play, Professional Gaming, Video Games
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LANGUAGES COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE (200000) > COMMUNICATION AND MEDIA STUDIES (200100)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Past > Schools > School of Media, Entertainment & Creative Arts
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2008 Please consult the author
Deposited On: 31 Aug 2014 22:42
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2014 22:43

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