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ARGs and The Magic Circle
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ARGs and The Magic Circle


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This Lecture will look at the theories of Johan Huizinga and the Magic Circle and interogate it through the practice of Augmented and Alternative Reality Gaming as a form of New Media Storytelling

This Lecture will look at the theories of Johan Huizinga and the Magic Circle and interogate it through the practice of Augmented and Alternative Reality Gaming as a form of New Media Storytelling

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  • 1. Alternative and Augmented Reality
  • 2. We have established that every text is not an island, it blurs out into culture and is both paratextual and intertextual. Texts have a symbiotic relationship with other media and are influenced by and influence them.
  • 3. The Magic Circle
  • 4. “To play a game means entering into a magic circle, or perhaps creating one as a game begins.”
    Salen, K. & Zimmerman, E., (2003) Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals The MIT Press.  
  • 5. “Johan Huizinga uses magic circle as one of the ways in which a game is delineated from what is outside the game (1950)”
  • 6. “All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course. ”
    Huizinga, J., (1955). Homo Ludens, Beacon Press.  
  • 7. “The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the screen, the tennis court, the court of justice, etc, are all in form and function play-grounds, i.e. forbidden spots, isolated, hedged round, hallowed, within which special rules obtain. All are temporary worlds within the ordinary world, dedicated to the performance of an act apart”
    Huizinga, J., (1955). Homo Ludens, Beacon Press.  
  • 8. “John Huizinga’s notion of a “magic circle”, the imaginary boundaries of the fantasy world that players of a game occupy […] a ‘magic circle’ forms a sometimes fuzzy boundary between the game and the real world.”
    Champion, E. & Jacobson, J., 2008. Sharing the magic circle with spatially inclusive games. In ACM SIGGRAPH ASIA 2008 educators programme. Singapore: ACM, pp. 1-5. Available at: [Accessed November 10, 2009].
  • 9. “[...] The membrane between synthetic worlds and daily life is definitely there but also definitely porous, and this is by choice of the users. What we have is an almost-magic circle, which seems to have the objective of retaining all that is good about the fantasy atmosphere of the synthetic world, while giving users the maximum amount of freedom to manipulate their involvement with them.”
    Castronova, E., 2005. Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games, Chicago University Press.  
  • 10. Pervasive Gaming
    Pervasive gaming can be a mixture of different audience focused practices, in its widest definition it is gaming that protrudes out of the Magic Circle blurring the lines between what is part of the game and what is part of “normality”
  • 11. Alternative Reality Gaming
  • 12. Pervasive Gaming
    “Location-based games that surround you, 24 hours a day, everywhere. When you walk down the street, you're walking through an adventure world draped on top of the real world, and people you meet may be characters in the same game you're playing.
    Pervasive games are built upon three core technologies: mobile devices, wireless communication, and sensing technologies that capture players’ contexts. It is actually the blend of technologies combined with the location-based and often public nature of game play, gives pervasive games their distinctive identity.”
  • 13. What does the Apollo Chocolate Bar have to do with “The Magic Circle”?
    (Apollo Bars sold for around £70 in online auction sites)
  • 14. Gary Troup’s Bad Twin
  • 15. Alternative Reality Games
    The Lost Experience – HiReS! Design Company
  • 16. Alternative Reality Games
    Spy Games
    Stephen Fry in America: True West (5/6) (2009) BBC Four
  • 17. Alternative Reality Games
    The Year Zero
    42 Entertainment and Nine Inch Nails
  • 18. Alternative Reality Games
    I Love Bees
    42 Entertainment and Bungie
  • 19. Alternative Reality Games/Urban Gaming
    Can You See Me Now? Blast Theory and The Mixed Reality Lab at The Nottingham University
  • 20. Alternative Reality Games/Urban Gaming
    Pac Manhattan
  • 21. Alternative Reality Games/Urban Gaming
  • 22. Augmented Reality Gaming
    ARQuake is a research project from the Wearable Computing Lab based at The University of Southern Australia and uses the Quake Engine and Augmented Reality Video to bring the “Game Space” and the “Meat Space” together (by meat space I refer to the spaces of physical bodies). This research project from 2006 blurs the boundaries of the game and “reality” and because of Quakes genre (FPS) and the AR headsets the experience is personal or private .
  • 23. Augmented Reality Gaming
  • 24. Non-Location Based Examples
  • 25. Non-Location Based Examples
    Evidence: The Last Ritual