Abandoning the Magic Circle

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Note this is a 2008 presentation, being uploaded to support an accompanying blog post. It does not always represent my current thinking :-)

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  • So why are we even arguing about it? Well some academics use the concept, perhaps even beyond Salen and Zimmerman’s intentions, to achieve their goals. Who uses it? I doubt there are many surprises here…Richard Bartle, of MUD fame..Edward Castroanova, of Synthetic Worlds and more recently Exodus.Are there others? Sure. But these two are probably the most prominent proponents, and were the easiest to find on Google Images 
  • So, an open or closed relationship to it’s context…Well, this is a circle…[Image]
  • I would guess that I’m speaking to an audience that play a fair amount of games, or in the worst case, observe people playing lots of games for the benefit of their research. So does anyone believe that emotions are contained within games?[1]We know that games are a good way to take out real life frustrations[2]We know that having your plans ruined in a game can then effect your emotional state as you continue with your day in the “real world”…
  • But this isn’t new… Even when writing Homo Ludens Huizinga acknowledged this..[1]Saying that play retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game..But, the scientists have tackled this more recently…
  • Abandoning the Magic Circle

    1. 1. “Break out of that Perfect Circle…” Presented at: Darryl WoodfordBreaking the Magic Circle Seminar IT University of Copenhagen Tampere, Finland: 10 April 2008 santo@itu.dk
    2. 2.  The terms origins and modern (mis)use The logical problem It‟s broken: emotionally It‟s broken: legally Conclusion
    3. 3. In Game Research.. First utilised by Johan Huizinga as an example (in the ritual sense) in “Homo Ludens”. Popularised by Salen and Zimmerman in their 2003 “Rules of Play” A Chalk Circle on a playground
    4. 4. Dr Edward CastranovaDr Richard Bartle
    5. 5. They want to protect games from the „evil‟ outside
    6. 6. Is slowly but surely breaking down the walls..
    7. 7.  Salen and Zimmerman deal with the problem of interaction between the game world and the outside by saying that: “As a system, a game can be considered to have an open or closed relationship to it’s context”
    8. 8.  “A circle is a closed curve which divides the plane into an interior and an exterior.” It DIVIDES the plane. There is no crossover, there‟s no permeation. It divides the plane. Thus; a circle cannot be open. An open circle is just a line, or a series of them.
    9. 9.  Not really. It was after all just a convenient term that S/Z thought would fit, and Huizinga happened to use as an example. But... It matters when we utilise this concept as a circle, the chalk circle on a playground, binary one or zero, as some authors have. It matters when we try to explain to people in other fields why games deserve special treatment, because it opens us to ridicule. We‟ve already heard today what‟s wrong. But, for the sake of argument, let‟s take it at face value..
    10. 10.  If we have a closed circle, your emotions are contained within the environment of the game.... Does anyone believe this? We know: That we launch a FPS or other game to take out frustrations from our real life. We know: That getting ganked in an MMO can negatively effect your emotions in real life.
    11. 11.  Even Huizinga knew! “But the feeling of being “apart together” in an exceptional situation, of sharing something important, of mutually withdrawing from the rest of the world and rejecting the usual norms, retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game” (Homo Ludens, 1955, p.12) But, let‟s listen to the science..
    12. 12.  Original study investigated the effects on a participant who was ordered to administer electrical shocks of increasing voltage to a fellow participant. Repeated replacing the “victim” participant with a virtual representation, represented graphically on a screen, with either verbal or text-based communication between the parties. Concluded that “in spite of the fact that all participants knew for sure that neither the stranger nor the shocks were real, the participants who saw and heard her tended to respond to the situation at the subjective, behavioural and physiological levels as if it were real” This seems to confirm real life experiences.
    13. 13.  At the start of this presentation I mentioned the protectionists. Do I think they‟re wrong? Not necessarily. There are good reasons to protect some elements of games. I don‟t want a robbery charge because I create a thief in “Real MMO” I do think they under-estimate the legal system. Why would they treat all games the same? It‟s alarmist. Let‟s give them a chance.
    14. 14.  I don’t think the “Magic Circle” is needed to protect games. It‟s a losing argument to say courts should ignore games at the same time as we‟re saying they‟re becoming a core part of society. What we need is a way to deal with games within the framework of the law. Courts have long recognised differences in laws between regions and nations. We don‟t need anything extreme. How about intent and consent ?
    15. 15.  My question to answer for Virtual World legal cases: Is there an intent to commit a crime to which a player has not, implicitly or explicitly, given their consent. Intent: Is there a desire to commit an act that is regarded as a crime? If this was criminal you would have to satisfy “mens rea” (a guilty mind – mental state). Consent: Has the player in some way given permission to have this crime perpetuated on them.
    16. 16.  A concrete example. Player A steals a one-of-a-kind sword from Player B, using only the software client. All parties agree this sword has a cashable value (via currency exchange or whatever) of $1200. If robbery is allowed in the game, then the player has given consent. No crime here. If robbery is not allowed, and if the game developer does not reach an agreeable solution, the courts could become involved, and should they find the player had the necessary intent, order civil recovery (if it was an accident, via bad coding, the game developer may find themselves culpable)

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