1. “Break out of that Perfect Circle…”
Presented at: Darryl Woodford
Breaking the Magic Circle Seminar IT University of Copenhagen
Tampere, Finland: 10 April 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The terms origins and modern (mis)use
The logical problem
It‟s broken: emotionally
It‟s broken: legally
3. In Game Research..
First utilised by Johan
Huizinga as an example (in
the ritual sense) in “Homo
Popularised by Salen and
Zimmerman in their 2003
“Rules of Play”
A Chalk Circle on a playground
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”
10. “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
Thus; a circle cannot be open. An open
circle is just a line, or a series of them.
11. 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..
12. 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.
13. 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..
14. Original study investigated the effects on a
participant who was ordered to administer
electrical shocks of increasing voltage to a fellow
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.
15. At the start of this presentation I mentioned the
protectionists. Do I think they‟re wrong? Not
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.
16. 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
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
We don‟t need anything extreme. How about
intent and consent ?
17. 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 –
Consent: Has the player in some way given
permission to have this crime perpetuated on
18. 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
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?We know that games are a good way to take out real life frustrationsWe 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..Saying that play retains its magic beyond the duration of the individual game..But, the scientists have tackled this more recently…