From the Magic Circle to Identity: A Case Study on Becoming a Videogame Designer in Singapore

Puay Ru Chua Victoria Williams J. Patrick
2020 DiGRA ’20 – Proceedings of the 2020 DiGRA International Conference: Play Everywhere

We discuss how instructors and game-design students, for whom playing games for fun makes up a significant part of their self-definitions, made sense of transformations in perceptions of games, play and work during socialization into professional games-related careers. Our data come from 6 weeks of field research and 14 semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted at a local tertiary institution (LTI) offering bachelor’s degrees in game design in Singapore. We interviewed 10 students—3 female, 7 male— ranging from freshman to seniors as well as 4 male game design instructors with the intent of comparing the perspectives and experiences of both novices and veterans. While games scholars have investigated the boundaries between play and work through structural concepts such as “the magic circle” and through political-economic concepts such as “playbor,” we explore how the social- psychological concepts of “social identity” and “role identity” together provide unique insights into the meanings of play and work for game-design students, and the consequences of those meanings. We found that instructors spent significant time and effort not only teaching students how to design games, but how to become designers. We also found that game-design students learned to construct social and role identities which enabled them to renegotiate their relationship to games and to function within the expectations of the professional game-designer role.


Selling out the magic circle: free-to-play games and developer ethics

Jordan Philipp Buente Wayne Silva Paula Alexandra Rosenbaum Howard
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

We describe a narrative case study of a free-to-play, massive multiplayer online role playing game through virtual ethnography inside the game as player and passive, participatory observation of the official game forum to understand the actions of both, the developer and the player community in relation to subliminal development changes of the game rules. We then show that players are able to claim agency and change the course of the game design while trying to allocate themselves as both, consumers within a heavily commercialized game model and invaluable members of the gaming community itself. We draw from studies on player agency, game co-creation as well as research on free-toplay game design to demonstrate how a developer constantly undermines player agency through an ongoing re-definition of the game rules disrupting the magic circle which is the main contribution of this study. Our discussion outlines the constant struggle of players to level the playing field within this damaged magic circle which is punctured by casino-like game reward mechanisms, in-transparent development notes, deceptive developer implementations and game modifications in the context of the freemium business model of game design.


Designing Unconventional Use of Conventional Displays in Games: Some Assembly Required

Goddard William Muscat Alexander
2016 DiGRA/FDG '16 - Proceedings of the First International Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG

Game design is experiencing a renewed interest in co-located games and the social play it facilitates. Specifically, public settings such as game exhibitions and parties are the host of games with unique experiences supported in part by custom and unconventional hardware design. These installations of custom hardware can create barriers for distribution and facilitation. However, it is possible to create both similar and novel and installation-like experiences with ephemeral DIY-installations. We investigate two games that create such novel experiences. These games explore ephemeral installation design through the unconventional use of displays, but using only conventional and commercially available hardware. Our investigation reveals six themes, providing an understanding of how to utilize this design space related to the social, spatial, and tangible aspects of these game designs, such as creating movement and aggregated spectatorship. We present unconventional use of videogame hardware in public settings as an underexplored design space.


In Defence of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play

Stenros Jaakko
2012 DiGRA Nordic '12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference

This article reviews the history of the concept of the magic circle, its criticism and the numerous other metaphors that have been used to capture the zone of play or the border that surrounds it, such as world, frame, bubble, net, screen, reality, membrane, zone, environment, or attitude. The various conceptions of social and mental borders are reviewed and separated from the sites where cultural residue of such borders is encountered. Finally, a model is forwarded where the psychological bubble of playfulness, the social contract of the magic circle and the spatial, temporal or product- based arena are separated.


This is not a game: play in cultural environments

2003 DiGRA '03 - Proceedings of the 2003 DiGRA International Conference: Level Up

Games have a particular set of relationships to the contexts in which they are played. Although games have clearly delineated boundaries in time and space that set them apart from the “real world”, some games are designed to blur that boundary. This essay, comprised of several selections from the authors’ book Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, investigates the complex ways in which games interact with their cultural environment. Focusing on these questions from a game design viewpoint, the essay begins by identifying key concepts related to these questions and ends with detailed design analyses of three games that play with the cultural environments in which the games take place.


The Game Frame: Systemizing a Goffmanian Approach to Video Game Theory [Extended Abstract]

Deterding Sebastian
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

This paper offers a review, explication and defense of Erving Goffman’s Frame Analysis (1974) as a valid contemporary sociological theory of play, games, and video games. To this end, it provides an introduction the frame analytic conception of play, games and video games. It demonstrates that this account provides an explanatory (rather than merely descriptive) model for the sociality of the game/non-game boundary or ‘magic circle’, as well as phenomena that trouble said boundary, like pervasive games or ARGs. To substantiate the timeliness of a frame analytic approach to games, the paper compares it to and partially takes issue with practice theory, specifically Thomas Malaby‘s recent “new approach to games”. The conclusion summarizes the key characteristics, advantages and limitations of a frame analytic account of video games.


Through the Looking Glass: Weavings between the Magic Circle and Immersive Processes in Video Games

Ferreira Emmanoel Falcão Thiago
2009 DiGRA '09 - Proceedings of the 2009 DiGRA International Conference: Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory

This paper proposes a critical discussion about the magic circle concept, through a debate with prior works on the issue, as those elaborated by Johan Huizinga and Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman, as well as with cognitive psychology studies regarding attention. We shall argue that the magic circle, instead of separating fiction and reality, would work as a cognitive mediation structure with graded “boundaries”, which existence occurs in diverse forms, depending on variables like player immersion and attention. Thus, these boundaries get defined and “solid” as the immersive process is developed and one reality seems to change into another: as the player “gets into the looking glass”.


Cash Trade Within the Magic Circle: Free-to-Play Game Challenges and Massively Multiplayer Online Game Player Responses

Lin Holin Sun Chuen-Tsai
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

Cash trades for virtual items in game worlds are now a recognized part of the “free game” business model, but perhaps at the expense of players’ senses of immersion, fairness, and fun. We review several perspectives related to Huizinga’s [8] “magic circle” concept in order to establish an analytical framework, then discuss player opinions in support of or opposed to free games, based on data collected from various sources. Our hope is that this study will be useful for those researchers who are monitoring the rapidly changing line separating game worlds and the physical world.


Tangible Pleasures of Pervasive Role-Playing

Montola Markus
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

The traditional forms of role-playing include tabletop roleplaying, larp and online role-playing. In this paper I describe a fourth form, pervasive role-playing, which often follows many conventions of larp, but break out of the magic circle of gameplay in order to interact with surrounding society. The central pleasures of pervasive role-playing are related to playing for real, with the environment and having a tangible, unmediated experience of being a part of a complete and physical world of fiction.


A Certain Level of Abstraction

Juul Jesper
2007 DiGRA '07 - Proceedings of the 2007 DiGRA International Conference: Situated Play

This paper explores levels of abstraction: Representational games present a fictional world, but within that world, players are only allowed to perform certain actions; the fictional world of the game is only implemented to a certain detail. The paper distinguishes between abstraction as a core element of video game design, abstraction as something that the player decodes while playing a game, and abstraction as a type of optimization that the player builds over time. Finally, the paper argues that abstraction is a related to the magic circle of games and to rules as such.