Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Problem with The Magic Circle as a Way to Comprehend Games
I don't think that the term magic circle is actually what Johan Huizinga had in mind when he defined games. Admittedly, Huizinga uses this term but it is not central to his theory at all.

In Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Huizinga wrote:

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. Just as there is no formal difference between play and ritual, so the ‘consecrated spot’ cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground. 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.

The term magic circle is just an example among others - not the essence of what a game is about.

Btw. I do not agree with Johan Huizinga that there is no formal difference between play and ritual.  The formal difference is that while playing a game is a series of interesting choices the ritual is a method or procedure conducted faithfully or regularly followed. Playing af game or parts of it may be a ritual in itself but a ritual is not just playing a game.

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Blogger Cristian Mancilla Mardel said...

In the quote you show, when Huizinga says that "the 'consecrated spot' cannot be formally distinguished from the play-ground", I feel a little unsure about the word "formally". Because not all the play grounds are actually fixed. This could be generally true for games with well-established and known rules. But when we are just playing, and not involved in a concrete game, then we also have a play ground, although we cannot [always] say that it's in a defined space. Then, as we have formal differences among different kinds of games and playing situations, it becomes hard to assert that play grounds are formally equal to sacred spaces.

Thursday, August 04, 2011  

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