Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games

Living Edition
| Editors: Newton Lee

Games and the Magic Circle

  • Douglas BrownEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08234-9_32-1



In the context of games, the magic circle is the area within which the rules of the game apply, a special space, ideally but not necessarily demarcated by the rules within which play occurs. It need not be a physical space, but can instead be virtual or a frame of mind.


The magic circle is a concept still widely used and referenced by games studies scholars and games designers and is both helpful shorthand and a problematic theory. This entry will look over the history of the concept and explore the issues and controversies it raised, with a particular eye toward games studies’ frequent criticism of the concept. Despite its contested and controversial nature, the magic circle borders on other central concepts of games studies and games design including play, immersion, and suspension of disbelief, and these linkages are also something this entry will explore.


The magic circle was a term first used as part of Johan...
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References and Further Reading

  1. Calleja, G.: Erasing the magic circle. In: Sageng, Fossheim, Larsen (eds.) The Philosophy of Computer Games, pp. 77–91. Springer, New York (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Castronova, E.: Synthetic Worlds. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (2005)Google Scholar
  3. Consalvo, M.: There is no magic circle. Games Cult. 4, 4 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Huizinga, J.: Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Beacon, Boston (1955)Google Scholar
  5. Juul, J.: The magic circle and the puzzle piece. In: Philosophy of Computer Games Conference. http://opus.kobv.de/ubp/volltexte/2008/2455/digarec01_03.pdf (2009). Accessed 12 Jan 2015
  6. Klabbers, J.: The Magic Circle: Principles of Gaming and Simulation. Sense Publishers, Rotterdam (2009)Google Scholar
  7. Myers, D.: Circles tend to return. Game Stud. 12, 2 (2012)Google Scholar
  8. Salen, K., Zimmerman, E.: Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press, Boston (2004)Google Scholar
  9. Stenros, J.: In defence of a magic circle: the social, mental and cultural boundaries of play. Trans. Digit. Games Res. Assoc. 1, 2 (2014)Google Scholar
  10. Suits, B.: The Grasshopper. Broadview Press, Toronto (1978)Google Scholar
  11. Zimmerman, E.: Jerked Around by the Magic Circle – Clearing the Air Ten Years Later. Gamasutra. http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/135063/jerked_around_by_the_magic_circle_.php (2012). Accessed 12 Jan 2015

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Games AcademyFalmouth UniversityCornwallUK