The Magic Circle Persists
Mia Consalvo doesn’t believe in the magic circle. In her article, “There is No Magic Circle,” she decries the magic circle by explaining that we always take everyday life with us into games. It’s impossible not to; we each have experiences, cultural baggage, and learned behavior that we simply cannot forget when we enter the world of a game. These things influence how we play and experience games. Mia Consalvo’s argument, then seems to be: there is no magic circle because we can never forget our “real” selves completely.
Consalvo is correct, of course; we don’t get amnesia every time we enter a game. That being said, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a magic circle. Perhaps I’ve simply been totally misunderstanding the nature of the magic circle, but to me, it isn’t the rigid barrier that Consalvo sees. Rather, it functions on a much more semi-permiable level. It is a cell membrane, not a brick wall. That is to say, little things (like societal mores) can and do enter and leave the circle. It is almost always clear, however, that the circle exists; I don’t start playing World of Warcraft and suddenly become convinced that I’m an elf in real life. I usually know where the bounds of playing the game and not playing the game exist. This is a bit harder to argue with some ARGs, but I think we can say that in cases like those, we are at least aware that the bounds of playing the game and not playing the game do exist, even if we don’t know exactly where they are.
The magic circle, then, persists. As with any theoretical framework, it has its loopholes, but for the most part, it is an incredibly useful and simple way of describing that we know that game worlds aren’t the same thing as the real world.