On Liminality and the Magic Circle of GamesOm Liminalitet og Spillets Magiske Cirkel
When we play games of any kind, from tennis to board games, it is easy to notice that games seem to be configured in space, often using stripes or a kind of map on a board. Some games are clearly performed within this marked border, while it may be difficult to pinpoint such a border in games like hide-and-seek, but even these games are still spatially configured. The border (visible or not) both seem to separate and uphold the game that it is meant for. This chapter sets out to analyse the possible border that separates a game from the surrounding world. Johan Huizinga noted this “separateness” in his classic work “Homo Ludens” (Huizinga 1938, translated into English 1971). This has since been developed into the concept of the “magic circle” by Salen and Zimmerman (2003), as an understanding of playing games as a kind of alternate reality. When a person cross the magic circle of a game, he or she suddenly finds himself in another world, where artefacts are given new meaning and where other rules apply. This makes sense, but also demands that play and non-play can be easily separated. Even so, the concept of the magic circle has never been analysed with respect to the spatial configuration though it seems what Huizinga originally was suggesting. I will examine how games make use of space, and show that the magic circle not only is a viable, though criticised, concept but has a spatial dimension—a “thickness.” As a case study I will look at both classical games and a recent group of games, called “pervasive games.” These are games that are based on computer technology, but use a physical space as the game space as opposed to video games. Coupling spatial configuration with performance theory of rituals as liminal phenomena, I put forward a model and a new understanding of the magic circle as a spatial concept of the game performance.
Engaging Spaces: Sites of Performance, Interaction and Reflection, 2015, p. 154-180