Blurring the boundaries of the magic circle [video]

Listen up all you gamification nerds, if you haven’t seen this video you should definitely take 8 minutes to watch it.

Apart from it’s beautiful visuals, it is totally creepy and raises some important questions around the ethics of merging games and real life. Traditionally games have been defined as closed, formal systems that are entered wilfully by players (Costikyan, 2002; Avedon & Sutton-Smith, 1971). Generally there is this idea of a boundary that exists at the edge of the game called the magic circle (Huizinga, 1950). When we are in the magic circle, playing the game we can have different thoughts, feelings and values than when we are out of the game (Schell, 2008). However, when we start using technology to integrate games with everyday activities and tasks, the edges of this magic circle blur, and games may become less and less voluntary, and more closely intertwined with real life – and this can have consequences and potentially change people, as the video depicts an extreme way.

On a similar note, it reminds me of this SMBC Comic which highlights some interesting issues.

Long live the definers!


Avedon, E., & Sutton-Smith, B. The Study of Games. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1971.

Costikyan, G. I Have No Words & I Must Design: Toward a Critical Vocabulary for Game. Proceedings of Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference, 2002. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 2002.

Huizinga, J. Homo Ludens. Boston: The Beacon Press, 1950.

Schell, J.  The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2008.

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