The Magic Circle of Johan Huizinga

The Magic circle is a magical world that players step into when entering the world of the game. However, it is also very misunderstood from a design perspective. 

The act of playing a game is often described as entering a concrete or metaphorical magic circle with special rules.

Magic circles are spaces in games and digital media where normal rules and reality are suspended and replaced by the artificial reality of a game world.

All game design and game experience revolve around the magic circle. Johan Huizinga is credited with coining the term magic circle. In the book Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Huizinga wrote:

“… All play moves and has it’s 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…”

Playing a game makes things take on a whole new meaning, according to this concept.

Magic Circle allows players to become warriors, goblins, medieval builders, travelers, and even parents with different personalities and abilities. A unique world allows you to work with knowledge, overcome challenges, and accomplish goals.

You may simply be moving cardboard around in the real world, but in the Magic Circle, you are actually building roads and a town.

Think about how many playful, fun, and creative moments we pack into family moments, as well as moments with friends, colleagues, students, or clients. The extent to which the imaginary influences the real.

In our work and in the management methodologies we follow, we must be free to question whether, by chance, we do not generate our little magic circles, where, even without characters and background, they temporarily generate scenic moments even when we create gamification moments.

This concept can be connected to our daily work and careers in a few ways.

First, many jobs or professions have their own unique set of rules and norms that are specific to that field. These rules and norms create a “magic circle” within which people in that profession operate.

Second, within a specific job or organization, there may be certain activities or spaces that are set apart from the everyday routine and have their own set of rules. For example, a brainstorming session or a company retreat can be considered a “magic circle” in this sense.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Nick Pelling introduced gamification, which perfectly complemented the main methodologies. According to Neil Patel, there are three types of gamification, products, marketing, or environment, applicable in different spectra of life in society, such as in companies, education, or leisure – challenges, goals, objectives, points, and levels, monitoring their evolution, competition or collaboration, and partnerships.

Through games, it is possible to encourage engagement and overcoming, learning with objectivity, feedback, and collectivity, generating scenarios and simulations, providing autonomy and decision trees, perhaps ranking and awards, which can be individual or collective, as a rule valuing the set.

By understanding the concept of the magic circle, individuals can create their own set of rules and norms in their work, which can help to increase productivity, focus, and satisfaction.

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