In Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga coined the term “Magic Circle”. He defines it as a place where, “All play moves and has its being within a play-ground marked off beforehand either materially or ideally, deliberately or as a matter of course…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.” As I read through the rest of the excerpt, I kept coming back to the definition of a “magic circle”. I tried to remember if I ever had any “magic circles” of my own. For some time, all I could remember was the influence of technology in my life. I watched television, played on my phone, and worked on my computer almost every day in high school. Even in the early days, I would watch Disney Channel for hours and hours. Realizing this, I panicked. Is technology drowning out all of the “play”? Is physical sport and fun being replaced by mind numbing sites such as Twitter and Instagram? Or, on the other hand, is technology creating a new type of “magic circle”?
At first glance, it seems as though a “magic circle” only represents places where sports or games occur. For instance, when I was younger, I used to play on the “island”. It was the central part of the cul de sac of where my house was located. It was basically just a pile of wood chips and rocks with two trees in the center. But to my eight year old self, it was paradise. I spent hours playing games like tag, lava monster, and hide n’ go seek in those isolated areas. It was truly as Huizinga writes; it was one of those “forbidden spots…” where only my friends and I were allowed to play.
Taking a second look at the definition, I realized that “magic circles” could also apply to our technology-infested world. For example, video games can be considered a type of new “magic circle”. When you start playing video games, you are creating a space of your own. You are entering into a “magic circle”. The video game is in a completely different world and is separate from reality. There are new rules and new people (characters) to meet. It can also be a place that is restricted from certain people, like annoying younger siblings, and open to others, like friends. Technology has indeed changed the way children play. There are still “magic circles” in the world, but they have evolved to keep up with modern day society.
Looking back to my childhood, I now see that I had multiple “magic circles”. There was the “island”, the trampoline, the pool, and the pond. I don’t visit those places as often as before, but when I do, I remember all the happy memories I made. I encourage you to sort through your memory and remember all of your special “magic circles”. I also encourage you to look around and identify all the “magic circles” that you have right now. They may be connected to technology, and they might not be. In any case, we all need an escape from reality. We all need our very own “magic circle”.