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Game Makers and other Magicians

September 26, 2012

The suggested correspondence between magicians and ideology is intriguing – and makes me cringe. Who doesn’t remember those moments between blissful childhood and cynical adolescence when all of a sudden you realized that the magical performance in front of you, complete with choices that come with the magician’s attention, had turned into a farce and that, all along, you had been led by the nose? And when the broad smiles (feeling special, good choices!) changed to a sneer? Maybe I’m all alone with this; but how can one be oblivious to the manipulations of the game, especially when the initial fun-factor has lost its charm? Channeling Borghes here, somewhat…

Maybe I just read Thomas Mann’s Mario and the Magician (1929) one time too many. Maybe I read the Hunger Games one time too many. Maybe I equate games with just too many rules one has to follow and thus wants to break. What would make games really magical is if they could undermine their own construction and gameness, as in, games get to be changed at the core. Haymitch Abernathy’s discovering the force field and using it as a bouncing device comes to mind. What makes a gamer not feel like a trapped mouse, the eager subject of the game makers’ disciplining layers of tests and competitions? When s/he can outwit the game maker – or is that just part of everyone’s ludic impulse?

Play is fun, games are fun, magic is fun. Especially if the game itself is part of the ludic enterprise – that’s magic. For those interested in ideological game making, how about Europa Universalis III…

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