The Concept of the Magic Circle and the Pokémon GO Phenomenon

  • Lasse Juel LarsenEmail author
  • Gunver Majgaard


When Johan Huizinga in 1938 published Homo Ludens, he had no idea the book would father a future research field: ludology or game studies. In that respect, inspirations from Huizinga run deep in game studies and many researchers have since tackled questions like: what is play? what is a game? And perhaps most notoriously how should we understand Huizinga’s description of the magic circle. This chapter revisit Huizinga’s thinking on play, games, and his concept of the magic circle. Subsequently we investigate how the magic circle perform in relation to ‘traditional’ computer games, is challenged by ‘meta-referential’ games and is expanded by Augmented Reality games such as Pokémon GO. We present three understandings of the magic circle: (1) expression of a specific physical place, (2) metaphor for player experience, and finally (3) as a mix between the two. We regard and equate the magic in the magic circle with play. Juxtaposing magic as play and the magic circle as relating to physical space, player experience and its mixed combinations to Pokémon GO result in a multilayered expansion consisting of player experiences, social interactions with other players in a playing field that is close to engulf the entire planet.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern DenmarkOdenseDenmark

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