This chapter examines gameplay, consent, and sex in regard to Johan Huizinga’s 1944 definition of play and concept of the “magic circle”. The author applies Huizinga’s magic circle to both contemporary sex and gameplay practices including trash talk, role play, and in game rape. The author then outlines their own experiences with gameplay, games culture, and sex to demonstrate the ways in which the consent and boundaries of other players, especially women, are not respected in person or online. The chapter concludes that while trash talk may sometimes be consensual if other players don’t consent to this behavior then it is harassment. The author then encourages gamers to adopt a model of critical consent during gameplay to make gameplay safe and pleasurable for all involved.
- Video games
- Magic circle
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The existence, relevance, and use of the magic circle as a concept has been hotly debated by scholars. Many see Huizinga’s division between play spaces and “ordinary life” to be problematic. See Cindy Poremba’s (2007) “Critical Potential on the Brink of the Magic Circle” for comprehensive discussion of this topic. Within this article I am attempting to bring issues of “ordinary life” (such as sexism, racism, harassment and consent) to bare on the magic circle while focusing in on the idea of worlds within (and not separate from) worlds or “temporary worlds” that are “within the ordinary world” (Huizinga 1944, 10). For a comprehensive overview of these debates please see Jaakko Stenros’ (2012) In Defence of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play.
It should be noted that Huizinga himself didn’t feel that his rules for play could be applied to sex in 1944 as it was seen as an activity that was primarily for the purpose of reproduction. Although, Huizinga did say that the label play could be “specially or even exclusively reserved for erotic relationships falling outside the social norm” (43). In other words, I would argue that Huizinga’s definition of play now easily adheres to what is considered sex within the “social norm” in 2018 (i.e. sex for purposes other than reproduction).
For more on the abuse of women in games culture see Mia Consalvo’s (2012) “Confronting Toxic Gamer Culture”, Shira Chess and Adrienne Shaw’s (2015) “A Conspiracy of Fishes”, Kishonna Gray’s (2014) Race Gender and Deviance in Xbox Live, Lisa Nakamura’s (2012) “Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is?”, and Katherine Cross’ (2014) “‘We will Force Gaming to be Free’: On Gamergate & The Licence to Inflict Suffering”.
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Vossen, E. (2018). The Magic Circle and Consent in Gaming Practices. In: Gray, K., Voorhees, G., Vossen, E. (eds) Feminism in Play. Palgrave Games in Context. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90539-6_12
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
Print ISBN: 978-3-319-90538-9
Online ISBN: 978-3-319-90539-6