What I enjoyed most from reading Huizinga’s text was being able to relate his ideas about the concept of “play” into a modern day gaming context. And what stuck out to me the most was his idea of the “magic circle” and the people that break it. I immediately think of this sacredness that we attach to the rules and worlds created by the games we play. I speak specifically, however, of online play where the world and laws governing must be upheld by more than just the solitary player.
Now, I rarely play online myself, and when I do it’s only with friends from back home while I’m at school. But on many occasion I’ve sat down to watch friends play intensely heated matches of anything from Left 4 Dead to Street Fighter against total strangers. And it’s absolutely fascinating to see how the world of the game is treated by so many different participants. I’m reminded constantly of the way Huizinga labels the “cheat” and the “spoil-sport” and how the “spoil-sport” is always the one who faces the ridicule.
As a game is played and tested both in development and in the home, bugs and glitches are found; I’d be hard pressed to find a single game that didn’t have something “broken” about it. The “cheaters” in this context can exploit these tricks, much to the dismay of the purist that wants the game to played the way developers intended. Like wavedashing in Super Smash Brothers. It’s a simple way of exploiting maneuvers given to you, but if mastered can give you a significant leg up over the competition. People may gripe about the cheapness of the skill but ultimately it’s forgiven because it’s just that, a skill. And gamers respect skills.
But the “spoil-sport” or the “rage-quitter” in today’s world is still the one who completely breaks this “magic circle.” The rage-quitter, for those unfamiliar, is the guy (or gal) who will quit a game, often in frustration, and often because they are unfairly (in their opinion) losing. Doing so completely voids the sanctity of the magic circle as it’s often the MO of the rage-quitter to make themselves feel better by discrediting the world that they ejected from. These individuals obviously carry a negative reputation, not only because they rob skilled players of deserved wins, but because they actively destroy something that others have invested themselves into. Even in online debates between players on a forum, people rage quit from an argument with the old phrase, “It’s just a game.” Of course, it is just a game, but to destroy the “magic circle” is to do a disservice, not only to the others involved, but to you yourself who has so clearly invested wholeheartedly in the sacredness that you’re worked up over it. No body likes a spoiled-sport.