The Magic Circle: Principles of Gaming and Simulation (3rd & rev. ed.)
By Jan H. G. Klabbers
Dr. Klabbers’ work in gaming and simulation dates back to the 1960s. His third (and revised) edition of The Magic Circle: Principles of Gaming and Simulation is 20 pages shorter than his 2006 edition but the material is still the most comprehensive review of the subject by one of the field’s experts—and comprehensive is probably an understatement. The first 52 pages can be read here.
Klabbers uses an interdisciplinary approach to describe the gaming landscape in his first three chapters—Gaming: meaning play (a voluntary activity), games, and simulations (forms of play with one or more players with roles, rules, and a goal). The third chapter extensively reviews interactive learning through gaming. Gaming has been part of social structures for a long time; the Mill Game was played by the early Egyptians, and gaming was mentioned by Sun Tsu in the fifth century BC when discussing a two-person zero-sum game. Chapters four to seven address the game designer and the design-science of gaming. Chapter six has a very interesting discussion of Thorngate’s 1976 postulate of commensurate complexity, examining tradeoffs between generic, specific, and observable qualities of games. Klabbers applies this theory to social systems and game design. Chapters eight to 11 are large-scale case studies involving gaming and interactive dynamics, human capital, policy options for climate change, and management.
Klabbers tells us that games and simulations can be either cooperative or competitive and both are artifacts of the human mind. Gaming can be used for training, learning, or entertainment. Computer-assisted gaming has moved into social studies, urban and land-use management, ecology education, international relations, healthcare, and natural resources. The most popular interactive video games involve participants entering a virtual world through their avatars. Many game players feel that chance is more than an abstract expression of a statistical coefficient, but a sacred sign of the favor of the gods” (Caillois, 1958, p. 126). Klabbers points out that “toys involve eye-hand and fine motor coordination, and require planning, imagination, thinking ahead, cooperation, negotiating, sharing, self-control, delay of reward, and last but not least, patience.” Toys and games are part of all cultures and he draws from Huisinga (1955) who concludes “We might, in a purely formal sense, call all society a game …” (p. 100).
The Magic Circle is not a book that teaches you how to play games or make you a winner in Vegas, but does offer a very thoroughly researched study of the subject. This is a handy book (6×9 inch, 380 pages), but when I first looked at it, I was struck by the small font and the fact that the figures are readable only with my magnifying glasses. This book should be essential reading for business researchers interested in gaming and simulation to support learning and instruction.