A photo of multiple Magic games occurring at once at a long row of tables outside a storefront in a mall.
Several games of Magic occur side-by-side. | Photo by Mark. Used via CC BY 2.0 license.

The specific object around which a Magic activity network coalesces and operates, the "transformational focus [emphasis in original] of an ongoing activity" (Spinuzzi, 2008, p. 71) is the execution of any individual game iteration of Magic. We want to distinguish this execution specifically from the larger activity of play to create Magic as a cultural entity or phenomenon that develops as a result of numerous iterations being realized. That is, the individual game iteration is an atomic unit of Magic action, a moment where Magic players comprehend and express its protocols through mediated action. Further, this action occurs in a set of operational steps that, while potentially feeling (to one or more players) very similar to other past game iterations, may well not ever identically repeat, or be repeated in, any other iteration of play. The game’s iterations serve as spaces for learning, testing, and subsequently reifying, disrupting, or adjusting Magic’s protocols, which are inherently semi-stable and semi-fluctuating. These protocol-related decisions can occur both officially (such as through rules errata, new card mechanics, or tournament events) and unofficially (such as through house rules or emergent preferences in play styles), enabling ripple effects for gameplay at global and local scales that may not always intersect.


Any individual iteration of Magic is approached and enacted by subjects who possess a number of objectives and motives, reasons for engaging the network and coming into tension with other actors and their motives. These may include the short-term (iteration-specific) goal of winning a given game, but players likely have other, longer-term or larger-scale motives for playing Magic in general and in any specific iteration of the game. For example, they may want to test their strategies against those of as many opponents as possible or the most skilled opponents they can find; they may be interested in pursuing community prestige or status; they may seek to attain prizes or rewards (such as from tournaments and similar events); they may want to see what stories diegetically unfold; they may simply want to pass the time. Of course, it is also entirely possible that one player of a game is driven by one or more of these motives and their opponent pursues other objectives entirely.

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