Discussion: An Overview

A game of Magic in play, focused on the cards controlled by one of the game's players. The opponent looks on from the opposite side of the table, sitting behind their own cards. Various cards controlled by each player are tapped.
A game of Magic in action, from the POV of one of its players. | Photo by JaulaDeArdilla. Used via CC BY-NC-ND-2.0 license.

This project illuminated for us quite a range and number of fascinating details about Magic specifically and about protocological systems more broadly as types of activity networks that perform rhetorically in particular ways. Perhaps most significantly, our findings indicate opportunities and space for deeper and more varied experimentation with analog games as rhetorically potent networks of complex procedural activity. It is likely that some of our conclusions may differ significantly in consideration of certain contexts—for example, we are working within the frame of casual play not occurring as part of official organized events, so our motivation to ensure precisely and definitively correct rulings was not as strong as it might have been for others.

How a Magic Activity Network Emerges and Operates [RQ1]

Our activity network developed quickly as one centered not only on academic inquiry but also friendly interaction: we are colleagues rather than strangers or tournament-level competitors and, in addition to wanting to learn how to play the game, we wanted to help one another (and ourselves) play the game more effectively.

How a Magic Activity Network Functions Rhetorically [RQ1a]

As a unique game, as an analog game, and as a complex system of activity networks, Magic operates in a number of rhetorical dimensions that reflect the varied goals, expectations, affordances, and motives of its players and the communities they comprise.

How Magic Players Recognize and Respond to The Emergent Qualities of the Activity Network [RQ1b]

Magic players recognize a number of interrelated components that contribute to the activation of the Magic activity network—sometimes the same or similar components (e.g., likely strategies pursued to win a given game at any particular moment) and sometimes very different components (e.g., the motives a particular player may have in participating in the game).

How a System’s Protocols Are Communicated Through Direct Expression and Surrounding Texts [RQ2]

There were several material components of Magic play that reflected its protocological rhetoric in that they signalled to us, as players, about how to understand the game, and make use of its mechanics to win the game, in specific ways.

How A Network Engages Others Protocologically [RQ3]

The protocols of each game consisted of a series of interconnected protocols understood and enacted by each player—the strategy they anticipated playing and the strategy of their opponent, to which they reacted and responded in regards to each specific game and to the remaining number of future games still to be realized.