How to make Magic Real
In games, I see magic as affecting the world around you using systems that you don’t fully understand. Games that capture the feeling and sense of magic completely engross players. As a game designer I’ve found there are a few ways to create game mechanics to create this sense of magic.
One of the most powerful ways to make something feel magical through a game mechanic is by ensuring that something accomplishes its goal, but without precision. This may sound counterintuitive, but an important feeling to create. For example, when the player moves an object to exactly where they intended may be accurate and precise but feels less magical. If it’s not accurate enough it creates frustration in the player. There’s a sweet spot - where an object slowly ‘floats’ to where the player points, which is slightly more unruly, however it creates a magical feeling.
A similar approach can be taken with many other mechanics. For example there seems to be more ‘magic’ in a lightning bolt that strikes roughly where it’s intended rather than a precise gun shot, a companion doesn’t feel as magical as a familiar that must be summoned, and a floating ball of light seems more magical than a torch. Not understanding exactly how something works can actually make it feel more magical.
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
- Arthur C. Clarke