This dissertation analyzes the relationship between Wizards of the Coast's trading card game Magic: The Gathering and its digital adaptations. I used critical technocultural, ludic discourse analysis, and ludic textual analysis to examine the analog trading card game and digital adaptations. I examined an archive of paratextual media including trade magazines, developer blogs, game reviews, and player guides. I chose Magic for its long history, impact on the analog game industry, and the sheer number of adaptations that have been produced. This analysis begins by introducing a method for describing analog to digital adaptations called Adaptation Mapping. Adaptation mapping describes adaptations as a relationship between how the interface of the game is remediated and the degree to which a game represents the thematic and ludic experiences of the original. Then I examine the narrative framework that allows Magic to tell stories through both its theme and mechanics. Identifying the figure of the Planeswalker as a key component in how narrative functions in Magic, I trace the development of the planeswalker as a player analog to independent original characters under the purview of Wizards of the Coast. The adaptations provide a backdrop for this change and highlights the way that the same mechanical and algorithmic systems can characterize both player and official characters within Magics ecosystem. This shift highlights the way that marketing is approached and influences the design of the game. Finally, I examine how digital adaptations are intwined with ludic platform economy that has emerged through the 2010s. The apparatus that allows for capital to flow through the community is coopted via adaptation and remediated in ways that redirect capital back towards Wizards of the Coast as the platform owner. Analog to digital adaptation is a critical juncture in examining the impact of platformization on play and games.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Murray, Jack, "Planeswalking: Magic: The Gathering Across Analog and Digital Platforms" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1793.