In game studies, the magic circle (also Circle of Play) refers to the unique spaces of fictive play that games provide. Within this circle, actions that would be unimportant or meaningless in the outside world (such as touching another player on the shoulder) receive new meanings based upon the rules agreed upon by the players (a touch becomes a "tag," and another player is "it").

The term was first coined by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga in his book Homo Ludens, a study on play and culture. It is often used in debates about violent games and their effect on the real world participants. The circle creates a safe temporary space for the act of play, a "place of predictablility and order in an otherwise chaotic world" (Bogost 134). Alternatively, it has been used to demonstrate the difference between the fiction within a game's world and the reality of the rest of the world, an act that carries multiple narratological implications as explained in Jesper Juul's book Half Real.