But it fails miserably. Or rather, it fails due to the abuse of it by those who employ it. Be they the characters, the games masters / dungeon masters, the film makers and the writers. Why?
Okay, let's look at J.K. Rowling's brilliant (yes, I've read them all and love them to bits, and the films equally so :P) 'Harry Potter'; here we have an alternate society, possibly even an alternate universe, where things are magically created, controlled, repaired, healed and hidden (and the list could go on a tad longer).
So Why do I think it possibly fails?
Take the magical aspect of repairing broken things. What is to prevent a group of Hogwarts graduates setting up a repair business. They could take in anything and everything, restore it to perfect condition and charge a small fortune for doing so. Cars could be repaired at the flick of a wrist, clothes made perfect, electrical items good as new, even buildings. It creates unbalance. And where do all the graduating wizards go? What do they do? More to the point, what do they do with their magic?
More to the point, hiding their talents from the 'muggles' is somewhat cruel, seeing as they struggle and toil on a day-to-day basis, yet these magic-wielding wizards could change the health service, the economy and probably industry itself. But no, the sinister, selfish wand-waving wizards hide and do what, exactly?
Sorry J.K. but you've left a whopping great hole there, to my mind at least (feel free to add your own thoughts and opinions in the comments section).
Then we have gaming. Be it computer based games such as World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Rift, to name but a few of the massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), or the traditional role playing games (RPGs) such as Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer Fantasy RPG, Dragon Warriors et al.
These settings are great, but again there seems to be no real feeling of how fantastic magic could truly be within the game setting. It just becomes another 'stick' with which to beat and batter your opponent or monster, and bring fellow players back to life and/or heal. It's all just taken in for granted.
Imagine if you will, you are at home, watching the news. Up pops a news piece showing a person creating a living flame out of thin air appear in the palm of their hand. They can make it move and do their bidding, so it would seem. No trickery or CGI. It is real. Imagine the world's response to that one individual? The sheer amazement and wonder at seeing a person creating a living flame from nothing - in their hand, no less.
Everything we know today relating to the laws of physics, chemistry, the human body, even religion, would be brought into speculation. The media furor would be crazy. All because of a simple flame.
I know what you are thinking, 'Simple flame? That would be far from simple!?' And my reply to that would be, "EXACTLY!"
Now transfer your reaction to what I said into game terms and then I think you have an idea as to what I'm wittering on about. Players in an rpg setting role to create a character, and those who choose a path of magic then get to role for their starter spells.
Quite often, in D&D at least, they can get something called, 'Conjour Flame' and the usual response is very negative, or disappointment. But applying my example above, ANYTHING magical should be viewed as great and amazing. Sadly, it's be elevated to a point of overkill, so players expect more, appreciate less and ignore all but the near god-like abilities. And don't get me started on the topic of Clerics and Paladins within the game world.
Obviously I write this from a gaming perspective, and no doubt many reading this can cite examples of writers who have adhered to a similar thinking as mine, and I would be so very grateful if you could mention them and their work in the comments below. I suppose what I'm really aiming at is highlighting the 'dumbing down' of an area of fantasy, fiction and myth that could (and should) be used to elevate them into a grittier, more plausible and 'realistic' setting and use.
If we were all millionaires, what would be the value of money? Same principle should be attached to magic in game, book and film. Sometimes less is more. I shall leave it there, and hopefully those of you reading this might be inclined to add to the topic. This is by no means a flame on game, book and film, just an opening for a possible discussion on the topic of magic used within those genres and its general abuse.
For anyone interested in the above mentioned games I have included links to their respective websites below (and some others in the fantasy genre).
*NOTE: many MMORPGs are now 'free to play', save for World of Warcraft *
MMO Game Links