Human cognition is bedeviled with bias and selective blindness. Stage magicians use these biases and the peculiar way reflexes and gaps in our sense sight to produce “magic.” We all know stage magic isn’t really magic; the lady in the box isn’t actually being sawn in half. It’s a trick. We sign up for and enjoy the experience of having a trick played on our senses. Paintings and drawing by skilled artists have a similar effect of looking three dimensional but being on a two dimensional surface.
Game masters, the best of them anyway, are doing a similar thing. We are telling lies. The dragon doesn’t really exist. There’s no trap that grinds your character into paste. And yet, if the game master is able to produce a level of buy in and immersion in the game, it almost feels as if they do. The desire to “let me tell you about my character” is about the experience of the game, the story that emerges from the game; it all feels “real” even though it is not. That’s magic.