Aaron Rabkin considers himself an entertainer first, and a magician second, and a large part of that is how he uses comedy in his shows. Originally dabbling in improv and stand-up comedy, Rabkin embraced his magician side and used his sleight of hand to elevate his jokes, and vice versa. The the final part of our interview, Rabkin shares his thoughts on what makes comedy magic work, and his own thoughts on how to craft humor.

For more from our visit to the magic destinations of Chicago, check out our video interviews with Mark Toland, Dennis Watkins, and Nick Roy, and our Magic Anywhere special, focusing on the unique, hands-on approach to Chicago-style magic.

It’s rare for someone to land their dream gig right off the bat, and such is the case for Aaron Rabkin. His Chicago venue Trickery is the culmination of years of practice, first as a kid in various magic camps and competitions, then later in one-man shows, street performances, and corporate magic. Nothing felt right, though, until he finally decided to make a go of it with his own intimate theater in the heart of downtown Chicago – and the rest, as they say, is history. Learn about his journey through magic in part four of our five-part interview.

For more from our visit to the magic destinations of Chicago, check out our video interviews with Mark Toland, Dennis Watkins, and Nick Roy, and our Magic Anywhere special, focusing on the unique, hands-on approach to Chicago-style magic.

It’s a bit strange to hear Aaron Rabkin, magician and owner of the Chicago venue Trickery, say he hates magic – but it’s not without reason. For Rabkin, magic is about impressing and entertaining his patrons, many of whom are laypeople, not other magicians. It doesn’t matter if he’s performing standards or the most technically complex trick he knows, as long as the end result leaves his audience satisfied. In part one of our five-part interview with Rabkin, he talks about what excites him about magic, what he tries to accomplish at Trickery, and how Fool Us has helped foster a wider appreciation of magic.

For more from our visit to the magic destinations of Chicago, check out our video interviews with Mark Toland, Dennis Watkins, and Nick Roy, and our Magic Anywhere special, focusing on the unique, hands-on approach to Chicago-style magic.

The best thing about Stranger Things was that the 80’s throwback theme was so good it finally got magicians to stop stealing Hans Zimmer’s songs for their social media posts. 

Jokes aside, this is a neat variation on the camera drop trick that’s been haunting Facebook as of late performed by killer close-up magician, Rodney Reyes. We’ve featured him on the site before when he collaborated with the incredibly talented Patrick Kun. Reyes’ technical skill and slick presentation are a must-see if you ever get the opportunity. 

He’s also responsible for my favorite trick reaction video:

All I’m saying is that if I’d ever interrupted my dad’s mentalism routine on live television he would have locked me in the trick chest with the scorpions. Again.  

The father and spawn combo in the video above is none other than Chicago-based family magician, Scott Green, and his son, Harrison. Green is a law school graduate who was once named one of the best young writers in America. Fortunately he decided to take up a respectable career and became a magician

If you want to catch more of Scott Green’s family-friendly act, you can watch him try to convince a room full of impressionable children that he does not, in fact, have a snake.

Clockwork, get it? Because of the watch. Okay, maybe it’s a digital watch. Whatever. Come up with your own headline.

David Blaine is currently roaming the country, drumming up hype for his upcoming show, David Blaine Live. Hype means interviews and interviews mean tricks in radio stations. Tricks like the one above; a cute little sleight of hand two-fer. 

David Blaine Live starts its North American tour on May 6th at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Tickets are available now. 

We here at GeniiOnline are well aware that dogs make good audiences for magic. They’ll never heckle you, try to ruin a trick or load an actual bullet into the pistol and shoot one of your fingers off like that guy in The Prestige. Man, imagine how different that film would have been if that guy had been a dog. 

Anyway, the fella in that video up there at the top of the page is Simon Pierro: “The iPad Magician,” who, as you may have guessed, performs tricks with an Apple-branded shiny tray. He also gives very interesting talks about gathering and maintaining online audiences. Those videos aren’t quite as high on the cute-o-meter as this one, but they’re still pretty interesting. 

Russell Fox isn’t going to let his array of illnesses stop him from ruining a hungry radio station intern’s day. The African mentalist and illusionist has overcome epilepsy, asthma, dyslexia, ADHD and a mild form of tourettes, so he’s not about to let spoons stop him. 

Decades after one of his teachers told him he would never read, write or work, Fox is a highly successful magician who performs shows around the world. To promote his upcoming appearance at The Funderland Family Festival 2018 in Cape Town, the “Magician Insane” dropped into a local radio station and proceeded to destroy all their cutlery. As one does. 

Russell Fox, Magician Insane, will be performing at The Funderland Family Festival in Cape Town on April, 7th. Tickets are on sale now. 

On his website, Blake Vogt claims  as “one of the most respected magicians in the industry,” and for good reason if this excellent trick he performed on The Late Late Show with James Cordon is anything to go by.

I’m not going to spoil the trick for you, other than to say it starts with Vogt asking James Cordon, Tony Hale and Jason Schwartzman to pick one of three stools and just gets weirder from there. 

Of course, Vogt is quite comfortable to weirdness, being somewhat odd himself. When asked why magicians, on the whole, tend to be weird (and you do), Vogt told James Galea: 

I think it takes a certain type of weirdness to want to practice the art of lying to people. There’s so much alone time that goes into it. A lot of normal people wouldn’t be willing to go through the amount of hours it takes to become a magician. 

Those hours have clearly paid off for Vogt. He’s created magic tricks for top-tier magicians around the world, has worked as a consultant on a number of Hollywood film productions and has appeared on too many variety and television shows to list here. 

Game designers are magicians in their own way. The tools may be different, but the goals are the same: to provide a sense of wonder and excitement that transcends mundane reality. And like magicians, the ways game designers achieve this effect often involves lying right to your face.

Video games are filled with numbers, stats, meters, and gauges, and players interact with them by moving characters through digital worlds, clicking on boxes, defeating enemies, managing resources and so on. Through these mechanics, games build an implicit dialog of trust with the player over time: “These numbers I’m showing you are true,” the game says, “and you can rely on them to make your way through my challenges.” The secret, however, is that many times what the game tells you is a complete fabrication.

Many examples of the deception players experience right under their noses were exposed when Jennifer Scheurle, lead designer of virtual reality game Earthlight at Opaque Space, tweeted out an open-ended question asking developers to reveal the hidden mechanics behind some of the best moments in games. She received a flood of responses, each one revealing how designers lie to or omit information from the player in order to manipulate their emotions.

Like how Doom messes with your perception of health to make you feel like you survived harrowing encounters by the skin of your teeth:

Or how Half-life 2 makes sure something cool happens as often as possible whenever bullets miss you:

Or how initial surprise attacks in Bioshock aren’t deadly at all:

These are just a few choice examples of the many found in that treasure trove of a Twitter thread, but there’s one constant found in all of them, regardless of game or genre: none of the tricks developers use are meant to punish the player or make them feel like a loser. In fact, many are there to provide the illusion that the player is on the precipice of failure while actually giving them a leg-up on the competition.

One of the most important tools a game designer has is the ability to play with perception. Through visual tricks, audio cues, interface tweaks, along with the code running under the hood, designers can create the illusion that a player is in complete control—or make them feel like they have no control at all. Game designers can even mess with numbers in a way that makes players feel luckier than they actually are.

For instance, a game called Peggle requires players to drop balls down a series of complex grids in an attempt to hit and remove each stage’s orange-colored pegs. As the balls fall, they bounce and react according to angles and physics. Except… they don’t—at least, not all the time. According to statement made by Peggle designer Jason Kapalka in an article on Nautilus, “the seemingly random bouncing of the balls off of pegs is sometimes manipulated to give the player better results,” especially in the early stages. Adhering to proper physics may be realistic, but it can be discouraging to people who are just starting to learn the ropes. Tweaking the player’s ‘luck’ ensures that they’ll keep going.

Similar decisions were made in the strategy game Civilization to keep players from getting frustrated. Using actual probability sounds like the right thing to do, but it upsets players when real-world math doesn’t line up with how their brains perceive that math should play out. For example, if Civilization players were told they’d win a particular battle 33% of the time, they’d get frustrated if they tried it three times and never won. So designer Sid Meier opted to go with perception of how the statistics would play out over the reality; according to the article, “if your odds of winning a battle were one in three, the game guaranteed that you’d win on the third attempt.”

Game designers exploit luck not to defeat players, but rather to make them feel good about playing their games. In a sense, these not-so-random numbers actually appear more fair than true randomness, and seasoned developers know when and how to fudge the numbers for a more fun experience.

Because that’s what the end result of all of this deception really is: fun. People come to games to be challenged, yes, but to also experience emotional highs and lows, along with the narrative provided by the story and moment-to-moment gameplay. And like a magician faking out a hapless volunteer with a rubber knife, game designers lie and cheat to surprise, delight, and above all, keep us glued to the edge of our seats.