I don't seem to CARE about magic.
And very few of the players I've games with over the years have cared about it either. When I, or they, play magic-users, the focus is decidely on something else. I'll play a con man who just happens to use magic. Or someone will be a wizard, with the soul of a fighter or thief.
Not that I'm adverse to playing the archetype - the "smartest man in the room" - when magic isn't involved. I'm well-suited to the detective, the superhero scientist, or the Time Lord. As are many of my players. But please, don't give us spells. Even in a fantasy game, we have to really really really care about "balancing the party" for anyone to take a mage.
So what IS it about magic that's such a turn off? Perhaps it depends on the system. Spell slot systems (like in D&D) don't offer as much versatility or power as you'd think, unless you're either very strategic or lucky in your choices. But mana-point systems aren't great either because they turn the wizard into a magic item with charges. The warrior doesn't have X number of sword strikes in her, does she? The thief doesn't suddenly fall off a wall because he spent the total number of feet he could safely climb. Superhero games have magic that's pretty free-flowing, where powers are always on hand, but even though it's Doctors Strange or Fate you're playing, their spells don't work THAT differently from, say, Green Lantern's ring. Maybe I just haven't played the magic system that really makes me fall in love with the "class".
But most systems treat magic like a science (I guess we'd call it Hermetic), not a mystery. There are definite rules. It's like math. Even if I throw in the Chaos magic from the Tome of Magic, the basic system is rule-driven. This + that = effect within certain bounds, almost every time. It doesn't feel "magical" in that sense. It's normal and expected. Role-playing games codify how things work in any given setting, including magic. Because the PLAYER knows the rules for something, the mystery is lost. Perhaps that's the way to go? Use a system the player isn't allowed to understand? Could work!
Could you convince me to play a mage? Of course. But I think it would have to be an unusual mage. When AD&D 2nd was releasing its class-specific Handbooks, I would make characters I'd like to play with each one, and my mage was a goodie Necromancer. I'd love to play Unknown Armies where the postmodern magic disciplines are Doom Patrol-weird. But then, I'm just as likely to choose something more simple to play, just so I can concentrate on the character's personality and potential for subplots and character building instead.
What about you? What do you think of magic in role-playing games? Are there OTHER character types you just can't warm to?