Please, I beg of you, someone from gaming studies invent a vocabulary for expressing the distribution of action within the event of gaming across actual and represented worlds. ‘You’ are not ‘in’ the game. This IS NOT FUCKING TRON! Tron or Tron 2.0 (The Matrix) do not exist. It is the sheer poverty of language and the seduction of spatial and immersive cliches that lead people to talk about how they do things in the gaming world. No! Bullshit! Stop it! I do not want to mark anymore essays about the spatiality of computer games that involve discussions of ‘gamers’ being in some fucking other world. Does anyone actually think ‘they’ are ‘in’ the world of the game? WTF…
It has to go somewhere else and I am thinking of the climatic scene in The Wizard of Oz involving the wizard. The wizard and the architecture of the palace are an assemblage of the temple and the priest from D&G’s discussion of faciality. The wizard has become incorporated into the architecture of the palace like the labour of developers is incorporated into the architecture of games. What is produced is a certain kind of fantastic faciality. The white walls of inscription and black holes of significance produce an immersive architecture. That is why there is little difference between bots and actual gamers in online games, they are all part of the moving affective architecture of faciality. Please. You are playing with monads of artifice, not being enveloped in worlds. Interface is a faciality; interfaciality?
What are the facialities? Are you a god of Civilisation (faciality of godding)??? Are you a doom guy of Doom (faciality of soldiering)??? Gaming as a technology for the capture attention through the deployment of facialities. They either reinscribe the relations of cultural cliches (god, soldier, etc) or produce new facialities. Have there been any new facialities produced through gaming? Not that I know of and that is because game development is capitalist enterprise relying of the elements of already existing culture and is not a fucking art form. When a game developer produces a new faciality, and forces gamers to enter into new relations, then it will be art. Otherwise gaming is a capitalist evolution of the distractive potential of the temple and gamers are the new herd of believers.
There’s a “gaming studies” now?
This is the closest I’ve seen games get to art recently: http://intihuatani.usc.edu/cloud/flowing/
Or possibly “line rider”.
do you never, ever say “on the internet”?
If it makes you feel any better, english prepositions are notorious for creating bogus spatialities.
jean, there are certainly things “on the internet” but I would argue they are *actions*, which get translated along composite chains of technology and whatever. If you are seeing something in front of you on your computer screen or hearing it, then it is on your computer screen/speakers, not some other place. The *action* may be distributed across a network! I know this stuff from motorsport coverage “Where the action is!” What is the spatiality of action? It is the distribution of an event.
Im not denying the internet a certain kind of spatially, but it is not human. Humans act at computers, computers act and communicate with each other translating human actions mostly into code. This is a weird intersection of poetics and spatiality because it is literally a problem of the *translation* (and distribution) of action. I don’t know about it really and is not my field. However, I know something is wrong when there is talk of some sort of projection/representation of a ‘self’, when the ‘self’ is itself problematic!
Oh, and death to the metaphor and all that. I can understand space as a metaphor, but it is about time gaming studies became a little more exacting. Metaphors are either useful for describing something incredibly complex or ‘literary’ or just lazy (ie cliches). Teh innertubes is pretty common nowadays, and it will be good for cultural studies type peeps to learn about some software and hardware stuff.
I snapped when I realised I had another three essays to mark after I thought I’d finished them all. And they all were about ‘game spaces’.
Ben, that game is beautiful.
Please, I beg of you, someone from gaming studies invent a vocabulary for expressing the distribution of action within the event of gaming across actual and represented worlds. â€˜Youâ€™ are not â€˜inâ€™ the game. This IS NOT FUCKING TRON! Tron or Tron 2.0 (The Matrix) do not exist. It is the sheer poverty of language and the seduction of spatial and immersive cliches that lead people to talk about how they do things in the gaming world.
It’s possible to argue that both the ‘problem’ here and your objection to it are a function of a specific concept of ‘the game’, and particularly of the way in which that concept imagines the limits â€” physical, affectual, technical, communicative, etc. â€” to the space (just to be cheeky) or the event of ‘the game’.
Put simply, if you understand ‘the game’ or ‘the world of the game’ as the action and events (all organised in directive or reactive ways) rendered on a TV/computer screen by a complex program, which is itself a translation of a range of inputs, then of course gamers are not ‘in’ ‘the game’.
Given that most availalble, and certainly most prevailing, concepts of ‘the game’ would also understand a game without a player as a contradiction in terms, though, then it is somewhat counter-intuitive to understand the limits to ‘the game’ according to the above concept (even if that concept is a lso a completely ‘sensible’ one). Rather, the forms of action â€” including forms of imagination, subversion, interaction and communication (between humans as much as between humans and computers and as much as between humans via computers), etc. â€” that take place in the ‘actual’ world are also part of ‘the game’ and part of ‘the world of the game’.
Consequently, perhaps a better (or alternative) question might be, ‘what’s happening in the moments of gameplay and of speaking about gameplay such that the language of ‘immersion’, etc., become effective means for explaining the event? Part of the answer to that question will of course underscore the force of convention (i.e. that the language of immersion already exists and has currency as a means for explaining the event), but I think there might be more to the answer or to the range of possible answers than that.
NB: it remains possible that all of the above is just another way of saying that ‘english prepositions are notorious for creating bogus spatialities’…
“Given that most availalble, and certainly most prevailing, concepts of â€˜the gameâ€™ would also understand a game without a player as a contradiction in terms, though, then it is somewhat counter-intuitive to understand the limits to â€˜the gameâ€™ according to the above concept (even if that concept is a lso a completely â€™sensibleâ€™ one).”
I agree and the simple response from my POV is that the ‘game’ is actually played in the body and mind of the gamer. Elements that constitute the faciality of the gaming world are folded into the affective disposition, nervous system, etc of the gamer, rather than the gamer as a fully formed subject being enfolded by/immersed in the game world. Consequently, immerssion and spatiality are never good terms for explaining gameplay. To tend towards a tone that sufficiently resonates with my hyperbolic proclamations in this discussion:
The game penetrates the gamer. The gamer does not exist in the game. The gamer is pwned by the game!
It is a function of the fan machinery to talk about the gaming world. I suggest it are these very machineries that need to be explained rather than used to explain gaming experience.
I’ve seen a successful argument on this problem stating that a workable alternative to ‘you’ is ‘You’ as a model of unpossessive retreat from the un-named to the named-but-singular self. Two reasons why I think this work: 1. games operate on a fantastic evocation of continually diachronic experiences, not mere fantasy and require all the technological pagentry to operate, under which the Royal “You” is the only proper descriptor of the game-thing flying around the world beating up alien prostitutes. It seperates self from imaginary but accuses it of class delusion; hence 2., that in more specific terms, the capitalisation of a name means deferral of address from the speaker, which is precisely what’s required to achieve the type of idea you’re talking about.
Ok, but here are some further thoughts about it (and this audience stuff is some of the good oil from my diss, just in case any casual readers decide to borrow/steal it). At what point does the audience matter? I appreciate the distinction between you/You because it enables a distinction between the series of ordinary points that constitute a population mass that become gamers and the singularity of game-action distributed across this body-series through the act of gaming. \’you\’ is an actualisation of \’You\’ as the action-singularity is distributed (territorialises) the collective body of the series of gamers. This distribution of singularity is surely the event of gaming, captured in the infinitive \’to play\’. The principle mode of distribution of this singularity of action is technological in that it is translated from another series of probabilities and the activation of lights and sounds (\’the code\’, but see below). Why is this important?
In gaming the production of immersion/spatiality is no where near as important as the production of contingency. To go right out on a limb here the question of perspective has always been imagined in terms lines receding to the horizon, ie: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/math5.geometry/unit11/unit11.html
However, spatial perspective is irrelevant when it comes to gaming, it is not a depth/displacement model at stake but specific fields of movement and of action. This connects the simplistic abstract games like Pong to the alleged immersive games such as Doom to the narrativised games to the RTSs. If the eye tends towards the linear horizon in traditional static \’perspectivist\’ frescos, etc the nerve-attention body tends towards durations of contingency in the moving field of the game. It is a fundamentally different relation of perspective (different in kind, as D&G would say). It is here that action connects with attention. Game deveopers are not artists of gaming, but artists of gamers. They create installations that use the game-code (between the machinic body and the narrative, see below) to manipulate the attention of gamers.
The problem is that \’action\’ as such has a complex stucture. Similar to war the losing side participates just as much as the winning side and perhaps at a greater cost. The various actants that participate in this event all have a positivity of participation that needs to be unravelled. To play is precisely an event involving the distribution of the action-singularity across the ordinary series of gamer bodies, but the action is an actualisation of another multiplicity that exists between the machinic body of, for example, the bit-flip (code, interface, CPU, electricity) and the expressive sense-event of the bit-flip as a verb (which may actually only make sense as a composite of bit-flips narrativised as a spatialised duration of action, ie the non-contingent that allows for further contingency, \’this is what happened\’).
This is the sort of thing I was getting at ages ago when I posted to some gamer blog thread or forum or something about thinking of gaming as an event to get around the ludology/narrative bollocks.
oh, and there is a series of contingency that can organise contemporary media. Games allow for a higher level of contingency than television, etc. Previews play on the expectations (realised contingencies) and affective relations of anticipation that an audience has of a movie (comes from my work in Sweden).
Glen, i keep meaning to ask you a really crude question – sorry if it is too crude, but why is time/action/movement good but spatiality bad?
jean, i think you are being patronising!!!! what is crude about the question? unless you are deliberately framing it in terms of simple binaries as a kind of performative crudeness?
maybe this is a good point to take stock:
1) there were two things I was critical of in the initial post. The conceptual metaphors of spatiality and immersion in computer gaming.
2) if you look past my polemic I actually argue that spatiality is not so much bad, just insufficent. an abstract spatial representation of something (ie a map) allows one to be able to navigate, which is exceptionally useful. however, spatiality on its own is insufficient for accounting for movement and dynamic relations. for example, the action of navigation is not explained by the map.
3) my first assumption is that gaming is organised around action. i am drawing on galloway here a little, but then suggesting that there is an important evental dimension to gaming-action that galloway doesn’t engage with.
what is this evental dimension?
so the gap between gamer-at-computer and movements on the screen performed by Xian’s alien prostitute slayer can be filled by translations of physical movement of the gamer (fingers to figures), but clearly this is also not enough, that is, to remain at the level of action and the movement of bodies and bit-flips. Enter something like Ken Wark’s allegorithms which are the code-like chunks of culture that have inbuilt repetitions and expectations that allows one’s body and perceptual apparatus to react and act according to the contingencies of the gaming code. So without some narrativised understanding of alien prostitute slayering, which includes the dynamic apprehension of form while playing then the game will be too estranged. Being too different or unintelligible is certainly not the problem for gaming developers. Rather it is how to produce and repeat contingencies that have a suffienctly interactive component which also requires a sufficiently engaging narrative of cultural and discursive elements that array the composite-figurations of bit-flips and the gamer body in a competent way.
then I went off on two directions.
first, another assumption (that i get from bergson) is that the world in which we live is always changing. we don’t need to account for change as much as account for when change is arrested. spatialising time or action is the first way to do this. (this may be the sort of answer you were after in your question above?)
you asked if I ever said “on the internet” and of course I do. this is how I understand it (sometimes), and how other people also understand it. But how I or others understand it and what is actually going on are not the same thing. An alternative to immersive or spatialised conceptions of the internet or online gaming is by thinking about distributions and (transductive?) translations of action.
the second direction was to think about an alternative to the gaming experience in particular. If I am arguing that to think of the alien prostitute slayer as ‘you’ is actually insufficient to account for the relation between the gamer and the bit-flips on the screen, then what do I propose as an alternative? My first off-the-cuff step in this direction was to (re)address the problem of perspective. The spatial-depth model of perspective is fundamentally wrong in a gaming environment if a gaming environment is specifically defined in terms of the distribution of action. I am quite happy to concede otherwise if anyone can demonstrate how gaming is not related to action or for that matter occurs as duration. By definition gaming must include some form of action, my understanding is that gaming is the action.
The current model of perspective is from static media that at best are used in attempts to capture the percept of movement by using gestural forms to activate certain expectations in viewers. For example, the way a baseball bat is drawn or painted indicates to us that we should expect it to be moving in a certain direction. We don’t see the movement, our habitualised perceptual capabilities allow us to expect the movement. I am getting ahead of myself. The original art of perspective was to create the illusion of 3-d depth on 2-d surfaces. In effect to create the illusion of a spatialised surface because of the habitualised expectations fo the viewer. The viewer may enjoy the relative conceit of believing there is actual depth when there is no such thing. Initially then the question of perspective is not a question of ‘representations of spatiality’, but a question of the minimum of artist conceit required to activate the expectations of spaciality in the viewer. A hologram is the next generation of this.
What I am suggesting is that with gaming the question of perspective should actually be recast in terms of expectation itself. What is the minimum of artist conceit required to activate the expectations of contingency in the gamer? This problematic of im/probability can only be sustained by the nature of the (often simplistic) allegorithms deployed within/as the gaming world itself (what I tried to address in terms of faciality). On a 2-d screen not only do we have the traditional expectations of spatiality that need to be activated for the artistic conceit of spatiality, but through various distributions of action through the spatio-temporalities of the game we have the production of the artist conceit of contingency and interactivity. Instead of the horizon to which lines of spatial perspective recede, we have an *event horizon* to which recedes lines of contingency (across which are distributions of action).
I’m reading and re-reading your comments here about faciality in order to understand them, so apologies for my comments coming late, I’m not busy, I’m just not operating on this level it seems, at least not this week. I should also go back to re-do my Deleuze readin’.
But I definitely have some ideas related to your thoughts here on distribution of action versus spatiality metaphors, and I may be able to speak to the tensions I think you’re circulating these questions around.
“The spatial-depth model of perspective is fundamentally wrong in a gaming environment if a gaming environment is specifically defined in terms of the distribution of action. I am quite happy to concede otherwise if anyone can demonstrate how gaming is not related to action or for that matter occurs as duration. By definition gaming must include some form of action, my understanding is that gaming is the action.”
Consider the problem which you spoke to above; what we think games are and what they actually are are not the same thing. To describe games as a distribution of action take
I agree that spatiality is a discursive nightmare, but two important elements are drawn out throught its persistence;
1. Smooth and Stirated Spaces: We cannot talk about the spatiality of all games because we are talking about all representational computer software. We can talk, however, about concepts which relate to spatial representation more generally and speak to the specific places where connections are fruitful – first and foremost, smooth and stirated space are the prime material of the computer game’s silent state. You are right to point about expectation, and spatiality cannot be talked about outside of it; this is why Angela Ndalianis’s book on the Neo-Baroque (supervisor pimpin) has been so appealing to many game thinkers; it delivers a history of this type of space; construction by expectation and utterly changed in the viewing act. As Deleuze notes, spatiality is an act itself, the tension between the two, always mixed, does not exist without the act.
What is the game without the player? Most of the time, since 1985, it is a texture map. That is literally what it is called, which is a considerable hint to the ‘what is it’ of games. A quilt of images borrowed and replicated on layers. Activity on the texture map, gaming or playing or however else we describe it, is not dissimilar in actual relationship to this quilt as a weaver is to a loom, as we’ve seen in historical research about Babbage, Ada Lovelace, etc – all tasks of the computer are necessarily involved in warp, weft, woof not merely as metaphorical junctions but situations by which computers were designed in the first place.
The material conditions of videogames are irrefutably bound up in a frustrating web of factors that precondition the gamic action to be about the visual. Controversial but I stand by it! 🙂 Computer technology is about the sight of technology computing, and since its inception, it has been graphics which mark the narrative of games, and much else is ignored in its pursuit. Equally, however, thinking through games requires a tacit acknowledgement of these material conditions, beginning with the obvious dimensions of class and leisure, but at the textural/textual level, undertaking precisely the type of work you talk about, which determines to cohere action to spatiality, or play to narrative if I am to inflame old game studies wars.
“The spatial-depth model of perspective is fundamentally wrong in a gaming environment if a gaming environment is specifically defined in terms of the distribution of action.”
I consider 3d games, where the character and world are made up of texture maps, bump-mapping, shaders and pixel effects – all of which speak to space and depth – and where Our control moves the game around (some games move the camera rather than the character, even in the same genre – requiring close reading on this point) is not solely determined by action, but by sensory material qualities like ambience, narrative, experimentation. For sure, gaming’s first question is “Who Am I and What Can I Do?”, but the fact that games are only games because they require action does not automatically situate meaning along action’s axes… I hope that makes sense?
Take, for example, the clip of Andre Dymond playing the theme to Space Harrier:
or Turrican’s second level
These musical themes were part of the meloncholic feel of these games, extremely fast linear shooters (Space Harrier, over-the-shoulder / Turrican: 2d action exploration) but both of which at their time pushed the limits of how action games used space. Textually, they are about how they achieved new representations of space, and their gamic qualities just come second. I’m a big believer in looking for symptoms in cases like this; and Andre Dymond’s playing of the themes is not akin to fan-fiction which extends texts, but here retracts it back to the meloncholic axis and the sensation of time’s disappearance and duration with repetition and exploration of baroque labyrinths.
Duration I am not satisfied on. I think there’s a good deal yet to be said about duration that may involve an understanding of transtextuality, how we come to knowledge through the habitus of worlds, but I’m not entirely convinced that duration is a powerful concept yet. Certainly when you consider games are about leisure and time, it would point to deeper structures, but I would want to read a lot more before continuing.
2. Alexander Galloway’s book does four gamic moments, three of which are drawn very confidently to catagorise actions and the last which, in my opinion, doesn’t quite cohere to his model. I think that in the smooth and stirated element of discussions about spatiality, we get to some concrete elements of gaming’s ‘what is it’ – level mapping and the pause menu are not exterior elements of the game anymore than a rear view mirror is an exterior element of a car. As is, its literally outside the prime function, but without it the logic of car sense is not fully complete. Or is that stupid? In any case, I think action behaves as a moving, weaving pinch-point that transforms one type of space into another, and not merely in the spatial sense, but also in sports experiences, where knowledge-of-interface-and-body becomes smooth space to be stirated by experience.
I think in your reading of the models of perspective, which is pretty hot, there is also the vital element of spectatorship, which is reading of the sensory world, under which appreciation of genius is linked (in Art History) to developments in perspective, where we are ill-equipped to say what is it like to experience an Albrecht Durer, because we do not live in a time where Art and Science are the same world, etc. We don’t see the movement, but I believe expectation of movement is perhaps too much to say in your formulation – it could be that we ‘appreciate’ movement in the sense that we increase its value for ourselves in its articulation, which is always about surprise and delight in the achievement. (I think art history has done a good job of dissecting how history works to create art itself, how representation is always about the past and expectations of futures.)
So, in terms of your thoughts about expectation and contingency, many games operate with a heroic logic that gives You elements to overcome the landscape and its conceits, to put down the rebellious Eschaton with which the game begins, be it an indie shooter game or Civilisation 4, or Wii Sports. (Get a Wii, dude… ) As the difficulty curve has to move in order to situation the gamic action’s context, it also has to open up spaces in one way or another in which to exercise new ability. Even static games fold into more complexity. Which game is not about a crescendo of action – and if we are to talk about a crescendo, we have to take on time, and the orchestra needs a hall?
I feel like I haven’t been helpful to your question, though, so I’ll try and come back…
Glen, I certainly didn’t mean to be patronising – and it’s not something I’m accustomed to being accused of! sorry if it seemed that way, I think you’re reading in more smart-arsedness than I could possibly muster given the writing-up anxiety I’m trying to throw off through gritted teeth. It’s just that I have been turning this post over in my mind for the last week or so, and kept coming back to this really crude question of spatial vs. temporal metaphors. I sometimes find it hard to get underneath your writing and my way of figuring out something I don’t understand is to boil it down first. But in your reply, I think you explain why it is that I feel so at cross-purposes with this post:
“you asked if I ever said â€œon the internetâ€ and of course I do. this is how I understand it (sometimes), and how other people also understand it. But how I or others understand it and what is actually going on are not the same thing.”
I think this is precisely where we part company – it hit me like a four-be-two over the head that I am precisely interested in how people understand things, and what that understanding does in the world. At least, in my work I try to engage in the debates _as_ they are framed, and use a critical analysis of what’s “actually going on” to speak back to those debates. That’s how I arrive at “thinking otherwise”. So, since gamers and game designers talk about “in world” actions, and “game spaces”, and even “architectures”, if I was an expert in game theory I’d be more interested in the politics of what “actually” goes on in those spaces, understood _as_ spaces first. Does that make sense?
jean, you are right. I am more interested in the technologies of framing, of regimes of the sayable, rather than what is said per se. There is a subtle difference here although each has a positivity, which I think are essentially complementary.
I think I can recognise something in gaming that seems both obvious but unintelligible at the same time because compared to spatial metaphors, for example, there is a poverty of language. I want to help people (including myself) be able to express their experience with a better set of tools at their disposal. I think it is literally the stutterer in me. I do not necessarily want to engage with what they are expressing beyond this, at least not yet. I respect this movement you are plotting out between engagement, reflection and critique.
xian, i’ll need time to digest that a little. However, I will quickly point out there is a derivative conceptual relation in the work of D&G between multiplicities (virtual and actual) and smooth and striated space. I am using the term duration instead of virtual multiplcities, which would probably be more accurate. I think we are speaking across respective conceptual vocabularies. For example, the French for multiplicity is the mathematical term for the English ‘manifold’ (Reiman) which if I remember correctly is used to define smooth space in ATP. From my account of the ACP conference:
“Arkady gave the most entertaining presentation at the conference and I found his discussion of the â€˜manifoldâ€™ very educational. He argued that the â€™smoothâ€™ space of d&g is exactly the Riemann manifold of localised fields of â€™striatedâ€™ linear/Cartesian space-time. The manifold is not a space within which these fields emerge, rather the manifold is an assemblage of such fields. Movement within smooth space is from one field to another and from what I gathered Arkady was arguing this does not involve the transformation of the striations of already existing fields.”
From Deleuze’s _bergsonism_ we discover that Einstein’s “fields” (also in the sense that Arkady discusses the term) are critiqued by Bergson for being spatialised durations. The spatialisation of duration is the actualisation of virtual potentialities.
What I was getting at by thinking of game as duration was shorthand for saying firstly I thinking of gaming as happening _as time_ (rather than _in time_) and therefore that gaming is a process of actualisation. However what is actualised is distributed across the virtual multiplicities of the game (allegorithms, etc) and the virtual multiplicities of the gamer (habitualised perception, ie expectation, etc). The singularities of gaming (‘action’) are distributed across a series of ordinary points (a game, a gamer, a games machine, etc, all the necessary conditions) to transform them into ‘this game’ (haecceity). In other words I am asking, what is the diagram of gaming? ‘Space’ alone cannot account for it.
I need to read FC’s paper as it looks interesting.
In the meantime; would you want to help run a gaming conference?
I would also like to know how you think McKenzie Wark’s spatial work in Gamer Theory goes…”Rather, the algorithm consumes the topographic and turns it into the topological.” – needs some dissection/unpacking I think.
I’m not entirely familiar with smooth and stiriated stuff, but I say Arkady speak at the Sensorium thing down here and he spoke a bit about manifolds so I think I have some of the same conceptual equipment you’re using here. “The spatialisation of duration is the actualisation of virtual potentialities.” is something familiar to me as I’m wrestling with part of this in the thesis. Gameplay’s ‘movable image’ has the properties of a Riemannian manifold (in the only sense that I understand – that its properties of relative contingency mean that it can act as a space of differential calculation – a spatial fog of numbers for the calculation of duration/event specific actions).. but the suggestion is that this is how the Fog of War operates, in that one type of contingent-able-space is refracted into mission-complete space through action, weaving across the two like a loom. Memory. Cards.
Spatial metaphors can only account for space, but you’re right, they are used to come up with everything else in the meanwhile. Immersion has become a word that game thinkers have to wrestle with, which is a shame, as I think you’ve shown here. I’ve benefited from my supervisor’s work, as I said, on the neo-baroque – but
I will now cut and paste my old blog post, The Fog of “The Fog of War”, rumination on the model proposed by your own ideas on the topic…
Iâ€™ve got another post in the works written partially in response to Joostâ€™s excellent posts at Space and Culture, but also in reply to the America – Civilization 3 chapter of McKenzie Warkâ€™s GAM3R 7H30RY and the absence of what is called the â€˜fog of warâ€™. It directly relates to the above as the â€˜fog of warâ€™ produces an event horizon that introduces chance into the determinations of the algorithm, thus makes gaming exciting, but on an â€˜allegorithmicâ€™ level reproduces docile populations for the warmongering machinations of current state-of-emergency governmental modes. – Glen Fuller
Glen Fuller threatens a post on his blog, presumably concerning the element of chance in virtual spaces, as a rather nify formal come-about. I threaten to discuss threat in the future.
McKenzie Warkâ€™s booksite, which will be the subject of a future discussion here with David Surman, performs some quite complex rhetorical turns and reversals to get us to a topology of games:
Gamespace turns descriptions into a database, and storyline into navigation â€“ an interface to line upon line of data. Sid Meier, known as a voracious reader, turns history and anthropology books into strategy game. Civilization III even comes with its own â€˜Cyclopediaâ€™, a one-eyed reference work for to a parallel world. But this is more than the remediation of old forms into new. Rather, the algorithm consumes the topographic and turns it into the topological. In the database, all description is numerical, equivalent in form. Everything within it can be related to or transformed into everything else. A new kind of symmetry operates. The navigation of the database replaces a narration via description. The database expands exponentially. Rather than a politics of allegory, an economics of allegorithm operates, selecting and reducing possibilities. – McKenzie Wark
Is this how Civilization III really operates? The real-time strategy genre is undoubtably a procedural one; Wark goes on to suggest that time is able to be split and presumably conquered with the same measure we give space. Yet the element unspoken in this formulation is the war in the fog. The phrase â€˜fog of warâ€™ is not primarily a spatial one, but refers to the effects that the vacuum of knowledge produces. The ever-expanding cyclopedia in the game provides a way to expand outward into the fog, but this is hardly the point of flux in the game. All Civilization games (and by dint of genealogy other strategy and RTS games with multiple opponents) have turned methodically on the premise of the fog, rather than the database, as the zone where most of the playerâ€™s calculations occur. The double-guess was refined into an art in the first game, where executing threats on a cold, unfeeling machine, betraying some nations over others and the infinite regress of wonder produced the crux of the narrativised structure; not the database which produces the possibility for oblivion.
The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently â€” like the effect of a fog or moonshine â€” gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance. – Carl von Clausewitz
The fog of war in RTS games acts not as empty desert to be opened up by topological processes, but rather a vapour of pure dread which is sifted through by that topological play. The fog contains a hidden war, a promise of violence that will never be satisfactorily delivered; fantasies about what lies beyond the line of view constitute a vital infrastructure of play. The other infrastructure, the cyclopedia built into the game, only acts as assurance against the first. Sid Meierâ€™s abiding interest in allowing players to experience the absurdity of conflict has been the key formal and tonal strategy throughout the development of the genre. For example, Blizzard gamesâ€™ fog of war acts differently in that you must often exorcise the threat to complete the mission. Yet throughout the myriad genres, the task of the player is not to overwhelm the fog with information, to become the war-machine – but to master first and foremost the collection of instincts which comprimise playing in the dark, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.
Returning to Glenâ€™s account; we can say from the Agamben view of history that there are no states of emergency – only permanent emergencies with endlessly complex strategies for movement. The threat beyond the border constitutes the eternal disquiet which excuses the borderâ€™s being. The means we use to overcome the threats and draw the borders, right down to the material, are but one subsystem of our network of instincts. The maelstrom that lies forever out of sight is where all the calculations take place, and where Wark concludes that â€™storyline becomes gamespaceâ€™, we need to pursue very carefully where the opposite might also be true, especially in games which appear to be about one method of thinking, but also turn on its composite exterior with equal force.
Reason is the outward-bound circumference of energy. – William Blake
very quickly, from that one line i agree with wark 100%.
the topologies of singularities = problematic of events.
“Far from being individual or personal, singularities preside over the genesis of individuals and persons; they are distributed in a “potential” which admits neither Self nor I, but which produces them by actualizing or realizing itself although the figures of this actualization
o not at all resemble the potential. Only a theory of singular points capable of transcending the synthesis of the person and the analysis of the individual as these are (or are made) in consciousness. We can not accept the alternative which thoroughly compromises psychology, cosmology, and theology: either singularities already comprised in individuals and persons, or the undifferentiated abyss. Only when the world, teaming with anonymous and nomadic, impersonal and pre-individual singularities, opens up, do we tread at last on the field of the transcendental. […]
In the first place, singularities-events correspond to heterogeneous series which are organized into a system which is neither stable nor unstable, but rather “metastable,” endowed with a potential energy wherein the differences between series are distributed. (Potential energy is the energy of the pure event, whereas forms of actualization correspond to the realized of the event.) In the second place, singularities possess a process of auto-unification always mobile and displaced to the extent that a paradoxical element traverses the series and makes them resonate, enveloping the corresponding singular points in a single aleatory point and all the emissions, all dice throws, in a single cast. In the third place, singularities or potentials haunt the surface. Everything happens at the surface in a crystal which develops only on the edges. Undoubtedly, an organism is not developed in the same manner. An organism does not cease to contract in an interior space and to expand in an exterior space — to assimilate and to externalize. But membranes are no less important, for they carry potentials and regenerate polarities. They place internal and external spaces into contact, without regard to distance. The internal and the external, depth and height, have biological value only through this topological surface of contact. Thus, even biologically, it is necessary to understand that “the deepest is the skin.”” LoS 103
wark says two other interestings things in that ‘america’ chapter. One that the movement he stakes out is not just about remediation. good. i fucking hate that concept.
last card (70):
“This is how the world appears to a gamer playing Civilization III: There are dependent and independent variables. Gamers, through trial and error, will work out which are which. They will choose cultural, economic and technical options that maximize long term advantages. If it doesnâ€™t work out, they will start another and do it over. Time is essentially of a piece. It is homogenous, empty, but it can be divided into equivalent units, just like space.”
ahuh. total bullshit. this is how the _(non)world of the game_ appears to a casual viewer. The _world of the gamer_ is something else entirely. It is the difference between looking at a hammer on the wall compared to using it to bash something. IN fact, it is the difference between a non-user’s view of the hammer and the POV of the NAIL about to be hammered. Completely different. So wark argues that the temporality of the game is spatialised… so what? That is like saying the hammer has extension (weight, length, etc). The important thing is that the temporality of the _(non)world of the game_ is spatialised in certain ways to manipulate the constant flow of duration happening in _the world of the gamer_. The nail is worried about how _hard_ the hammer is going to be, the force of the blow (affects).
In the previous card (69) he writes:
“Rather, the algorithm consumes the topographic and turns it into the topological. In the database, all description is numerical, equivalent in form. Everything within it can be related to or transformed into everything else. A new kind of symmetry operates. The navigation of the database replaces a narration via description. The database expands exponentially. Rather than a politics of allegory, an economics of allegorithm operates, selecting and reducing possibilities.”
No. Why possibilities? The politics of the virtual to the actual? POssibilities are not reduced when playing, the reduction of possibilities is accepted to focus or harness the acuteness of probability. The passage from the virtual to the actual is modulated through probabilities-contingencies of action. Part of the action extends beyond the immediate (spatialised) present, it is this line that is inflected.
oh, gaming conference.
sign me up… just as long as there are refreshments
funding? key notes? location? location? location?
what sort of organising?
Well, I just emailed you re conf, but for public record, this commentary of yours is a great place. Funding will be easy, but I’d like to suggest going off-campus and getting stuff from two-three places instead of getting major support from one who would then control publishing. It means making the conference ‘official’ for DEST will be impossible. Still, publication of a good games conference should be attractive to everybody with a press in the country.
Location: anywhere easy to get to with lots of pubs nearby. Anywhere we can have a games night with music or put up some art.
Dream Keynotes: Geert Lovink, Wark, Steven Shapiro, Rebecca Cannon, Aleks Krotowski, Tanya Kryswinska. Alex Galloway.
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