gamer theory index recreation club

Like Christian, I am in the index to McKenzie Wark’s new book (hence named the GTIRC). So I bought it.

I wrote several pages of comment in response to the section of Gamer Theory 1.1 on Civilization 3. Mainly about what I understood to be the function of the ‘Fog of War’ in the production of contingency and the warding off of boredom. It got reduced down to a direct quotable quote in panel number 70 and reference to the fog of war in the text. Some of my ideas shall be expanded in a forthcoming gaming essay, if it gets done, which it shall (cause I am a machine!!!!).

Actually writing of ‘writing in response’… I have just finished my third journal article review for this week. Kick arse!!

Next dissertation chapter is also cranking. Wow, how much easier is it to write the third iteration? A ‘problematic of knowledge’ within enthusiast cultures… Yeah!


[cue theme song]

13 replies on “gamer theory index recreation club”

  1. g,

    given the comments on games, how do you respond to the moral panic in US TV over gamers becoming psychotic/sociopathic killers ?


  2. hey steve!!

    I can’t believe I am going to write this, but I follow Zizek (from wark’s book)!

    “It is thus not the fantasy of a purely aseptic war run as a video game behind computer screens that protects us from the reality of the face to face killing of another person; on the contrary it is this fantasy of face to face encounter with an enemy killed bloodily that we construct in order to escape the Real of the depersonalized war turned into an anonymous technological operation.”

    If kids are doing violence or killing each other then games have actually _failed_. My argument is that games are an apparatus of capture both for Capital and for the Social.

    Forthcoming article addresses how I imagine this works.

  3. glen, I’ve read that Zizek quote a dozen times now, and I’m still having trouble translating it. This is what I’ve got now:

    “It is not the game, as materialisation of the fantasy of bloodless impersonal combat, that protects us from [i.e. prevents us from having to face up to] the reality of killing/war; rather it is the fantasy of bloody, face-to-face combat that we construct in order to escape [i.e. so as not to have to face the consequences of] the reality of bloodless, impersonal combat”.

    So there’s a “textual” point being made here — video games aren’t at all clinical, depersonalised representations of killing, but rather very bloody, very in-your-face — in addition to the “cultural” point (i.e. about the game’s function of simulating a form of combat that no longer exists, thereby constituting a form of combat that is more “real” than the Real). Is that about right?

    If so, then is it not the case that there’s a trace of a theory of catharsis underpinning the claim that video games have “actually _failed_”, if “kids are doing violence or killing each other”? Not that that’s necessarily a problem in itself, but I wonder whether it warrants some thought… And what about this idea of video games as “escape”: I can see how this is being appealed to as a kind of antidote to the standard “media-effects” claims about media violence, etc., but doesn’t that notion of escape also recall or rely upon a very mundane (and politically conservative) discourse about mass culture — via an appeal to the “escapist” nature of popular forms?

    Your thoughts?

  4. not an escape at all!!!

    it is a capture into another set of relations.

    there is another quote in his book (from baudrillard) about the ‘game’-like nature of opinion polls in relation to the ‘masses’ which I don’t think wark properly engages with. For the masses the opinion polls are a kind of game.

    the question is not of some dumb arse entrancement of the population through its massification, but how the *capacity* for *action* of the population is captured and redirected away from — if I can be so b/old fashioned –revolutionary ends.

    the sublimination of the libindinal apparatus is only part of it because — to paraphrase sedgwick’s readin of tomkins — the drives are ‘digital’ while the affects are ‘analogue’. The relation between affect and drive is a complex feedback circuit that is instantiated within the individuation of events, such as playing a game. The phantasm-events of games subsume *and* activate the affective potentiality of gamers according to dominant cultural scripts (which part of which Wark calls allegorithms). “My computer makes my angry.”

    how does this subsumption/activation occur? that is the question I answer in my gaming essay.

    At the minimum, gaming must be thought of as an event, and all these other neo-phenomenological ways of talking abouts games (spaces, characters, objects, etc) should be taken to with the chainsaw out of Doom and then driven over with a car from Carmageddon

    I don’t want to give away too much until I have something published on it.

  5. I think oddly, Glen, you have taken a really evolved position from what I think is not a great piece of thought by Zizek. The problem with the circularity of ‘we create fantasies by which to colour the act of lifeless death’ is twofold; first the engagements of players (lets say those who really ‘get into it’ rather than just casual types; engagement and all that!) indicates reality and realism to have taken a comprehensive split. Reality action games (primarily here I think of Counter-Strike, the Battlefield series and Day of Defeat) produce a world-of-physics that is real but situations that are highly abstracted).

    Realism action games (Halo, Half-Life, Far Cry) take on a level coda of ‘real’ by which the world and system are abstracted together – the look of the game will always indicate the extent to which it coheres to the real. This is NOT a matter of better more detailed games being more realistic in their depictions. A look and feel is all-important to the affective frequency of the game’s invitational velocity. “Who am I and what can I do?”

    Under these pressures, Zizek’s comment reads blankly – what can we say about all game representations of war generally? perhaps a great deal, but the Real would be the least coherently readable element, as it is precisely the Real which the genre contests and contorts over. Like, I dare say, a whole goddamn lot. Or what even about the entire question of the “Unreal” games, and the Unreal Engine – and i’m not just being cute here. Those games valorise capability but render violence to its liquid states; a killed body becomes a fountain of blood and gore immediately, or falls to the ground like a doll. Are we still talking about the inability to face bloodlessness? As escape from the cognitive dissonance? Loud noises are fun to the human ear. They excite the serotonin gland! This is I think Wark did a much better job, because at least in GT he maps these experiences out and suggests types can occur.

    Media-effect studies on games have sometimes been corrupt – such as asking kids the leading question of whether they felt violent after playing Quake – but some recent studies into cognitive reactions to light and sound which are immediately under the control of the senses indicate a pleasure response cycle far far longer than without interactivity but with a more significant drop off. Corollary; experience of a game changes as mastery sets in.

    What is ultimately interesting is not how we the people subsume our capacity for revolution through leisure, but how power ‘games’ (a verb like ‘queer’) technology to create the fog of war essential to all technological play.

    An example; the creepy video of the Christmas Island Detention Centre, complete with music.

  6. christian, we are in agreement.

    to me it is irrelevant whether or not someone feels violent after watching computer games. John Howard makes me feel violent. Therefore can we please ban him? Rather, what is at stake are the capacities used to relate to other capacities through action. John Howard wants me to feel violent towards him because then he can turn around and paint me as some out of touch elite hoon. Now, I am an elite hoon. Totally. No, seriously he gets to use my affective response, then correlative action (diatribes written on here or whatevs) in an accumulative/integrative way to inviduate another population that really matters: the \’mainstream\’ voting mass. They willfully agree with him and describe him as a \’leader\’. Where is the reality here?

    Moral discourse seeks to attribute blame, but responsibility for the production of the event of collective individuation is distributed across me, john howard, media tech and the \’mainstream\’. It relies on the metastability of the relation between left and right in politics.

    The moral discourse is a technology of visibility that highlights particular constellations of capacities/affects for relating through action to others. Sure video games may be good or bad, but those cunts in business suits make me want to go postal. If I went postal then it would be my fault, my problem, my responsibility, not the exploitative capitalist fucks who should be shot (and not because they are exploitative capitalist fucks but because they can carry on as such with seemingly little regard for having any more of an understanding of the world than is absolutely necessary to do \’well\’). enter youtube video as disrupting this technology of visibility. (video is fucked. the detention centre is typical stupidity from this government, but seriously that easy listening shit is horrific.)

    I read Zizek\’s point as a rearticulation of Baudrillard\’s general lament about the displacement of the Real and the emergent hyperreal Symbolic. Not enough has been done of the actual real of the non-event (not the Real of structuralist Symbolic). Both theorists are far too dialectical. Both operate within the logic of the moral discourse (what _should_ be represented, rendered visible from the multiplicity of affective relations, discerned from the indiscernible cloud that hovers…).

    The \’reality\’ of games has a function. What is this function?

    I have this awesome line in my essay that answers this. It is going to blow you away double shotgun styles. I am so going to finish this draft and send it to you. Fuckin pwndzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (or maybe it is totally obvious and I am a retarded, lol; anyway you so know this answer to this)

  7. oh and have you seen the book yet?

    and specifically my ‘title’ in the text?

    I have become my own little bit of the hyperreal, like the dipping sauce that comes with chicken nuggets.

  8. “I read Zizek\’s point as a rearticulation of Baudrillard\’s general lament about the displacement of the Real and the emergent hyperreal Symbolic.”

    Aha! So I did get the translation right (albeit, after about a dozen attempts).

    BTW, glen, my q about escape/ism was directed more at Zizek than at you, since he was the one who used the term. And as the above-cited comment recognises, it’s the latent or residual morality of that logic of escapism (as much as the illogic of that logic) that concerns me. I like your shift to “capture” as a counter to that kind of logic — though I hope (and I’m sure) that by that term you don’t mean to suggest some alternative form of determinate enslavement.


  9. “…If kids are doing violence or killing each other then games have actually _failed_. My argument is that games are an apparatus of capture both for Capital and for the Social….”

    Which is to say that if games have any effect they have failed, unless you are accepting that violence is a different category than say love or aesthetic pleasure. Zizek’s quote is irrelvant because it makes the assumption that violence is equivalent to war… and of course it isn’t is it ?

  10. I thought it was more of a case that the violence of war and other situations have equivalent violences.

    Violence is different as a social category. As a composite of event particles (or what Deleuze called a machine for producing sense) the notion of ‘violence’ is certainly different than love or aesthetic pleasure.

    I think you are following the moral panic line about cause and effect. Causality is necessarily distributed in nonlinear ways within events. Games do not ’cause’ violence as an effect. The sense produced of the world enabled by games may have a certain affective timbre. However, the sorts of ‘violence’ which are assumed to have been caused by ‘media’ are actually the product of a whole set of causes, including alienation and so on. Games are meant to intervene in such circuits of alienation by withdrawing the capacity for action away from the anger and negative emotions. This is why they are an apparatus of capture.

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