Game time may be either geological, biological or sociological, but it is no longer historical. History is history. Or rather, a certain conception and a certain practice is history. History can no longer be a storyline about free agency constructing its own conditions of existence. Fredric Jameson: “History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective praxis…”. In gamespace, history is where random variation meets necessary selection. The game is what grinds. It shapes its gamers, not in its own image, but according to its algorithms. The passage from topography to topology is the passage from storyline to gamespace, from analog control of the digital to digital control of the analog, from the diachronic sequence of events to the synchronic inter-communications of space. Perhaps history reappears, but at a more synthetic, even photosynthetic level. Perhaps there is never any history without the installation of a game. Events have to mesh in causal chains, bouncing off given limits, to be something more than the subject of mere chronicles.

History is history, but there may be a history to its passing, to its transformation into another form. Here again (with amendments) George Lukács: “[The military entertainment complex] destroyed both the spatio-temporal boundaries between different lands and territories and also the legal partitions between the estates. In its [topology] there is a formal equality for all [gamers]; the economic relations which directly determined the metabolic exchange between men and nature progressively disappear. Man becomes, in the true sense, a [gamer] being. [Gamespace] becomes the reality for man. Thus the recognition that [gamespace] is reality becomes possible only under [the military entertainment complex], in [topology]. But the [military entertainment complex] which carried out this revolution did so without consciousness of its own function; the [agonistic] forces it unleashed, the very forces that carried it to supremacy seemed to be opposed to it like a second nature, but a more soulless, impenetrable nature than [topography] ever was.” SimEarth prompts a surprising theoretical conclusion: history is back with a vengeance, and where least expected, the historicization of nature. History on earth becomes history of earth. History becomes total history.

The final question for a gamer theory might be to move beyond the phenomena of gaming as experienced by the gamer to conceive of gaming from the point of view of the game. K-Punk: “What do we look like from [game]space? What do we look like to [game]space? Surely we resemble a Beckettian assemblage of abstracted functions more than we do a holistic organism connected to a great chain of being. As games players, we are merely a set of directional impulses (up, down, left, right); as mobile phone users, we take instructions from recorded, far distant voices; as users of SMS or IM, we exchange a minimalized language often communicating little beyond the fact of communication itself (txts for nothing?).” Gamespace becomes an end in itself.

The gamer might still be tempted to try to leave The Cave™, to substitute for its artificial sun an order held in place by one that really burns in a visible sky. But here is the paradox: you only know the value of that sun, its energy, the consequences of turning it into this or that allocation or resources, because there is a game. Only by going further and further into gamespace might one come out the other side of it, to realize a topology beyond the limiting forms of the game. Deleuze and Guattari: “… one can never go far enough in the direction of [topology]: you haven’t seen anything yet — an irreversible process. And when we consider what there is of a profoundly artificial nature… we cry out, ‘More perversion! More artifice!’ — to a point where the earth becomes so artificial that the movement of [topology] creates of necessity and by itself a new earth.” The method for so doing may now be apparent: pressing against the limits of the game from within, to find the contrary terms behind the agon. Contrary terms which may open toward a paranoid complex (Debord) or a schizoid complexity (Deleuze).

Guy Debord: “No vital eras were ever engendered by a theory; they began with a game, or a conflict, or a journey.” And perhaps now by a conflict within the game, and a journey deeper into it.

(2) Comments for 221.
posted: 5/23/2006

“History can no longer be a storyline about free agency constructing its own…”

The term “storyline” in this context is inconsistent. A storyline in a game is an embedded narrative that is always parallel to agency. If you mean that history has purported to be about human agency constructing its own conditions, then “story” would suffice as a more general term. If you mean to disassociate history from the idea of a story that is told through agency, that is, you suggest that agency had nothing to do with the process of storytelling that constructed history, then it might be better to make this explicit. “Story” or “storytelling process” are appropriate direct objects, “storyline” is not. But thats just my opinion.

McKenzie Wark responds to Patrick Dugan
posted: 5/26/2006

you’re right, and well spotted. got a bit carried away with ‘storyline’.

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(2) Comments for 224.
posted: 9/28/2006


“Only by going further and further into gamespace might one come out the other side of it…”

This recalls Heinrich Von Kleist’s famous meditation on consciousness and performance, “On the Marionette [or Puppet] Theater:

“We see how, in the organic world, as reflection grows darker and weaker, grace emerges ever more radiant and supreme. — But just as two intersecting lines, converging on one side of a point, reappear on the other after their passage through infinity, and just as our image, as we approach a concave mirror, vanishes to infinity only to reappear before our very eyes, so will grace, having likewise traversed the infinite, return to us once more, and so appear most purely in that bodily form that has either no consciousness at all or an infinite one, which is to say, either in the puppet or a god.”

McKenzie Wark responds to ben vershbow
posted: 10/25/2006

yes, i flat out stole it from Kleist. My defense is that i didn’t know it at the time…

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(11) Comments for 225.
posted: 5/25/2006


Structurally I think Sim Earth is a chapter on its own and the conclusion really start on 221 not at 201. COMPLEX Deus Ex is more of a conclusion than Sim Earth…I think Sim Earth warrants MUCH more philosophising but then I would because as a biologist and someone who wants to try to save the world then I would like to see Sim Earth as a conclusion. But if you can’t win don’t play? (Is THAT A CONCLUSION or a NON-CONCLUSION? or a conclusion to Conclusions?

IMHO you develop a number of interesting points, providing a meta-model of computer games without specific reference to mathematical GAME THEORY or the sociology of it all. I would have liked to see more tech stuff – like perhaps how some of the games were CODED…or how the GAMESPACE is described mathematically but I guess that is difficult to get at…and of niche interest…

AND OF COURSE – Come on, you’ve GOT to refer to the MATRIX and mainstream perception of these themes – if this is going to hit a larger market

Could you introduce SOUND into the future of books

Arrrgh my head is spinning!
The mark of a good book can sometimes be what you dream of when its read

So lets see what comes tonight

McKenzie Wark responds to simon
posted: 5/26/2006

I promise there will be no mention of the Matrix in this book, ever. It’s become something of a critical cliche.

It is also not my job to write in advance the book that starts to happen in people’s heads when they read mine. A good book is a catalyst for others, it does not try to pre-empt them.

Not to say, however that i’m immune to suggestions. Its just that some are suggestions and some are something else. The book just doing its job.

Ethan responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 5/27/2006

While I tend to agree that The Matrix is overused and overrated as some shining beacon of techno-philosophy, I also think that rejecting it simply because it is a cliche is just as silly as embracing it with no reason beyond it’s popularity.

McKenzie Wark responds to Ethan
posted: 5/27/2006

It’s a book about games, not cinema.

posted: 8/2/2006

haha, first time through I missed this part about The Matrix. I suppose Zizek liked it because it resonated somehow with the public and illustrated a point for him, but it is really such a bad film.

posted: 10/20/2006

The Matrix is not just cinema, but also Enter the Matrix, Matrix Online, Path of Neo….. perhaps it’s not critical cliche to look at these.

posted: 11/21/2006

unpretentiously and humbly, I haven’t read anything more impressive, analytical, philosophical, unique, and ludical in a (kind of) young field of game theory like this reading. The format of the book – 5 x 5 (X9)… is also excellent. It reminds me on the game space somehow?? I am looking forward for the print version. Thanks for this!!!

McKenzie Wark responds to anonymous
posted: 11/21/2006

why thankyou anonymous. Actually, it will be 5 x 5 x 5 by the time the notes are included.

posted: 2/11/2007

A great, concise ending. Really adds that simple finishing touch.

posted: 2/12/2007

wasn’t exactly sure where this ought to go so here it is:

You reference the changing states of the game world, which while I understand why they weren’t discussed extensively in here, are still very interesting. Like the change the film industry is undergoing now, with film viewing in the home much more prevalent than theatrical viewing. This shift necessarily changes the way both films are created and the way they are received and understood. Games similarly underwent shifts, from the single player arcade game, the two player arcade game, the home console, personal computer games, MMORPGs, etc. Not being especially familiar with game design myself, I wonder if (even though they are essentially the same in that they are all 1s and 0s), like in film, there exists a dialogue with the medium on the part of both designers and players. Though not your specific topic here, the delivery systems through which these games are played, and the practices surrounding that playing, though not perhaps a “gamer theory”, seen like they might be interesting too.

McKenzie Wark responds to Victoria Cooper
posted: 2/20/2007

Victoria writes: “…the delivery systems through which these games are played, and the practices surrounding that playing, though not perhaps a “gamer theory”, seen like they might be interesting too”

You are right that i should have taken this into account more. In the first chapter i limit the discussion to the now quite ‘classical’ model of single player console game (plus a couple of PC games). I explain why i did not follow games into the multiplayer world, but i missed the other trend, to casual games played on all kinds of devices.

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