As the Prince rolls bigger and bigger balls, he gets to play in a bigger and bigger topos. The game starts inside an apartment, then moves on to the town and finally to the world. This stepping up through bigger and bigger scales repeats the stepping up through the scales of the topical, the topographic and the topological of which the game is an allegorithm. What gives the game its charm is the seemingly ridiculous idea that a ball of household items could be a star. Even more odd: the last and largest ball replaces the smallest heavenly body — a mere moon. But this is of a piece with the ways of topology. In topological times, it is not just that the digital now operates on a planetary scale. It is that it operates across scales, connecting the infinitesimal to the gigantic. The tiniest switch of electric current can launch a cruise missile.
King Digital destroyed the heavens, in a moment of boredom, in a fit of indifference. This is the danger of topology. Indifference is no longer something that lurks merely in the margins of space or time. Having been squeezed more and more to the margin of both space and time, rather than disappearing, indifference threatens to become total, pervasive, immanent. The Prince is what the Prince has achieved — a level, a number, and nothing but. Julian Stallabrass: “… emotional attachment to the game is established through labor, emerging out of the Sisyphean nature of the player’s task.”* For all his laid back style, King Digital makes a terrible demand, as appalling as that made of Sisyphus by the Gods. He commands the gamer to the game, but promises nothing but victory until defeat. The only reward is that the very time itself that the gamer commits to the task will make the task worthwhile. The digital object exists in a space which chunks it into bits, each of equivalent value. The digital subject exists in a time which chunks it into bits, each of equivalent value.
Digital object, digital subject — these are byproducts of a boredom that, seeking respite from nothingness, projects its lines across all space and time, turning it into commodity space and military space. This is the reckless act of creation with which Katamari Damacy begins — the King’s destruction of the mythic heaven of the old Gods, and the project of replacing it by commanding the transformation of a human, analog movement into an airless matrix of machine code. This is the new task of Sisyphus. Gamespace is always and everywhere the imposition of the digital as a way of laying an invisible hand on the world — or an all too visible fist. Where the invisible hand opens its digits to calculate what it may gain, the invisible fist closes them to calculate what it may claim.
The military industrial complex developed photography, radar, radio — all the lines of analog telesthesia — as the means of measuring and controlling its forces. This development reached a limit, and its forces exceeded its capacity to manage them. Digital telesthesia — starting perhaps with the SAGE computer system of the 1950s — emerged as the means of command, control and communication. Paul Edwards: “For SAGE set the key pattern for other high-technology weapon systems, a nested set of increasingly comprehensive military enclosures for global oversight and control.” The theory of the digital, and of its distinction from the analog, emerges as a byproduct of this attempt at self-control by the military industrial complex, but it transformed the complex into something else. The expansive movement of the military machine calls into being a code that can monitor and manage it. The analog begets the digital, but only produces the concept of the analog after the fact. Anthony Wilden: “Obviously, without the digital, we could not speak of the analog.” Without the recognition of the ball as a putative star, it cannot be named. The military entertainment complex emerges out of the control of the analog by the digital, of the military and industrial production lines by the digital lines of command, and by the extension of the digital to all aspects of everyday life.*
Without the analog, play leaves no trace. Without the digital, play yields no score. Neither analog nor digital is play itself. But what can one say about play? Play is what has to be posited for there to be anything for either the analog or the digital to track, and yet play is an elusive concept at best. Brian Sutton-Smith: “We all play occasionally, and we all know what play feels like. But when it comes to making theoretical statements about what play is, we fall into silliness.”* Perhaps the very concept of play appears only retrospectively. Obviously, without the analog and the digital, we could not speak of play, even as play exceeds the analog line along which it is traced and the digital line across which it is measured. Via the analog, play is captured in art; via the digital, play is captured in games. The analog flattens play out into a single line, so that its movement may continue, in reduced form, into another space. The play of the fingers on the controller is recorded via the graphic art on the screen. The analog enables a movement to communicate from topos to topos. The digital codifies play, translating it onto the very different space of number and logic — of code.