To target is to blaze across the agonizing gap between self and world, between cognition and its object. And yet the target does not stand alone and isolated. It appears not only against a background of other moments; it appears against a background of other meanings. Every target is embedded in a series of events that exceeds the moment of opportunity for targeting. To target is to discriminate and rank possibilities within an event. It is to battle one’s way in a deliberate and deliberative line from moment to moment, across the surface of the event, targeting the moment of maximum opportunity.
In everyday life, rattling around in gamespace, your relation to objects is all too often contingent, ambiguous, ineffective. You labor to connect with clumsy drunk motions, and even if you do its hard to know the point of it. In Rez, things are different. The relation between you and other passes through a character for whom action in space is risky, challenging, but far less ambiguous. Your character alternately merges into this gorgeous colorful world, drawing you with it; or your character offers to you a narrow but clear point of view. It offers up targets. You lock on, release, fire. Targeting cuts through all that is slippery, vague or dull about being in the world. Each moment of time in the game has a clarity and consistency that time in mere gamespace hardly ever achieves.
In everyday life, time exacts its toll in unknown increments of attrition. Objects tax the body in unobserved, unobservable ways; gradually, or suddenly, through some analog slide best not known too intimately — death. Time is violence. Topology offers up endless powers for transforming one object into another, for remaking anything and everything, from atoms to the atmosphere. And yet these powers work only against things in space, not against time. All one can do in gamespace is take potshots at time, which relentlessly chips away at life. In the game, there is at least the possibility of scoring points against time. In Rez, time starts out slow enough to enable the gamer to string together sequences of targets. Once you succeed at this, the tempo increases, and the gamer targets times of increasing intensity. If the gamer is defeated, if time wins out, it is only against a character. When the gamer walks away from the battle intact, it is with the temporary suggestion of a victory against the temporal itself.
In Rez, various colorful shapes appear as the enemy, but they are arbitrary, abstract. As if to highlight this, they sometimes move in quirky but predictable ways. They are not really the enemy. Or rather, they are only the proximate enemy. Time is the enemy. Targeting attempts to transform time from a medium of events, where one thing alternates with another, to a medium of self fulfillment, where by picking out a deliberative line across its surface, time can be made to register the integrity and significance of one’s character — and by proxy one’s self — and reward it with the next level. Within the game, targeting becomes an act that recruits time the eternal enemy to one’s side.
Things appear to die in Rez when you shoot them. The music swells and the colors blaze in all their glory. But there can really be nothing on the other side of a mere sign of death. These signs are digital, mere repeatable bits; death is not. Niall Lucy: “Death is always absolutely singular.” Signs can always be exchanged for other signs. Death is something else. Jacques Derrida: “Dying can never be taken, borrowed, transferred, delivered, promised or transmitted.” It can never be incorporated into topology, which is nothing but lines upon lines along which to borrow, transfer, deliver, promise, transmit, etc, etc. Death is the last line, the last threshold for topological space. Dying is analog, a slippage toward nothingness, a legal and moral grey zone. Hence the appeal of targeting. The appalling drag and friction of death can be turned into a sign and made the aim of a targeting. In Rez, the brightly colored signs of imminent threat loom up against the horizon of time. The game makes it appear as if one has no choice in the matter. Targeting appears as a violence without guilt. One targets out of necessity. But in targeting, one battles the signs of death, disposing of the problem of the impossibility of the signs of death ever having any meaning, this side of death itself.*