What if boredom has less to do with the essence of time and more to do with particular qualities of space? Benjamin (the Sim): “Boredom is the basis of the allegorithmic insight into the world. Boredom lays waste to the appeal of the game as game, and calls attention to the ambiguous relation of game to gamespace.” Boredom isn’t a longing, a lengthening of time. It is a spacey feeling, of being spaced out. What is boring is a space in which either one cannot act, or one’s actions amount to nothing — waiting at an airport mall, or choosing one more or less identical game over another. When you are bored, even home feels like a waiting room. Gang of Four: “At home she feels like a tourist.”* What displaces boredom is the capacity to act in a way that transforms a situation. It doesn’t matter that the Chaos mode in State of Emergency is pointless. It displaces a bit of the gamer’s boredom in a making-over of gamer and game, changing the space the gamer can access, extending the place of the riot from the Capitol Mall to Chinatown to Downtown to the Corporate Center, changing the powers of the gamer to change the space itself. At least within the confines of the game, at least for a while. When it stops working — boot up another game.
As the gamer becomes attuned to the game, gamer and game become one event, one battle, one action; an oscillating between the line dividing self from other, and the line connecting them as one substance. If the line dividing provides a moment of autonomous self; the line connecting provides a moment of selfless purpose. In games, action has its limits. It is an endless bit-flip between targeter, targeting and target. And yet at least it effects a transformation of gamer and game. Games are a repository for a certain atopian labor, which has the power to confront the necessity of its own choosing. Games do not offer a contemplative response to boredom. If anything, topology makes labor all too contemplative. Rather, games are a space for action, they restore a lost quality of the topical, where Homer’s heroes strutted their stuff, in the paradoxical form of a pure topology. All the scope for action that gamespace both promises and denies is restored in the game. Hence the double effect of State of Emergency. It’s backstory is an allegory of negation and destruction — in the pre-release version, the bad guys were even called the American Trade Organization. And yet as an allegorithm, it is purposeful, constructive. The images don’t matter; the story is just an alibi. Underneath it is a game like any other game, built out of arbitrary rules, but which one makes one’s own.
For Heidegger a move away from a meditation on time itself to thinking about how one acts in a particular space is a retrograde step, back to at best a “higher form of journalism” or at worst a “fashionable philosophy”, which sets out what is contemporary, but does not move beyond the surfaces of the present. It diverts you from the game of reflection on your own being and instead assigns you a role in the world. In this case, the role of the gamer. Heidegger: “Have we become too insignificant to ourselves that we require a role? Why do we find no meaning for ourselves any more…? Is it because an indifference yawns at us out of all things, an indifference whose grounds we do not know? Yet who can speak in such a way when world trade, technology and the economy seize hold of man and keep him moving?”* Perhaps this is precisely where the gamer finds a way to speak, to ‘do theory’ (however fashionable or journalistic). Is it not this space — this topology of trade and tech — that is intimately connected to the persistence and pervasiveness of boredom?
Boredom no longer affects just the restless young or the idle rich. Gamespace offers nothing to anybody but the Sisyphean labor of rolling the rock to the top, until this arbitrary necessity abates. Then what? One’s actions at the crest of the hill become useless, indifferent — boring. State of Emergency restores a role to action by making out of the intricate topology of lines — of trade, technology — a matrix, if not of meaning, then at least of measuring. The game installs in the world an artificial necessity; games are allegorithms of the necessity of necessity, in a world in which what is necessary is arbitrary and without form, where the line annihilates every topic. In topological times it was the hero and his band who acted; in topographic times the hero becomes abstract — a nation, a class, a reinvented faith — but it still acted. Once upon a time, one could tell this story… Karl Marx: “The people make history, but not as they please; not under the circumstances of their own choosing.”* Now the people choose their circumstances, just as they choose the finish for their kitchen cabinets, but there is no history to be made of them.
What characterizes the gamer is a relinquishing of a role that might have qualities beyond the game — as savior or soldier, priest or prophet, rector or revolutionary. The gamer certainly does not expect too much of the role of theorist, beyond entrÃ©e into another game. It cannot overcome boredom. One might as well choose instead a boring game — like State of Emergency. What characterizes gamer theory is a playing with the role of the gamer within the game, not by stepping beyond it, into a time or a role beyond the game, but rather by stepping into games that are relatively free of the power of gamespace. The game is just like gamespace, only its transformations of gamer and game have no power beyond the battle in which they meet. In the game you are free because you choose your necessities. In a game, you can hide out from a gamespace that reneges on its promises. In a game you can choose which circumstances are to be the necessity against which you will grind down the shape of a self. Even if, in so choosing, you click to opt out of making history.