One may be Omar or Templar, merged or separated from gamespace, but this pair of terms masks another: beyond the antagonistic positions of being merged or separated, there is a pair of slightly different terms, which are other to the initial pair rather than antagonistic to them. You may be separate or merged; but you may also be not-separate or not-merged. This latter pair of possibilities opens up a lot more territory. The antagonist of separate is merged, but the other of separate is the not-separate, which could be many other states. The antagonist of merged is separate, but the other of merged is not-merged, which could be many other states. Within the game, the agonistic seems to define a digital difference: if not one thing, then another. One term antagonizes another term; each of which defines the other negatively. Each is what the other is not. But in the relation of game to not-game, the relation to the other term takes precedence. A game always depends on a prior difference, not quite digital, but of another order. This is otherness, wherein a term is posited against a pure negative, against what is not it. This other term does not in turn draw its identity from this relation. It remains unmarked. A game begins by ruling out what is not-game. It says nothing about what not-game is. There is nothing it can say about what not-game is. Nor can it say where not-game begins or ends.
To be not-separate from the game could be many things. From within the logic of the game, the only way to venture into this territory is by positing something that can go in the place of the not-separate. The game expands here under the guise of the Illuminati. Perhaps there is something beyond the digital, on-off relation of the gamer with the game. Perhaps it is bigger than that. Perhaps there are protocols determining who has access to which game; perhaps some games are more important than other games, and determine the possible outcomes of subordinate games. Even more disturbing: Perhaps you only appear to be the player of a game. Perhaps you are really a ‘non-player character’ in a game controlled by someone or something else. Perhaps if you took off your own mask, the mask of the gamer, you would find that you only imagine yourself to be the one playing — perhaps you are the one who has been played. Ice T: “You played yourself.”* In a gamespace governed by protocol, by codes of access and denial of access, to one thing fronted or not fronted by another, every appearance prompts the paranoid suspicion that it is not what it seems.
To be not-merged with the game might also be a more complex term than either the merged or separate terms. Holding down its place is ApostleCorp. Perhaps it is not about more or less separation. Perhaps it is a qualitative relation that can’t be captured by the simple terms of separation and merger, nor yet by the protocols and hierarchies of the not-separate. Here you may find the ghost of Huizinga, and a play that calls into being its own rules. This fourth term may be the most interesting of all, but one which is usually suppressed in favor of one of the other three. Nevertheless, the fourth term has to find its place in the puzzle in order to unlock the next level in this game.
The first storyline strand — from Templar to Illuminati — starts with the separation of gamer and game, and terror about merging human and machine. But beyond this existential tension, the storyline develops the thought of what can be outside of separation and merger. It fantasizes a power of control over the relation between separation and merger. The merger at the basest levels is presided over by a separation at the top. Or vice versa: separation at the bottom resists and reacts against merger at the top.
The second storyline — from Omar to ApostleCorp — takes the opposite path. It also begins with the existential question of the separation of gamer and game, or of the human and the nonhuman. Only it resolves the tension in favor not of separation but of merger. It takes merger for granted. This is the properly ‘cyberpunk’ axis. It starts with the assumption of a schizoid splitting and mixing of layers and levels of flesh and metal. The storyline axis then travels toward the fourth term, which is that of the non-merger. Are there ways for the soft machine of the body and the digital machine of the game to co-exist? On what terms? Could there be a communication between them? A communication in which one need not be the antagonist of the other? Deleuze & Guattari: “The schizophrenic is the universal producer. There is no need to distinguish here between producing and its product. We need merely note that the pure ‘thisness’ of the object produced is carried over into a new act of producing.”* It might not be an antagonism of opposites, still less a communication of equivalents, so much as an excitation of incommensurables, of flesh by machine and machine by flesh.