Suppose there is a business in your neighborhood called The Cave™. It offers, for an hourly fee, access to game consoles in a darkened room. Suppose it is part of a chain. The consoles form a local area network, and also link to other such networks elsewhere in the chain. Suppose you are a gamer in The Cave™. You test your skills against other gamers. You have played in The Cave™ since childhood. Your eyes see only the monitor before you. Your ears hear only through the headphones that encase them. Your hands clutch only the controller with which you blast away at the digital figures who shoot back at you on the screen. Here gamers see the images and hear the sounds and say to each other: “Why, these images are just shadows! These sounds are just echoes! The real world is out there somewhere.” The existence of another, more real world of which The Cave™ provides mere copies is assumed, but nobody thinks much of it. Yours is the wisdom of Playstation: Live in your world, play in ours.

Perhaps you are not just any gamer. You are the one who decides to investigate the assumption of a real world beyond the game. You turn away from the screen and unplug the headphones. You get up and stagger out of the darkened room, toward the light outside. You are so dazzled by the light that the people and things out there in the bright world seem less real than the images and sounds of The Cave™. You turn away from this blinding new world, which seems, strangely, unreal. You return to the screen and the headphones and the darkness of being a gamer in The Cave™.

Suppose someone, a parent maybe, a teacher or some other guardian, drags you back out into the light and makes you stay there. It would still be blinding. You could not look directly at things. Maybe the guardian prints out some pics of your family or maybe a map of the neighborhood, to acclimatize you, before you can look at things. Gradually you see the people around you, and what it is that they do. Then perhaps you remember the immense, immersive games of The Cave™, and what passes for wisdom amongst those still stuck there. And so you return to The Cave™, to talk or text to the other gamers about this world outside.

You communicate to fellow gamers in The Cave™ about the outside world of which The Cave™ is just a shadow. Or try to. Plato: “And if the cave-dwellers had established, down there in the cave, certain prizes and distinctions for those who were most keen-sighted in seeing the passing shadows, and who were best able to remember what came before, and after, and simultaneously with what, thus best able to predict future appearances in the shadow-world, will our released prisoner hanker after these prizes or envy this power or honor?”1 You bet! The Cave™ is a world of pure agon, of competitive striving after distinction. But suppose you are that rare, stray, thoughtful gamer who decides to try this new game of getting beyond the game again? Suppose you emerge from The Cave™ and decide to take stock of the world beyond? You find that this other world is in some curious ways rather like The Cave™. The pics of family, the map of the ‘hood, seem made of the same digital stuff as your favorites games inside The Cave™. If there is a difference, it may not be quite what it seems.

Here is what you observe about the world outside The Cave™: The whole of life appears as a vast accumulation of commodities and spectacles, of things wrapped in images and images sold as things. But how are these images and things organized, and what role do they call for anyone and everyone to adopt towards them? Images appeal as prizes, and call us to play the game in which they are all that is at stake. You observe that world after world, cave after cave, what prevails is the same agon, the same digital logic of one versus the other, ending in victory or defeat. Agony rules. Everything has value only when ranked against another; everyone has value only when ranked against another. Every situation is win-lose, unless it is win-win — a situation where players are free to collaborate only because they seek prizes in different games. The real world appears as a video arcadia divided into many and varied games. Work is a rat race. Politics is a horse race. The economy is a casino. Even the utopian justice to come in the afterlife is foreclosed: He who dies with the most toys wins. Games are no longer a past time, outside or alongside of life. They are now the very form of life, and death, and time, itself. These games are no joke. When the screen flashes the legend game over, you are either dead, or defeated, or at best out of quarters.

(18) Comments for 001.
posted: 5/20/2006

You would not believe how many times i rewrote this opening section, but i know from previous experience that there’s probably some really dumb-ass mistakes here still. So feel free to leave comments over here, about form or content!

steve responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 8/13/2006

Richard Powers wrote an entire book about just such a “cavern”…did you read it?

McKenzie Wark responds to steve
posted: 8/13/2006

which Powers book is that?

ben vershbow responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 8/14/2006

Is that Plowing the Dark?

posted: 5/22/2006

When I sent this to Paul Jones (at, he wondered aloud whether your Cave™ was at all a reference to the C.A.V.E.?

McKenzie Wark responds to admin
posted: 5/22/2006

I was thinking about The Cave at Ars Electronica, which is a C.A.V.E., so, yes.

wu ming 1 responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 5/22/2006

This is brilliant.
BTW, in the case you never read Woody Allen’s version of Plato’s myth of the cave (from his old book /Side Effects/):

ALLEN. A group of men live in a dark cave. They are unaware that outside

the sun shines. The only light they know is the flickering flame of a few small candles which they use to move around.
AGATHON. Where’d they get the candles?
ALLEN. Well, let’s just say they have them.
AGATHON. They live in a cave and have candles? It doesn’t ring true.
ALLEN. Can’t you just buy it for now?
AGATHON. OK, OK, but get to the point.
ALLEN. And then one day one of the cave dwellers wanders out of the cave and sees the outside world.
SIMMIAS. In all its clarity.
ALLEN. Precisely. In all its clarity.
AGATHON. When he tries to tell the others, they don’t believe him.
ALLEN. Well, no. He doesn’t tell the others.
AGATHON. He doesn’t?
ALLEN. No, he opens a meat market, he marries a dancer and dies of a cerebral hemorrhage at forty-two.
(They grab me and force the hemlock down. Here I usually wake up in a sweat and only some eggs and smoked salmon calm me down).

posted: 5/22/2006

hey, IMHO, I’ve really enjoyed this opening act and i think the C.A.V.E. and Plato’s cave maybe a nice insight for the games and gamers theory. BTW, I like this “cards” design. congratulations!

posted: 5/23/2006

ahh.. but i remember the “cave” when arcades first came out. in my case it was called “dark star”. sucked up a lot of token/quarters. it was totaly isolated inside but for the sounds of video games,and black lights with dim tungsten lighting.

as i remember it took me entirely out of the external world. it was always a shock to exit dark star and “reenter” the real world.

posted: 5/29/2006

The cave, both as abstract figure and geographical phenomenon, has other deep historical resonances in gamespace, via the origins of Adventure, the Ur-text of online roleplaying games. I did some thinking about this at Not quite sure yet how to steer that text into conversation with this one, but it seems inevitable somehow.

McKenzie Wark responds to Julian Dibbell
posted: 5/30/2006

Julian: re Adventure: yes, i was thinking more of Adventure than the modern PC Bang! kinds of places (as they call them in Korea). But Adventure seemed a bit retro to start talking about right off the bat.

posted: 7/26/2006

Sorry, sir. Your allegory of “The Cave” is over my head. Trying to re-do, or re-tell Plato’s allegory, of what is ‘real’, what makes up the world(s) we choose to live in a la computer games or simulations leaves much to be questioned.
Plato’s philosophy was built on the shoulders and backs of many thinkers before him who struggled with trying to understand and decipher their worlds.
Computer games and simulations, to me, are pure escape from the world we inhabit. If our world is all ‘Mind’ then maybe your premise (like Plato’s Cave) is all a figment of it.
What really is ‘real’?

posted: 7/27/2006

Of course game theory is deeply embedded in all utopias: in the Republic Socrates admits that he is playing in words a game normally called “polis” or “city,” a board game of strategy between cities once played by Ajax and Achilles, and by Penelope’s suitors while waiting for Odysseus’ return. More and Erasmus were playing elaborate word games with each other between “In Praise of Folly” and “Utopia.” And Debord’s own Kriegspiel seems to have emerged as a formalization of the dérive. Lamorisse, the director of “Ballon Rouge,” was also the inventor of a game called “Conquête du monde,” later sold to the US as “Risk.” This doesn’t undermine your argument at all, but perhaps makes a more subtle and ambiguous link/shift between utopia and atopia..?

McKenzie Wark responds to anthony Vidler
posted: 7/28/2006

I want to take up Debord’s game at another time, possibly in connection with Plato and games, but it’s a long story and this is meant to be a short book. Very interesting connections, tho’

posted: 11/5/2006

Are you familiar with the game in the BBC TV show “Red Dwarf”? Total immersion in virtual reality….

See Wikipedia:

posted: 2/17/2007

Love the interface, great idea. Is it available as a blank template?

A few movies that play with the gamer and immersion idea are (I wonder if you seen any of them?):
1. Nirvana –

2. Avalon –

3. Existenz –

McKenzie Wark responds to Doc Tempest
posted: 3/2/2007

Thanks Doc. The site is cc licenced, so people can use the interface. It is rather specifically tailored to this book, however. I have seen those films. I decided to exclude films, however. That would be another book.

antonio responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 4/5/2007

dose that mean that you would possibly
be making another book based on what you just said.

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(12) Comments for 002.
posted: 5/22/2006

I’m not sure about this assumption that gamers generally don’t look at/participate in the ‘real world’. It seems to perpetuate the stereotype of the adolescent boy gamer, isolated from the real world, living out a fantasy etc, when actually most gamers are older and dont fit this kind of stereotype at all. I know you are drawing on Plato and trying to pull out a particular point, but I can’t help but feel tired of having the stereotype hauled out and given another airing – whatever the point you’re trying to make.

McKenzie Wark responds to Sal
posted: 5/22/2006

If you read a bit more you’ll see how i flip this assumption around…

ray responds to McKenzie Wark
posted: 5/23/2006

This brings up an interesting point on the structure. When the text is presented in these small chucks, I find myself flipping through the cards, reading bits and pieces. So, when I stop to comment, will I be missing important information in the next card?

Tim responds to ray
posted: 5/24/2006

Agreed. Perhaps there should be a visible notice pointing out that although each section can be commented on individually, the context is often lost and wrong conclusions reached unless you read them all together, just so readers are aware.

McKenzie Wark responds to Tim
posted: 5/24/2006

I take your point Tim, but i am rather interested in where readers stop and with what objection. It’s useful stuff to know.

posted: 5/25/2006

It’s difficult to believe in a person who lives ‘entirely’ in the cave (although I think I see where your comming from with the cave metaphor, ‘do deformed rabit, it’s my favorite).

My personal perspectice on playing PC games is that bright is good. Bright games (like Halo) seem more real than dark, dismal games (like Q2).

posted: 5/25/2006

“It’s difficult to believe in a person who lives ‘entirely’ in the cave ”

I live in Taipei. I don’t speak chinese, I don’t speak Taiwanese (I am learning though). Everyday after work I play counter strike for one hour (most days 2) and then maybe play around in second life for an hour or two. First, in Asia I’ve seen entire families and individuals that live in computer bars you commonly find people sleeping in them while their game is still running. In Korea, where many families have small apartments attached to their businesses, some families literally do live in PC bars and sit around farming for each other in WoW. But this is beside the point because these people’s circumstances are different than the assumed life the character on these pages has beyond the cave, your point seems to be the character in the novel’s conscious decission (at least here on page 2) seems unrealistic, he seems like a Kathyron Biglow creation, someone to promo to be really real. And I do agree that his absence of curiosity at the real world reeks of a Baudrillard distyopian personality more interested in submitting to the gentle worlds of condemenation than displaying the natural curiosity that humans seem to carry around with him. Anyway, I’ve wondered off to far.

Page 2 is interesting becuase the character for a second thinks the real world is less exciting than the game world in the cave. But is this point really that far from reality? People spend hours mining gold in MMORPG or fragging in FPSes, these games sucessfully simulate an environment that appeals to us more than the reality sorrounding us. They provide instant feedback for your work. After all when you’re at your “real work” you’re not usually aware of how many points, successes, of money you’re cracking up per hour/ per minute/ per player etc. As both John Carmack and the pyschologist K. Anders Ericsson have pointed out, it’s often experiences that provide immediate feedback that draw us in enough to master them. From Carmack: ” I started programming on an Apple II a long time ago, when you could just do an “hgr” and start drawing to the screen, which was rewarding. For years, I’ve had misgivings about people learning programming on Win32 (unix / X would be even worse), where it takes a lot of arcane crap just to get to the point of drawing something on the screen and responding to input. I assume most beginners wind up with a lot of block copied code that they don’t really understand.” In other words, what surprises me about the boy who returns to the Cave is his reason. He returns because “the light” makes everything look “unreal” it seems more like the pointless futility of a strip mall would be reason enough to return to something that actually provides you with a reward for a decent day’s work (and provides that reward in small lump sums of encouragement every 5 – 10 seconds no less).

Further rambling: maybe what we need is pay per minute with a little tie in to producivity to make work in real life a little more exciting.

Nick Krebs responds to andrew jones
posted: 5/25/2006

One thing to consider about the transition between the Cave and reality is that the literal space is a bit different than the way Plato considers it. Functionally one is in “real space” while playing a game in the Cave. One doesn’t walk out of the game space into the light, one stays put and turns their head or stands up from the computer. Implicit in your argument about the gamer being blinded by the banal reality of the strip mall existance is that reality has been homogonized and is uninteresting compared to the game. I think instead that the transition might be difficult because the space of the game is potentially banal and uncreative, such as dank basements and arcades (there are some spaces that are visually/artistically interesting, but I’d say they are in the minority). For example I doubt that a gamer making a transition from Grand Theft Auto III to MOMA would necessarily make a hasty retreat back to the game world.

Also I don’t know what job you work for, but the day that my productivity is measured by the minute is the day I end my life. Agonism is fun and all, but exploration is also key and doesn’t lend itself to a by the minute system.

posted: 5/26/2006

“Implicit in your argument about the gamer being blinded by the banal reality of the strip mall existance is that reality has been homogonized and is uninteresting compared to the game.”

actually my point is that a wonder around a strip mall doesn’t provide as clear cut rewards as playing a game. I also wasn’t refering to sight, but desire. I didn’t claim the strip mall blinded the player, the text in window 002 did. When you get down to it, what draws people to games is more than visuals or the fantasy environment with in, but the way games both play with emotions and create desire and the need to accomplish set goals.

“I think instead that the transition might be difficult because the space of the game is potentially banal and uncreative, such as dank basements and arcades (there are some spaces that are visually/artistically interesting, but I’d say they are in the minority).”

Again, this might be true in the U.S. where LAN centers and many old school aracdes were teenage slush pits, but this isn’t true where I’m standing. If anything game rooms in Asia are often more well designed, clean, and feature designer furniture and free drinks and food to order than businesses around (this is doubly true in korea where most buildings are lock stock and barrel samsung apartment complexes made from white cement and a logo). But I do think again you’re missing my point. I’m not concerned with the visual aspects of the space or the game, my point is I don’t think it’s the visuals it’s the system of video games that provides a more compulsive reality than the real world.

“For example I doubt that a gamer making a transition from Grand Theft Auto III to MOMA would necessarily make a hasty retreat back to the game world.”

It really depends. I find I fly through art galleries, while I’ve seen people spend hours perfecting things in WoW or Counter Strike. Also, again you’re referring to the visuals, granted that an art interested person would probably find MOMA more interesting than say a video game, they find it more interesting becuase the gratification involved with the museum is similar to the gratification one receives in a game. They’re learning, and seeing, and interacting with their previous history of art or perhaps even with the art work itself these days. The style of the buildings etc are really just candy. It’s nice to live a well designed neighborhood, but ultimately it’s the depth of experience in an area that convinces people to stay there.

McKenzie Wark responds to andrew jones
posted: 5/26/2006

interesting discussion folks, but whhy not move it to the forum?

posted: 5/29/2006

McKenzie, didn’t know there was a forum =)
Will start trolling it soon.


p.s. book is nice and I like the site design. it’s easy to get around and use plus I like the idea of making coherent chapters with the pace of a blog post. Are you going to release the CMS for this any time soon? in ruby maybe =) ?

gamer theory responds to andrew jones
posted: 5/30/2006

The site was built with WordPress, with a customized (highly customized) theme on top. So no new Ruby goodness here, just solid WordPress love. :)

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(4) Comments for 003.
posted: 5/25/2006

Preface: All comments that follow from this one are from reading the book page by page in linear fashion, and will not assume arguments that follow that I have not read.

I’m interested to see if this particular distinction between the immense game world and real world will hold. Specifically what about the digital image/environment is alluring and immediately evident and comfortable to the gamer? I’m uncertain what about the real enviornment is blinding beyond a literal readjustment of the eyes to the sun. And even if the claim is true, that one is blinded by a different kind of knowledge or social organization, doesn’t that enhance the immenseness of the real world? A world that one has a partial handle on and can sense that there is much beyond.

The reference to the map is also interesting. Assuming we are talking about a gamer who lived in the real world, entered the cave, and has now exited it, the blinding nature of the real could partially be due to having to remap the geography around him/her. Unlike many games, the neighborhood cartography isn’t static and is prone to daily change. The sentence “maybe the guardian…prints out a map of the neighborhood…before you can look at things” is particularly telling of the worldview of a gamer vs one oriented to navigating city streets. In Grand Theft Auto one usually doesn’t find the hospital, gun shop, etc by wandering the streets looking for visual signature of that type of building, but instead first refer to the map and find the appropriate symbol and then follow a guided dot to the location. In fact a gamer trying to find many locations in Grand Theft Auto aided by sight alone would encounter much difficulty due to the homogenity of buildings in the game design.

Of course there is also convergence of these two worlds, where the real world assumes a homogonous nature from moderinzation, suburbanization and mapquest is used to distinguish rather than architecture.

lo-rez responds to Nick Krebs
posted: 5/30/2006

Perhaps you are missing the point. Games are a simplification of life. They have clear set rules, and clear set answers. They give an uncertain person a way to answer certainly and correctly. It provides certainty vs uncertainty. Just try and think of what would happen if an rpg had you actually type out your response, instead of picking a canned response. Or a FPS that didn’t tell you how much health or ammo you had. Or an RTS where your units didn’t always obey your command. Just think of removing a real time map in any of these types of games. The game itself becomes incredibly complex. If Grand Theft Auto didn’t have a map, would it be fun? What if the streets on GTA just had names and addresses, and you had to find those addresses? Would the casual gamer actually complete most of the quests, or would they simply do enough to unlock all the islands and ignore the rest?

McKenzie Wark responds to lo-rez
posted: 5/30/2006

Got it all covered. You might want to read on a bit more and then decide if i’m missing the point or not.

posted: 4/8/2007

First time here and i would like to point out that on the third line you used pics instead of pictures. since this is the third time writing this i’ll skip to the point if you are planning to publish the book you may want to appeal to as much crowed as you can without dumbing yourself down

good luck

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(4) Comments for 004.
posted: 5/25/2006

The tone of your writing is so casual and conversational compared to the Plato, that I lost interest befre finishing the quote. How about replacing with an ellipsis the chunk from “and who were best able” to “shadow-world”?

McKenzie Wark responds to Michael Hardt
posted: 5/25/2006

good idea. i need to research the translations, so this chunk o’plato is a placeholder anyway.

posted: 5/26/2006

Meaning of “agon”:

posted: 1/17/2007

This reminds me of that Latin phrase, “In regione caecorum rex est luscus” (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.)

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(30) Comments for 005.
posted: 5/22/2006

I’m sure I’ll have something more substantive to say, but in the meantime there is an error here: “observes” in “here is what you observes” should be “observe.”

Or change you to one, and all is dandy.

gamer theory responds to Nick Krebs
posted: 5/22/2006

Thanks Nick – it’s been fixed. The beauty of a digital text: quick updates.

posted: 5/22/2006

Thanks guys! I am one of those writers who fiddles with sentences a lot, and sometimes not all of it gets fixed as per my own copy edits.

posted: 5/24/2006

My problem with this section is simply that it reinforces the stereotype of gamers as living in a separate existence, of even being loners apart from the reality of life. My friends and I actively participate in games of various sorts – from MMORPGs like City of Heroes/City of Villains to table top historical miniatures of the Napoleonic and American Civil War periods. We actively communicate with each other on a wide variety of subjects via our own website, our own message board etc. We all have jobs, the median age is probably 30-35, and we are very much a part of the real world, games are merely an engaging hobby that present a challenge as well as entertainment. I don’t think that its fair to present gamers as inherently disassociated from the real world, from real life, and as somehow not being participatory in that world. I realize you are making a poing with regards to Plato, but it needs more expansion on this subject I think.

McKenzie Wark responds to Warren Grant
posted: 5/24/2006

I’m with you Warren. You’re only a bout 900 words in to the book. The ‘stereotype’ as you put it is about to get flipped around….

Norman Constantine responds to Warren Grant
posted: 12/10/2006

I was confused at the outset. By slide 5 I realized that the view of life in the cave and the reality of life in the bright light are not so very different. Reality exists as we see it and only takes on substance when we share it with others. Once a moment in time has passed we only have the cave view of it and the farther that we get from it, the duller the view becomes.

posted: 5/24/2006

I think the sentence should say “You observe that *in* world after world, cave after cave, what prevails is the same *agony*, the same digital logic . . .” etc.

posted: 5/25/2006

“Games are no longer a past time, outside or alongside of life.”

Do you mean to use the word “pastime” or is there a double meaning at work here, as in Stevie Wonder’s “Past Time Paradise”?

This is exciting work!

McKenzie Wark responds to Mack Hagood
posted: 5/25/2006

From past time to game space, was sort of the idea.

posted: 5/25/2006

There are (I read once, can’t remember where) some “savage” cultures that isolate individuals from the “real” world at birth. The individuals are cared for, fed, “educated” (i.e. told about the world) and then…one day after they have reached “adulthood” brought out into the real world as a spiritual leader, mystic, magician etc to pronounce on matters of importance. Question: Who IS living in the real world? Where is it?

posted: 5/25/2006

I meant to say – their isolation is achieved by living in a cave…

posted: 5/25/2006

Here is the only paragraph in this whole section worth my time as a reader:
The real world appears as a video arcadia divided into many and varied games. Work is a rat race. Politics is a horse race. The economy is a casino. Even the utopian justice to come in the afterlife is foreclosed: He who dies with the most toys wins. Games are no longer a past time, outside or alongside of life. They are now the very form of life, and death, and time, itself. These games are no joke. When the screen flashes the legend game over, you are either dead, or defeated, or at best out of quarters.*/

If this were my opening chapter, I would throw out everything else, and build the new chapter around the thoughts expressed in the quoted paragraph. P.S. The inability to format my comments is a little annoying.

Brantley Harris responds to Zac
posted: 5/26/2006

Yes Zac, that’s because it’s the thesis.

posted: 6/5/2006

“past time” should be “pastime” — there’s a big difference!

posted: 7/12/2006

“what prevails is the same agonY.”

posted: 7/25/2006

There is some danger in being so easily readable and understandable and in the use of the second person. What is you say may not be taken seriously by your academic audience. I don’t do games, but my kids do so I’ve seen lots. I think you have described their “world” perfectly. (I’ve also taught English and reading for 33 years and am now a high school librarian. I like this format, and think it’s a great idea. I hope it never takes over real, solid, published books, but it sure is fun. It could be a great teaching tool for getting kids to do re-writes! I’ll keep returning to your site to see your progress. Congratulations!

posted: 7/25/2006

one question about narrative structure: when the gamer emerges from the cave, the ‘real’ world appears confusing and unrecognizable so s/he returns to the game. once s/he returns to the ‘real’ world and is forced to look around, it appears like a game.

my question is essentially a ‘which came first?’ first, did the game precede the real world, structuring the gamer’s perception of it? second, if the ‘real’ world is as spectral as The Cave, wouldn’t the two be equivalent, see Adorno, Debord, Baudrillard; and if so, wouldn’t the gamer more easily transition into the ‘real’?

also, there is one tension i feel about using the Plato. i think it is really astute comparison, especially with caves being so prominant in the history of gaming. however, for Plato the outside world is the world of the Forms, itself unaccessable by everyday experience. so if we retain the Platonic, as the gamer emerges from The Cave into the ‘real’ world we are still at one remove from the Forms. in other words, we may be out of the electronic Cave, but we are still within the Platonic cave. from this perspective, it would seem that gaming has prepared the gamer to recognize the spectral existence of the ‘real’, or, has made him the philosopher.

The difference is that there is not, at this point, any indication that there will be another Real behind the society of spectacle.

anyway, some thoughts. great project and fantastic format!

posted: 7/25/2006

Okay. You are making a comparison with Plato’s allegory of the cave. Ontologically, you are saying there is a game world and there is a “real world.” Then you shift and say that “These games are no joke. When the screen flashes the legend game over, you are either dead, or defeated, or at best out of quarters.”

Are you making the same argument as Neal Gabler (2000) in his book: Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. Are you saying that fantasy has overtaken reality, and that the ontological distinction between the fantasy world of video games and the real world (outside the cave) has been blurred?

J. Lyons, A.B.D.
College of Communication
Hawaii Pacific University

McKenzie Wark responds to Jeff Lyons
posted: 7/26/2006

I’m on vacation, so my apologies for not responding sooner. So: I chose to use past time rather than pastime. Since this complerely freaks people out it will be changed.

Agon is a word. Look it up. It’s the root of the word agony.

Gabler assumes he can tell the difference between reality and fantasy, which means he is even more deluded than most people. My thesis is a bit different.

Which came first? That’s a bit tricky. The America chapter goes into that. Non-gamespace probably has historical priority, but in terms of how we grasp the world, i argue that the game comes first, and indeed nothing outside of it can really make much sense unless it can be parsed into the language of the game. But for more on that, read on…

thanks for the comments folks!

posted: 7/26/2006

Count me as someone who values the wordplay; a la Oulipo I think its where disjunctive thinking occurs, certainly more readily in a text where linguistic turns are vital. Besides, its perfectly game-like with a few puns.

I also read in your tete-a-tete with Mark Dery that translation is a concern; gap puns translate well across the germanics, don’t they?

The differences between an arcadia and utopia are interesting and reflects for me what you’re doing at the beginning of ‘atopia’. Was there a concerted effort to link certain cards across chapters? I’m on my third reading, and there’s some patterns opening up. I don’t merely mean topical refrains, but stylistic and rhetorical strategies, as if two chapters come to act as the poetics and philosophy of the same problem.

Back to the distinction; I think card 5 is the key for the entire chapter and produces your case concerning what games produce and reproduce for the gamer; the moment where the cutscene ends and the black bars fade up to give us access to the world before us.

This idea that utopias are roughly hewn from the flesh and fauna of arcadic imaginings is potentially really radical, and I mean that more in the ninja turtles sense than the Marx.

Game theory has so far found the sight of this particular god disturbing; I’m reminded of Sylvere Lotringer putting an ear to the bunker to catch the roar of war, and especially the end of the essay ‘the dance of signs’, in the idea that we might need to “rechronicize” succession to make an amnesiac out of beauty.

That, or I’m completely off base.

McKenzie Wark responds to Christian McCrea
posted: 7/28/2006

There’s definitely a resonance between chapters, and there’s definitely spaces where things are left unsaid. I want to encourage readers to write their own ‘books’ in the gaps in between. It’s why its a short book. Quite a few chapters i coould have written or attempted to write are left out. Some that i didn’t even imagine are starting to be written by others in the comments. As they say. “it’s all good.”

For example, i hadn’t thought much about the figure of arcadia, but it seems immediately useful and interesting.

posted: 10/5/2006

You say:
“Every situation is win-lose, unless it is win-win–a situation where players are free to collaboratew only because they seek prizes in different games.”
I have written over a dozen books on strategy and, of course, know a little bit about game theory. The problem with games and game theory in general is that it is very difficult to model “mixed motive” games where every player is, by definition, playing for his or her own definition of what the prize is.

Free market systems, everyone must produce value for others to get what they personally needed for physical survival, but once a society rises above subsistence level, the variety of what people see as valuable grows exponentially, leaving everyone a great deal of choice about how they produce value for others and what they purchase. The course of individual lives are determine primarily by the choices they make. Virtually all choices in a market economy are “win-win,” that is, a voluntary exchange of value where both parties decide that they are getting the best available bargain.

Though dominant in the world today, societies where free choice determined the destiny of individuals are historically rare. Though most of history, elites have controlled the options available to individuals. Through the use of various forms of physical coercion, the resulting systems were designed met the needs the rulers, but improvished society as a whole because everyone’s options were limited. Of course, in an agrarian society, most were tied to the land, but serfdom is less about the specific means of production (the old USSR, after all, was a society of serfs) than it is about limiting the choices about who does what and who needs what to a few “key” decision-makers instead of letting each person decide on their own the most productive use of their time and the most valuable products they could purchase with it.

The historical defect of coercive societies is that the prevent innovation. The real world was created with undreamt of possibilities for creating value. Those possibilities are inherent in the physical world, but it require individuals, free to take risks and rewarded for doing so, to discover and develop them. Unlike a game, most risks will go unrewarded and there is not way to predict what new ideas will actually work. Because of this, no one can imagine what any future will look like in a free society. Fifty years ago, we thought the future was the Jetson and flying cars. No one dreamed that it was computers and the Internet.

Elites must stiffle innovation because it is wild and untamed. It cannot be planned or predicted. It cannot be controlled. It leads to chaos, overturning insitutioes and forcing people to adjust their lives to the new realities of innovations. Elites would prefer not to adjust to others and use force to prevent it.

All games are, by definition, coercive environments where the game designers decide what the rewards are, how people can win them, and how the rewards are distributed. Though we can create “mixed motive” games (to use the term from traditional game theory), we cannot create games in which the possibilities for reward and failure are as unpredictable as real life.

McKenzie Wark responds to Gary Gagliardi
posted: 10/25/2006

Gary writes: “Virtually all choices in a market economy are “win-win,” that is, a voluntary exchange of value where both parties decide that they are getting the best available bargain.”
But that isn’t true of the exchange of labor for wages. I have to sell my labor, otherwise I don’t have money, and without money, i don’t eat. It isn’t a voluntary exchange of value at all.

posted: 10/24/2006

A shocking truth that is in everyone’s subconscience. I honstly agree with this whole text the cave. I never thought of me getting used to video games soo much that the real world would seem to be a videogame. That is so odd its like an episode of the twilight zone.

posted: 11/15/2006

Well written and brief enough that it works as an opening. My concern is similar to that expressed above about the stereotype: we can read Ender’s Game or Idlewild to explore this theme. It’s OK to start from this point, but I can’t help thinking that gamers are far more like Plato than like the cave-dwellers. Plato was born to an imperfect world, and invents a realm of the ideal as an alternative. He then came to view the ideal as the ultimate real. Gamers aren’t born in the cave, they seek it out. No one can escape the impression of the “world out there” the question then should be more of how the interpretation of the 2 realms is effected by this dynamic; not the more familiar question of “which is reality,” but the more complicated “which reality is both.”

McKenzie Wark responds to brian s-j
posted: 11/21/2006

This will be addressed in the print version.

posted: 12/11/2006

I like this format because it fits the immediacy of the cave. I hope you put this book out for consoles, like nerdcore rappers who give out songs on floppy disks.

McKenzie Wark responds to Dave LaMorte
posted: 12/15/2006

a console version would be sweet!

posted: 1/28/2007

I haven’t read this all yet, and maybe you hit on it later, but the way people define themselves has changed. Where at one point people said “I am —-, son of —-,” now they say “I am an investor,” or “I am a graphic artist.” People today define themselves by their personal merits rather than the merits of their ancestors. I guess either way it’s a game, (who’s got more merits) but I figured I’d toss that in.

posted: 4/2/2007

I find this an interesting premise, but it appears to apply to the playstation mentality. Gaming as a form of escapism. Which may be true for some cases, and I will continue reading (I promise) but I hope you will come to a place where pvp (player vs player) melds into the RP environment.

One of my dearest friends (who wrote one of the game module for a pen-and-paper RPG called Top Secret SI) explains role-play this way. It is communal storytelling where there are no winners, no losers, its a supportive environment where everyone contributes to the story.

Sorry for arriving so late, I can’t wait to read more.

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