Not the least of the pleasures of playing Tetsuya Mizoguchi’s Rez is the counter-intuitive way the trigger works. If usually the gamer presses the trigger to shoot the target, in Rez the gamer releases the trigger to shoot. Actually it’s a two stage operation: hold the trigger in to select a target; release the trigger to shoot. As you move through a tunnel-like space, with pounding house beats in your ears, various potential targets swim and swish by, or take a swipe at you — or rather at your character. You hold the trigger down to lock on to them as targets, and then release it and watch as fiery lines radiate toward the moving targets. One’s missiles seem more balletic than ballistic. They arc towards their targets even as those targets move.

Everything in Rez is very abstract. Your character may have a vaguely human form or not, depending on the level. The brightly colored shapes that flare at you may look vaguely menacing or brightly friendly. The whole thing is meant to simulate the experience of a nightclub more than a war. This, together with the curious trigger action, highlights the act of targeting in Rez rather than the target itself. There is some vaguely sci-fi storyline about why one targets and shoots, but it is rather minimal and sketchy. It’s not clear at first just what role the story plays. Like many games of its genre (it’s a ‘rail shooter’) it’s an experience of battling against things in order to level. In Rez, one targets what to shoot at and shoots at what one targets pretty much for its own sake. Its interest as a game resides in this abstracting of the act away from too many particulars as to why one targets or whom one shoots. Time spent with Rez feels like immersion in an eternal, tense present under fire. Blaise Pascal: “The fact is that the present usually hurts.”

Color, brightness, shape, movement, beats, notes, sounds, even the pulsing vibrations of the controller in hand come together in Rez in a veritable synasthesia, a blending of the senses intent on melding the gamer with the game. It’s a quite particular context in which to try to target. The enemy has to be identified, localized, and highlighted in order to become a target. The target emerges out of an event, out of a pure analog flux of variable movement. Before there is a target there is everything and nothing — indifference, alterity, being neither one nor the other, neither here nor there. Selecting a target stabilizes a relation between the one targeted and the one targeting — one versus the other, us versus them. Targeting turns time and space from a disconcerting experience of flux into conditions of self awareness, where the world exists so the gamer might come into being, against it. Once an event yields a target, it becomes something subject to control. The analog yields to the digital.

To target is to identify an object of an action with an aim towards a goal. The goal will come directly, by designating the end point in advance and aiming at it. There is no indirection in targeting. A target is a goal that can be reached by virtue of an immediate knowledge of it and a consequent action against it. The gamer may need to target one thing in order to subsequently target another, but this is more a matter of stringing targets together as a sequence in time. Or rather, a sequence against time. In Rez, the gamer does best to target certain shapes that appear in the periphery of one’s vision, and which enhance one’s power and extend one’s immunity. What the game highlights is a logistics of targeting, an economy of order against time, the battle of alternating merger and separation from the other.

Targeting is at one and the same time the designating of a goal, the one designating, and the means of designation. To target is to overcome the indifference of self and other, and at the same time to introduce an oscillation into the moment of this very overcoming. Press the trigger down and the target selects, as something other than you; release the trigger than the shot connects you to it again, but in a very special way, as engaged in the relation of battling. Hit or miss, the gap between target and gamer re-opens, and the cycle begins again. Perhaps the gamer is always battling otherness, in an unstable relation to alterity, to blurry edges and fuzzy boundaries which threaten to overwhelm the self. Steven Poole: “One crucial component of video-gaming pleasure is in fact a certain level of anxiety.” In Rez, this “ugly feeling” is rendered useful, productive, rather than paralyzing or profound. The gamer exploits the anxious relation of self to other in the act of targeting, risking the boundaries of character, for the reward of promoting the character to a new level.

(2) Comments for 126.
posted: 5/25/2006

This trigger mechanism works the same way in Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series, which predate Rez and are an obvious influence.

McKenzie Wark responds to ArC
posted: 5/26/2006

Yes. I wasn’t claiming that it originates with Rez, but that it is still counter intuitive if you are used to the more standard trigger mechanism.

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(3) Comments for 127.
posted: 5/24/2006

> one targets what to shoot at
> and shoots at what one
> targets pretty much for its
> own sake

Not necessarily true. If you want the special, “true” Pink Butterfly ending, you must acheive 100% shootdown on Area 5, Fear.

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

I think this is covered in 129: “The gamer may need to target one thing in order to subsequently target another, but this is more a matter of stringing targets together as a sequence in time.”

posted: 10/25/2006

There were actually test like this, with everyday people and the type of abstract shapes that they react to whether they see them as menacing or freindly and their reaction to shoot or not too and most people failed….i dunno maybe they were trigger happy…..

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(4) Comments for 128.
posted: 5/25/2006

Sorry for the nitpicky spelling correction: synasthesia should be either synaesthesia or synesthesia.

McKenzie Wark responds to BReber
posted: 5/25/2006

noted — thanks

posted: 5/30/2006

“The analog yields to the digital.”

Ok, after reading all of this I still come back to the above quote. Because you can be obtuse in your writing I can’t quite figure out if you are trying to be clever with a metaphor or if you are trying to make a comment about input (Rez will accept both digital and analog controllers for the PS2).

McKenzie Wark responds to Shapermc
posted: 5/31/2006

I think you’re taking it a bit too literally there.

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(8) Comments for 130.
posted: 5/25/2006

Anxiety: I would be interested to know your views on (Digital) Games as a way of influencing the (Analogue ?) chemistry set that is the player (heart, gonads, brain etc). Is gaming a way of getting a fix without popping a pill?

I smoke. I drink. Occasionally I take mind altering drugs. NOTHING imbibed or ingested compares to flirting on line or real sex. I think (perhaps) the reason I don’t play games on the PC is I KNOW I would become addicted (chemically) to the fix. Is this worth exploring?

(Sorry this post is “personal” experience, rather than academic – but I’m a biologist not a physiologist…so has to come from personal perspective…)

McKenzie Wark responds to simon
posted: 5/25/2006

No need to be sorry. Its an interesting perspective. Wouldn’t that be a great research project: here is your brain on drugs; here is your brain on Grand Theft Auto. What is the same and what is different? I guess there are imaging technologies for finding out. I’m only a media studies scholar, so i lack the skills for this. But i agree — it would be interesting!

posted: 5/25/2006

There was a study done on this, I think by the Center for Media and the Family (obviously biased) that showed increased brain activity (interpreted as anxiety) early, but inclusive data late. I am not sure where I read this, but I think it was mentioned in the recent testimony before Congress regarding CAMERA.

McKenzie Wark responds to David Parry
posted: 5/26/2006

while i’m in favor of a scientific approach, the problem is in a too hasty attempt to say what it ‘means’. WE can say absolutely nothing about what the violence-stimulus-brain activity means. It’s an absurd question. But we could compare it to other patterns of media-stimulus-activity

posted: 2/13/2007

or you could attempt to compare the brain activity due to violent video games verses the brain activity due to actual physical violence – if they are the same, could video games be not a trigger but an outlet for violence?

McKenzie Wark responds to sarah loyer
posted: 2/17/2007

Sarah: This is an old theory, going all the way back to Aristotle’s idea of theatre as ‘catharsis’. A prior question to ask, however, is why we have to think of violence as necessarily having a cause? The assumption seems to be that we’re not inherently violent, so where there is an instance of violence, there must be a specific and local cause.

posted: 3/9/2007

I think any up to date discussion of Rez needs to include some mention of Tetsuya Mizoguchi’s latest, and spiritual sequel to Rez, Every Extend Extra. It hasn’t received as much fanfare from the ‘games are art’ Guardian reader camp, but it is receiving great praise in the industry. I love Rez one hell of a lot, but it basically takes the schmup (or shmup) genre and dilutes it for the mainstream/casual gamer (a good thing in a way). Rez maybe prettier, but it isn’t a real schmup like Every Extend Extra (or Ikaruga, Radient Silvergun et al.). Relating to the comment above, schumps are ‘zone’ or ‘twitch’ games, and any schmup fan will tell you, the zone is exhausting. Your heart pounds, you sweat, your head aches, your air stands on end, and it really is comaprible to recreational drug – even the good ones! It takes a year or two with some games to reach the Zone, but I think it is a important phenomnen core to Rez and it’s genre.

posted: 3/9/2007

Sorry – I meant ‘comments further above’


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