You know nothing about your body until you know what it can do. Boredom is not doing nothing. Boredom is something a body does when space will not let the body enter it in a way which transforms the body into something else, so that the body can forget itself. Boredom is a suspended animation, made possible by the absence of a certain relation to space, a certain quality of labor. If the trigger points in space always point toward the same possibilities, only under different signs, then boredom inevitably returns. State of Emergency marks an anxiety within the military entertainment complex about this very possibility. Perhaps it is a game that tries to incorporate and overcome the threat boredom poses to the military entertainment complex by making a game of it. A game which, oddly enough, makes boredom interesting. In a critique of State of Emergency, anti-globalization writer Naomi Klein declares: “anti-corporate imagery is increasingly being absorbed by corporate marketing.” But the affect runs both ways here. The game might co-opt, but is at the same time an allegory for an anxiety about what to do when gamespace can no longer collude with boredom. The powers behind the digital might try to co-opt boredom; the boredom of the gamer might yet co-opt the digital instead.
Just as the military industrial complex once forced the free rhythms of labor into the measured beat of work, so now its successors oblige the free rhythms of play to become productive. Alan Liu: “Increasingly, knowledge work has no true recreational outside.” The time and space of the topological world is organized around the maintenance of boredom, nurturing it yet distracting it just enough to prevent its implosion in on itself, from which alone might arise the counter power to the game. All the potentials of topology, its lines upon lines, are configured as a gamespace designed to neutralize play and contain it. State of Emergency is a game about the possibilities pent up within gamespace. It enacts the game as a repository, a memory, a practice patch for free labor, for autonomous action. It presents this possibility for action as the negation of actually existing gamespace.
The straightforward lines of topographic space left room in the margins for heterotopias which formalized the orders of play. It instituted the chronicles of legends and statistics that would become the game’s opening gambit against history. In topographic times, the cyclic repetition of the game never quite reached the threshold of boredom, as there was still an everyday life of work and struggle from which it offered an orderly retreat. The topological, by contrast, captures all of space in its monotonous grids and all of time in its repetitive innings. Boredom becomes pervasive, uncontainable — a real threat. And so the military entertainment complex invents ever-new games, with new rules, new moves, new chances for competitors to pit themselves against each other, or against chance itself, so as to maintain its grip on the topology it extrudes out of itself, incorporating all of space. Boredom with any particular game is always displaced onto another game, before it call into question the imperfections of gamespace as a poor excuse for how one could live and labor among these richly productive and seductive lines.
In topological times, play disappears into the game, and boredom looms on all sides. The military entertainment complex responds by introducing into the game every kind of novelty imaginable — which isn’t much, as imagination now merely repeats the logic of the game. The game becomes less and less a tangible field outside the workaday places of everyday life. It becomes a gamespace, an intangible complex of lines along which all information shuttles. It’s other scene is no longer a heterotopian playing field as a space and time apart. Rather it is the atopian space of the digital game, which is more radically separate than a heterotopian playing field, but which is even more radically an atopian double for the whole of space itself. The problem with gamespace is not that it presents the world via the action of targeting, but that in gamespace things target people, rather than people targeting things. It is not that the digital cuts into the world and presents it to the human as if it were always, and already cut to suit us. It is that it cuts us, renders us as digital bits, and presents it to the world made over as a gamespace in which we are the targets. One’s actions are superfluous, the product of a being acted upon by a whole complex of lines beyond one’s control. In the absence of autonomous action, boredom reigns. The whole of space appears as a departure lounge for a flight that never arrives.
The military entertainment complex is above all the management and maintenance of boredom. The military wing trains boredom’s lax energies outward; the entertainment wing coaches the residual boredom within. Both without and within, boredom is contained within the lines of gamespace. The game plan replaces the work ethic. The interests of the complex dominate policy, and policy’s goal is alleviating the threat of boredom. What is good for the military entertainment complex is good for the country. And what is good for the military entertainment complex is the war on boredom, which, like the war on drugs or the war on terror, is never to be won, merely displaced, as the boredom index rises and falls. For boredom can arise anywhere and everywhere, once space is made over as topology. The trick for the military entertainment complex is to collude with it in maintaining it without having it turn upon the complex itself.