Start over. Start instead from the Omar. Ignoring for the moment their agon with the Templars, consider instead the Omar’s other relation to ApostleCorp, who are posited in the place of the not-merged. But here might lie a quite different possibility for a gamer theory, not paranoid, but schizoid. Rather than ask an analyst like Freud about the power of negation, if you ask a patient, particularly a patient who defeated the game, perhaps one gets a different answer, a schizo’s analysis. Heretical Surrealist Antonin Artaud: “Which indeed is not a philosophy, but in the pan of fried potatoes, square perhaps with the handle of the cantilever which bears like the spoon in the perforated tongue of the sex organ forever denied by the heart.” To the paranoid sensibility, what appears positively, as one’s antagonist masks what is negative. It masks not-being. Everything appears as a fight to the end, unmasking one after another as false positivities, each yielding over and over to nothingness, always seeking the face of total power masked behind not-being. To the schizoid sensibility, on the other hand, undoing the agon between one positivity and other opens up more positive differences, positivity to infinity, and a perverse play of terms outside any storyline demarking being from not being. If for Freud the problem with schizos is that they take words for things; the paranoiac always takes things for words.
Both choices offered for a gamer theory have their limitations. One starts with separation from the game and opens towards conspiracy theories, and perhaps towards a critical theory of separation. This suppresses atopia without realizing it. The other starts with the merger of gamer into game and opens towards a ‘cyberpunk’ celebration of the hybridity of nervous system and circuit board. This realizes atopia without suppressing it. The rise of gamespace may conclude with either the suppression and realization of the game — and the gamer. What could be the endgame of gamespace itself? Who — or what — can come after the persona of the gamer? How can you both suppress and realize the game? How could one come to live in a topos in which one’s actions can be freely chosen and yet not insignificant? How could one be both free from necessity yet unsullied by boredom? How could one be neither a prisoner of work nor condemned to a merely frivolous play?
Another Greimas square: childish play is antagonistic to the serious business of work. Player vs. worker. But who stands in the place of the non-player? The gamer. The gamer is outside of but not the opposite of the player. But who then is the non-worker? Let’s call this character the hacker. To hack is outside of but not opposite to work. It is a free, self directed activity which makes its own rules, its own conditions of completion and its own protocols of success. It is an algorithm that writes itself. It is a practice beyond work and play, and against the game, and which calls for another character. Here is the mask of the fourth character: “We are the hackers of abstraction. We produce new concepts, new perceptions, new sensations, hacked out of raw data. Whatever code we hack, be it programming language, poetic language, math or music, curves or colorings, we are the abstracters of new worlds.” The character of the hacker is what is worshipped in that new category of celebrity — the game designer. If the celebrities of play were transgressors of rules; the celebrities of the game are makers of rules — but only within certain constraints. Not even the game designer gets to make the rules of gamespace. Not even an Information Overlord like the CEO of Electronic Arts, Larry Probst. What would it mean to be a hacker not just of games but of gamespace itself? This is the realized atopia that ApostleCorp stands for.
In Deus Ex: Invisible War the name for what is at the center of this universe of futures is Helios. This sun around which all revolves is said to be — like Eden in Rez — an ‘artificial intelligence’, but is in effect a game engine, and what is at stake is the relation, via this game engine, of the gamer with the game. A game engine is a maker of worlds, but of worlds that appear as if they were made for the gamer, as if they lent themselves to actions which could uncover their protocols. While other media present the world as if it were for you to look at, the game engine presents worlds as if they were not just for you to look at, but for you to act upon them in a way that is given. The realm of the not-game is the domain in which the gamer cannot act as a gamer. The separation the game from the not-game creates this space of possible perceptions and actions.
Deus Ex has a fifth ending, nested inside the game, where all of its characters, regardless of rank or faction, get down and party. Here is the limit to gamespace within gamespace itself, where differences lack antagonism, and yet for all that do not cease to be differences. Terms coexist without reduction to one vs. another. Could there be a topos after topology, which is not a regression, back to the topographic, or even the topical? Could there be an overcoming of necessity that does not dissipate into useless boredom? Could the gamer come into possession of the means to make the rule as well as the move? Could the gamer also be a hacker, a maker of rules for moves as well as of moves within rules? This is the threshold to which Deus Ex brings us. But if there is a deus ex machina at work in this game, it is the one that rescues the game itself from its own overcoming. Even the fifth ending, which could point to a conclusion beyond the game, merely posits another one, where characters masquerade like celebrities, and the gamer is to feel privileged to have slipped behind the velvet rope.