The third level begins. Where the topographic develops one dimension of telegraphy — its flow of information across space — the topological develops the other — its intricate coding and addressing. Where the topographic is an analog flow; the topological is the digital divide. It is a line of another type. It is a line of a new type which, for a brief, burning moment, reignited the dreams of a new topos. But the cycle accelerates. If it took twenty years to get from Brecht or Benjamin’s optimism to Debord’s foreclosure, the same cycle in net time took perhaps five years. Geert Lovink: “Cyberspace at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer position itself in a utopian void of seamless possibilities.”

The third level continues. Games have storylines like the historical novel, which arc from beginning to end. Games have cinematic cut scenes, pure montages of attraction. Games subsume the lines of television just as television subsumed cinema and cinema the novel. But they are something else as well. They are not just an allegory but a double form, an allegory and an allegorithm. Appearances within the game double an algorithm which in turn simulates an unknown algorithm which produces appearances outside the game.

Stuck again. Start over. Another new world. Welcome to the first level. Let’s loop back to Lukács, and ask: rather that insist on the possibilities of the technicity of the line itself, perhaps there’s something to be said for the possibilities of a certain genre that makes use of it? Bonus points! Skip straight to the third level: The strategy game is a genre of a certain type within a line of a certain type, which opens towards certain possibilities. Click on the Government pull down menu and choose Revolution. Your Republic turns to Anarchy. Certain parameters shift. You are playing Sid Meier’s Civilization III. It is not so much an allegory for world history as an allegorithm for gamespace itself. Everything here is a relation between quantifiable processes. Everything is a question of the allocation of resources. There’s a perverse sense of base and superstructure. You can change the form of Government but there’s not much you can do to change the underlying form of production. Invest in science and qualitative technical changes accumulate, which in turn expand military, cultural and political possibilities. Invest in culture to keep the plebs from revolting. Interestingly, civil disorder comes from below, but revolutions come from above, but these are just two functions within an algorithm: a small variable with a big effect; a big variable with a small effect.

Gamespace turns descriptions into a database, and storyline into navigation — an interface to line upon line of data. Sid Meier, known as a voracious reader, turns history and anthropology books into strategy game. Civilization III even comes with its own ‘Cyclopedia’, a one-eyed reference work for to a parallel world. But this is more than the remediation of old forms into new. Rather, the algorithm consumes the topographic and turns it into the topological. In the database, all description is numerical, equivalent in form. Everything within it can be related to or transformed into everything else. A new kind of symmetry operates. The navigation of the database replaces a narration via description. The database expands exponentially. Rather than a politics of allegory, an economics of allegorithm operates, selecting and reducing possibilities.

This is how the world appears to a gamer playing Civilization III: There are dependent and independent variables. Gamers, through trial and error, will work out which are which. They will choose cultural, economic and technical options that maximize long term advantages. If it doesn’t work out, they will start another and do it over. Time is essentially of a piece. It is homogenous, empty, but it can be divided into equivalent units, just like space.

(3) Comments for 066.
posted: 5/25/2006

while I read this my wife sleeps in front of the TV. My lover/mistress flirted with it but had no time or patience…women don’t interact with the technolgy in teh same way. For them its slower, the clock cycles don’t tick so fast Nut gatherers and hunters…all this technology and we are only just out of the jungle

adeola responds to simon
posted: 7/27/2006

nut gatherers? you can’t be serious.

McKenzie Wark responds to adeola
posted: 7/28/2006

I don’t buy the nut gatherers thing either. It’s just not supportedf much by archaeology or anthropology. BUt there is something of a gender difference in how people respond to games.

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(3) Comments for 067.
posted: 6/18/2006

I know there are alot of people who are used to reading this sort of style of writing, and I find it beautiful in many ways, but here is an example of a place where I think your unencumbered prose would have been illuminated by a real world reference. Is there something spcific in a game that illustrates what the last sentence so nicely describes?

cburke responds to cburke
posted: 6/18/2006

Sorry, I confused the issue by saying “real world”. I am just looking for an example from a game. I think it would help the reader if you had more of these.

McKenzie Wark responds to cburke
posted: 6/19/2006

good point — as you see it is as yet a pretty short and undeveloped paragraph

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(3) Comments for 068.
posted: 11/20/2006

I’m fascinated by the compulsive need to fix typos here. Almost all the others I’ve come across have been pointed out by someone, but at last, space for me! Line 2: “rather than,” rather than “rather that.”

What is this all about, this desire to edit rather than interact?

McKenzie Wark responds to KF
posted: 11/21/2006

dunno, but its useful for me, so i’m grateful to readers for pointing them out.

matt responds to KF
posted: 12/1/2006

sure… but “Inreract” is a misnomer, another word for edit. The correct-typo instinct anyway is global… words are shameless, on their own without effect.

Conversely, the urge to correct typos is as you say … nuerotic. But then finding the F**ckers (words) to begin with is no different.

It’s like where Buddha died because his followers forgot to ask him to live… and other petty squabbles.


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(3) Comments for 069.
posted: 5/22/2006

I’m just flipping around the book, loving this awesome interface (and what I’ve read so far).

A question — isn’t the CIVIII encyclopeida called the Civilopedia, not the Cyclopedia? Is this a typo or poetic license?

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

I’ll have to check that — don’t have the game to hand. Thanks!

posted: 6/17/2006

… and there is a typo in that same sentence- “for to a parallel world.”

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