This is how the world appears to game design: There are dependent and independent variables. Designers, through trial and error, will work out which are which. They will choose cultural, business and technical options that maximize long term advantages. If it doesn’t work out, they will do it over. Time is essentially of a piece. It is homogenous, but it can be divided into equivalent units, just like space. Civilization III models not so much ‘civilization’, as the game design business, which in turn models gamespace, or topology as it presently exists.

This is how the world appears to gamer theory: Seen from the point of view of topology, with its dense databases and navigating tools, the topical world with its loosely connected topics was a world of limited data and few possibilities. Transformations of one thing into another are purely magical. The topographic — and telegraphic — flattened out the differences between topics while describing them in much more detail. A tension arises between enriched description and the poverty of storyline, bursting to contain it. The expansion of description nevertheless opened towards allegory. Accumulations of images burst out of their storyline bounds. It opened towards a politics of allegory, of the writing and mapping of the world, and also towards utopia, arresting the flux of the world in ideal form. Topology closes the frontiers of space within its lines, and expands the dataset again, but by reducing data to equivalent calculable points, it is able to break with storyline as principle of temporal order, replacing it with navigation. Storyline becomes gamespace.

Strategy games such as Civilization III presents an allegorithm of topology as gamespace. It subsumes the text, audio, images and movies into the database, while the algorithm calculates the moves of all its elements relative to the gamer. It collapses the difference between the everyday and the utopian. It embraces all differences by rendering all of space and time as being of the same quality — by reducing space and time to quantity. And finally, the next level appears: the expansion of topology outwards, beyond America, to make America equivalent to all of time and space.

America itself, as a construct, as a latent structure of feeling, is always only available via particular mediating lines, which may do more than merely represent a pre-existing America. The form of the line may itself participate in the creation of America. There may well be an America that resides successively in the novel, in the cinema, in television and the game, and is shaped by each. Each, in turn, presents history itself as a passing on of memory from one form to another. The line forms through the repetition of movement, and the topic emerges as the trace marked on the world by the line. The transformation of space and time, from topic to topography to topology, is an effect of the development of the lines with which to mark and manage it.

The line makes its way across the world, making it by marking it. The line passes across valleys, pages, mountains, rivers, tracing trails, roads, railways, highways, doubling itself with telegraph, television, telecommunications, doubling itself again as the code of the letter migrates from text to telegraph and explodes into the myriad lines of the digital. The line makes topics, maps them into the topographic, then folds the topographic into a digital topology. The line does something else as well. For every line drawn are an infinite number undrawn. Every line is an allegory of the possibilities for a line of its type. The line may also intimate the possibilities of lines of another type. One can find gamespace in the pages of Leibnitz. But the possibilities of a given type of line are not infinite. Allegory always touches the virtual — which one might define as the possibility of possibility — via a particular line. At each level of the actual unfolding of the line across the world, it offers a glimpse of the virtual in its own image. This is the limit to allegory. If allegory yearns for something ahistorical, a topos beyond all particulars, it does so over and over in the most particular and mediated way.

(2) Comments for 071.
posted: 9/30/2006

Hi Ken,
I haven’t read all your work here yet, but I have read your section on Civilization.

Having read your allegorical reading of Civilization I suggest you check out Alex Galloway’s book Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture, as his chapter on civilization is on much the same riff… …but he calls it an allegory for ‘control society’…

McKenzie Wark responds to Tom Apperley
posted: 10/25/2006

I read Alex Galloway’s Gaming Culture in manuscript, and it was indeed the seed of much of what i wrote here on Civ III. There’s a handsome footnote thanking Alex that will appear in the published version.

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(1) Comments for 072.
posted: 6/17/2006

very nice summmary.


I worked with some 3D artists in Brussels called lab[au], who developed a modern composition tool called Spa[z]e (the “z” stands for the z axis). It is essentially a large 3D space in which the (music) composer can design and place sound objects. Music composition and performance become one and are both “navigated” in real time, as in a game. This was critical I think- that story (or composition in this case) was replaced by ‘navigation’.

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(1) Comments for 073.
posted: 3/7/2007

Mckenzie have you read the book evrything bad is good for you? it has a large section on video games.

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posted: 6/3/2006

hi ken. sorry to bring this back to level one, but pynchon’s “mason & dixon” is a great example of geocultural line drawing, especially in terms of “America.” i’ll have to re-read this section before i can confidently call it topological or topographic. (btw, isn’t there a “yes” album about that?!)

McKenzie Wark responds to dominic
posted: 6/4/2006

That’s a good tip (Pynchon, not Yes..) I reread Gravity’s Rainbow but it didn’t quite work its way into the text.

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(2) Comments for 075.
posted: 5/25/2006

One can find gamespace in the pages of Leibnitz. – Example required? And in others? Aren’t they (philosphers, mathematicians) all playing the game of discovering gamespace?

posted: 5/25/2006

Ref Figure 3
I am mindful of a redrawn map of the underground in London “THE GREAT BEAR”
google it

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