The digital emerges as military, but achieves acceptance as entertainment. The military versions of digital telesthesia make the world over as a military space, but the digital does not yet become a culture other than for a small band of specialists tied to the military industrial complex. The coming together of the digital and the entertainment commodity inscribes the digital not just in space and time, but in cultural perceptions of space and time.

The digital game is a very particular commodity. It is not just the usual store of entertaining representations transferred from analog and mechanical reproduction to a digital platform. Rather, it makes the digital itself into entertainment. The digital object always addresses its subject as a player, as a calculator and competitor. The digital inscribes topology within the subject itself. It makes the uploading of the world into topology seem natural and inevitable. And it offers the digital in its purest form, where the transformation of analog into digital is always consistent, repeatable, in a word — fair.

The digital makes the analog appear as something distinct. The digital rules a line between analog and digital, making their difference into a distinction. But perhaps, having made the distinction appear, the perspective can be reversed, and the digital can be perceived from the point of view of the analog. What might emerge is rather the play between the analog and the digital. The digital might become again the threshold that turns a movement into a break, rather than imposing the break on movement.

“I don’t play games”, says Keita Takahashi, designer of Katamari Damacy. He is a sculptor. “I am happy going through this game phase of my life, where I can get paid and eat.” As the digital subsumes the analog so too the designer subsumes the artist. The longing to return to art as an analog pursuit may be in vain. But the artist within the designer may still inscribe the analog in the heart of the digital as something irreducible.

King Digital may rule in Katamari Damacy, but it is his subordinate, the Prince, upon whose labors this digital topology is built. Not the least of the charms of Takahashi’s work is this foregrounding of the labor the gamer performs. It is no longer labor as punishment for defying the Gods. It is no longer absurd labor, performed consciously and joyously in spite of the absence of the Gods. Topology installs, in place of the absent Gods, King Digital, and his demand that, while labor is punishingly hard and absurdly pointless, it nevertheless has its measure. Sisyphus, the Analog Prince, labors to roll up everything in this world make over under the mark of the digital and offer it up for appraisal. What the digital has always wanted — to be the form of all forms — has come to pass. Our punishment for attempting to steal those forms for our own purposes is to labor endlessly to repeat them. Katamari Damacy merely extends the atopia of the digital to the heavens themselves.

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(2) Comments for 097.
posted: 5/30/2006

“it addresses its subject as a player, as a calculator and competitor.”

In Katamari’s case, Kieta originally wanted to make the game more freeform, without a time limit restriction, and the play would have been more paidic and perhaps creative in the choice and pattern of objects picked up. But then the MEC came down and demanded a goal oriented structure in order for the game to be more marketable…

McKenzie Wark responds to Patrick
posted: 5/30/2006

That’s a great anecdote Patrick, got a source for that?

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(2) Comments for 098.
posted: 5/24/2006

A point: in the Metal Gear Solid 2 game, three forces modelled on Les Enfants Terrible are drawn out thusly:

Solid, Liquid and Solidus. The characters are continuous, discrete and manic in their styles and Solid (the hero)’s ability to ingest data and retain selfhood is vital, while Liquid, the original defeated antagonist is volatile due to a inflated sense of self. Soldius is the father-double of Solid, and is able to intercept their relationship while doubling Solid, talking of his ability to control information and create narrative context for the world. (actually, this is a partial quote from the game’s much-hated verbose philosophical ending)

The digital rules the relationship between itself and the analogue, and the body of the digital becomes bloated with what it feeds from the analogue, forever building up to the point of reproduction. Here, you foreground precisely what makes the digital so voracious; the impulse to remake the analogue as distinct from its ability to do so, perhaps.

posted: 5/26/2006

“precisely what makes the digital so voracious; the impulse to remake the analogue as distinct from its ability to do so, perhaps.”

that’s well said, thanks.

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(7) Comments for 100.
posted: 5/25/2006

Well we’ve parted mindsets in this chapter.
I observe
(1) I don’t think there is that much digital in the minds of US Marines on the streets of Bagdad or in the mind of a suicide bomber in Palestine.
(2) I think that here, for the first time, the author (a gamer) has brought a personal focus to the thesis
(3) This chapter requires heavy re-write if the objective is to suggest the MIEC has a “mind of its own” and convincing everyone of that is unlikely. So…where do we go now?
Read On…

posted: 5/31/2006

i just don’t see the passage suggesting that MIEC knowingly subsumes the digital for its own purposes. the whole point of hegemony is that there are competing forces or sparring agendas, but then a tendency forms and gains momentum–sometimes a mob mentality–but the point is that there is no preset practice (for how could one predict every single contingency) but rather a responsiveness, the ability to shift events’ meanings to suit a particular interpretation.

actually now i’ve said that i am far more amenable to the katamari damacy as an example of the MIEC…

my real interest in this chapter though is the notion of the space/time relationship to the analog/digital, something i’ve thought about for a long, long time and am not altogether comfortable with the way these concerns are reconciled here… but i do want to read on.

McKenzie Wark responds to virginia kuhn
posted: 5/31/2006

if you have more thoughts on analog/digital and space/time please share them.

i don’t use the idea of hegemony here. It’s more at the level of a technics, which shapes the whole space of thought and action.

posted: 6/18/2006

MEC (not MIEC) if I am not mistaken.
I think there is a tendency to see everything the digital does as negative in this section. for example, didn’t the digital enable the many-to-many nature of the internet? Isn’t digital media more free in a number of ways? Doesn’t the digital enable a more democratic flow of information? Yes, that may be about to change, but not due to the nature of the digital, but to some very specific RW desires of powerful corporations. And the game companies, BTW, are against it.

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

I’m speaking about a more fundamental layer: that there’s always something lost in the digital. It’s based on a primary break or gap. Yes, we can build lots of wonderful things on it and with it (starting with language itself). But the ‘thing lost’ will come back to haunt us — in the last 2 chapters…

posted: 1/12/2007

it seems to me that katamari rolling is less an allegory of Sisyphean labor and more a parody of it. The reading here is ingenious and compelling but I can’t help feeling that overwriting “play” (what gamers *think* they’re performing) with “labor” reflects a symptomatic interpretive strategy that underestimates the self-consciousness of the game itself as a twisted parody of the kind of power relations you’re talking about.

McKenzie Wark responds to Steve Jones
posted: 2/7/2007

Steve: hard to argue with that. I think the larger point is that Katamari is a rich work that one could get quite a few different things from.

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