There are four ways in which the topology of gamespace can come to an end and be superceded by a new topos — at least according to the game Deus Ex: Invisible War. (If you have played this game you may know there is also a fifth ending, of which protocol demands the withholding until the puzzle of the other four endings unlocks its significance.) In the game, your character has to choose between aiding the victory of one of four organizations, all of which are at odds with each other, and each of which has its own idea of how to realize a permanent atopia beyond gamespace, a topos beyond topology. Working backwards from these four endings it is possible to plot the backstory, not just of Deus Ex but of the military entertainment complex — at least as it can be understood from within the game, from within The Cave itself.*
The four endings of Deus Ex can be pieced together by arranging them in two pairs. (See Fig. G) The first, more ‘personal’ pair of endings pits the victory of the Templars against that of the Omar. The Templars are a fanatical religious order devoted to the body’s purification of all ‘biomods’. The Omar are a no less fearsome collective organism of black marketeers, in which the body has been subsumed into technology. The second, more ‘political’ pair of endings pits the victory of the Illuminati against that of ApostleCorp. The Illuminati are a secret cabal of power-brokers hidden behind organizational fronts, dedicated to restoring order under their control. ApostleCorp is a techno-intellectual faction dedicated to bringing about a just and democratic but no less ‘posthuman’ civilization. You, the gamer, play a minor character, who can nevertheless tip the balance between these powers and their goals.
Deus Ex is a shadowy world. Some of the organizations who at first appear so powerful are just fronts for others. For instance the neo-liberal WTO and the religious fundamentalists of The Order, which appear antagonistic to each other in every way, turn out in classic conspiracy theory style to be but masks secretly controlled by the Illuminati. This chain of unmasking can be extended even beyond the game. Behind the final four powers — Templar and Omar, Illuminati and ApostleCorp — is at least one more unmasking. The first pair of endings — Templar and Omar — masks an agon between the complete assimilation of the human into the machine (Omar) versus the complete rejection of the intercourse of body with machine (Templar). Along this axis, the problem of where gamespace is heading is ‘personal’, a question of the boundaries of the body and its other. The other pair of endings — Illuminati and ApostleCorp — is less about the immediate relation of body to machine as something ‘personal’. It is about something not personal, something that is perhaps political. Here the ends of gamespace are an agon between a democratic relation, in which all bodies communicate equally with machines; versus the hierarchical, where all communication passes via a controlling power. The personal is political, but in Deus Ex the impersonal is political, too.
For the gamer, it is always a matter of starting at the beginning and playing through to the end. In the original Deus Ex and its sequel, Invisible War, there are different ways of getting from beginning to end.* It can be done by stealth, by violence, or negotiation, but either way the game reveals itself level by level, from start to finish. For the gamer as theorist, perhaps in Deus Ex it’s a matter of taking the end as the starting point. The question of what can constitute an end state is the question of what occupies the limits to thought within gamespace. Why these four endings? If they are just arbitrary, random possibilities, then they may be fun for the gamer to play through to but not much fun for the gamer theorist to start out from in this other game — the other game of the relation between the allegorithm of the game to the allegory of gamespace. But perhaps the four endings of Deus Ex are not random but are rather the pieces of a puzzle.
Behind the four organizations who vie for power in Invisible War are four more abstract, more impersonal antagonists who stalk the fantastic vistas of gamespace itself. Either technology trumps the human, or vice versa. (Templar vs. Omar.) Either democracy trumps hierarchy, or vice versa. (Illuminati vs. ApostleCorp.) But beyond that, perhaps the game reaches a certain limit. Behind this mask is not another mask; behind this power is not another power, but something else — a diagram of the avatars of power. The four endings exhaust the possibilities within which gamespace can think about itself. They are its endgame. But while there is not at this point another character to unmask, there is a puzzle to solve in the arrangement of these masks. These endings, and what they mask, enter into quite definite relations. The four terms invite the gamer theorist to a new kind of game.