Sunday 28 September 2008

Videogames as metaphors----the gamespace

The whole of life appears as a vast accumulation of commodities and spectacles, of things wrapped in images and images sold as things. But how are these images and things organized, and what role do they call for anyone and everyone to adopt towards them? Images appeal as prizes, and call us to play the game in which they are all that is at stake. You observe that world after world, cave after cave, what prevails is the same agon, the same digital logic of one versus the other, ending in victory or defeat. Agony rules. Everything has value only when ranked against another; everyone has value only when ranked against another. Every situation is win-lose, unless it is win-win – a situation where players are free to collaborate only because they seek prizes in different games. The real world appears as a video arcadia divided into many and varied games. Work is a rat race. Politics is a horse race. The economy is a casino. Even the utopian justice to come in the afterlife is foreclosed: He who dies with the most toys wins. Games are no longer a past time, outside or alongside of life. They are now the very form of life, and death, and time, itself. These games are no joke. When the screen flashes the legend game over, you are either dead, or defeated, or at best out of quarters.

GAM3R 7H30RY / McKenzie Wark / Version 1.1

In contemporary democracy and virtual environments the icon of several notions expresses the notions themselves. These icons stand as an active political concealment for the failure of representational democracy. The image of the poll with the hand which is ‘capable of choosing’ is more important than democracy itself. And in virtual environments the image of a cursor pressing whatever combination of buttons accompanied by the sound of the click, is much more important than the content someone ‘chooses’. It is a state of representational democracy again, where the intermediation between the citizen and politics, which forms the icon of democracy, becomes something beyond perception, a spectre of a constantly moving power, which takes the responsibility from the individual. It is the job of the individual to realise the social whole and not something that the power structures will do for him/her.

Giorgio Agamben, notices that the notion of politics and consequently Democracy is a mechanism of exclusion itself, where the construction of a legislation system by [hypothetically] the majority of the people exclude the others from the city. We could say that this form of exclusion is a viable system even with the middle ages, a few world wars, and a planet ready to collapse both in physical and political terms. So in practice there is no utopia of a total inclusion within the frame of politics; neither in an hypothetical state of the “democracy of everyone”, nor in the case of the ‘realised’ democracy.

But in that fragile realisation we don’t have to demonise politics in general. We have to understand once more that virtue is the Achilles’ heel of democratisation. A form of exclusion which functions through virtue, with the notion of thinking for the public, could be the ‘feedback loop’ of a “democracy to come”. In the contrary, the exclusion based on the realm of the individual thinking and acting, which is opposed to the public benefit, is formed under the domination of fear, a characteristic of despotism as Montesquieu clearly indicates.

Even though nowadays we experience politics which have a great similarity with a form of post modern despotism, the potentiality of the virtual environments offers a probable field of critical thinking. It is the detachment from the real world of capital, property and individuality that allows space for studying the alternative forms of coexistence. Maybe it is the ‘fraud’ of the virtual that could engage people in a re-reading of politics and reconsideration of social interrelations.

Videogames as metaphors----Ochlocracy

Setting aside that users experience games like Grand Theft Auto, as a simple form of play and entertainment, there is still in such games a meaningful structure of an urban environment which hosts and reproduces human interrelations. The subversion of Grand Theft Auto uses the notion of freedom in public space, in a violent and anarchic environment which by the way justifies the existence of urban forces of repression.

But of course, that is the political consequence of the notion of freedom in an isolated environment that does not include the same codes of coexistence as it happens in real life. In other words there are not distinct criminal behaviours in GTA but simply a simplification of the socio-political reality. What is of major importance in Grand Theft Auto and with the incident of Ralph Baer’s camera, is the suggestion that a form of democracy of everyone means ochlocrasy as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri put it.

A state where the cannibals (we) are doing whatever we want in a constant desire to kill old ladies in the street and go back to observe their blood on the concrete. This political notion of a flocking herd that is unable to handle any circumstance because is deeply involved in a criminal individuality belongs to a common misconception. It is a misconception that functions as concealment for the hypocritical hesitation of the political systems - that are supposed to have established and represent democracy- to include the citizen within the sphere of interaction.

The real question for a citizen which has been detached from any form of power in our contemporary society is not if s/he is able to get involved in a critical thinking concerning something collective, but if s/he is able to negate the form of thinking that relates him/her to be a product of power.

By the way, that was the case thirty years ago. Today the individual engages him/herself in the reproduction of the self as a product power. Unfortunately we face the situation of a voluntary production of the subject as a power object. We haven’t got to do with just a criminal and unimaginative flocking herd but with citizens that they aren’t eager to think for themselves as an entity in the polis (city).

As Negri and Hardt state “Representation fills two contradictory functions: it links the multitude to government and at the same time separates it.”
The current state of representational democracy boosts this kind of individuality where individual thinking is related to a process of self-protection in a political reality of precarious life. When the citizen is detached from any form of power by means of representation and looses his/her involvement in the public sphere, means that there is no way to think outside individualism and at the same time there is no place to reveal virtue as democratic corner stone of politics.

This is not of course a contemporary phenomenon.
From the Athenian city where demos (citizens) banished and executed a few of the most important figures, to the French revolution and up to the cleansings during the revolution of October 1917, we experienced the role of the individual who is obliged to get involved as a Homo Ludens that no instructor had ever paid attention to teach him/her the rules of the game while at the same time that he has been permanently excluded from the creation of the rules.

Videogames as metaphors---Democracy to come

If we consider the case of an ''avantgarde'' video game like the EidosInteractive,(2000) Deus Ex, we observe that users faced the option of some multiple choices. The ability to choose some features of your avatar and alternative plots which have three or more possible overlapping storylines, do not really represent a democratic choice but this notion that Derrida defined as “democracy to come” (democratie à venir).

The democracy to come is a state where the notion of democracy approaches utopia, where the common good that it promises could be fulfilled in the future, but it is always unrealised in the present. The process of going towards the realisation of common good is a dynamic process, which contains in its structure amongst other democratic elements, but democracy itself lies far into the timescape always as a ‘democracy to come’.

Democracy is not something static, an object or commodity. Its real opposition lies within the core of democracy from those who claim that they already realise it, as Oliver Marchart clearly indicates. With the same tactics Deus Ex suggests that we could create a space where choice is important, but because technically is impossible, due to the usual problem of technological inability combined with creative stagnation, we stay with a few naïf alternative plots.

These plots don’t negate the fact of a ‘democracy to come’ even if we don’t see the plurality of the production of discourse. But it could easily fall to a state where Deus Ex, in between others, claims that they realise democracy, a fact that is encouraged by the stagnation and repetition of the creative industry. In fact as Buckminster Fuller said “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a NEW model that makes the existing model obsolete”
This tactic clearly indicates a process of becoming, where democratic virtue is the key stone for the creation of the necessary condition which gathers the potentiality of transformation.

Saturday 27 September 2008

Videogames as metaphors---Democracy not yet

               Photo by: Martin Goldberg and/or Electronic Entertainment Museum (E2M)

In the early history of video games Ralph Baer inventor of the Magnavox Odyssey in collaboration with Midway during 1980 decided to test a prototype video game that had a camera which could get a picture of the player and display it in his/her avatar and at the high scores. They decided to test it in Chicago. Everything seemed excellent the first day but the second day one of the users decided to get a picture of his testicles. The project was abandoned.

This is the case of the democracy “not yet”. The colonisers in India had exactly the same political understanding of a democracy “not yet” for a state of –mostly- ‘illiterate’ people. This understanding of a linear historical time of the “not yet”, is quite different from the notion of “to come” in democracy. While ‘democracy to come’ is the notion of the becoming in a constant process of examination against doctrine and rigidity, the “not yet” is the tactics of the oppressors who deny the freedom to the oppressed.

By no means would someone like to draw a parallel between exercised politics in India with Midway’s action and demonise their decision to abandon the project. This scheme belongs to a much bigger frame where the risky steps in the videogame industry, could only be realised in a kind of scene like independent, alternative cinema.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Videogames as metaphors---Military-Entertainment Complex

In a very brief look of the war games production of the last fifteen years, we can see that up to the end of the 90’s, videogames had a bipolar conception of the war and the geopolitical relationships, like the US against Russia or China or Iran. (Balance of Power, Red Alert etc). Since 11/9 we may see a third camp showing of and gradually transforming the gameplay concepts. That is not other, than the ‘’Islamic terrorism’’ threat that becomes the cause for the corporations to give back respectability to the old enemies at the scenarios of their games.

In an article written by Toni Fortin at the Monde diplomatique of July 2007 there are some very interesting points of view regarding this swift of tactic of the video game corporations. As an example he uses the case of the video game Command and Conquer (Electronic Arts 2003) where US and China become friends and fight together against a group of terrorists that is part or close to Al Qaida and of course behaves in a barbarian way. Or in another example, in the Act of War, direct action (Atari, 2005) the camp of the evil is made by Islamic terrorists that after an assault hold some oil resources and they oppose to the US plans. Here at this game there is a surprise at the scenario. United States are supported by a paramilitary police like group, the Task Force Talon composed by different kind of ‘’pieces’’ that is just made to act in occult operations. At the game scenario they are portrayed as ‘’old obstacles’’ regarding the establishment of international right and peace, but from now on they are part of the camp of good.

Furthermore, at the section of the more ‘’progressive’’ video games the third camp becomes the inside enemy. Usually these are mutated creatures or machines products of degenerate military-complexes. The target of such scenarios is to create Orwellian like situations that are on one hand in accordance with the actual technological evolutions, but on the other they can attack the player at any time creating this way a constant threat of chaos.

These games are characterised by a dynamic game play where the events of the action, are not totally predicted by the developers in order to introduce that way a kind of omnipresent risk to the player. The game world becomes this way a system rather than an interactive narrative. From now on the player does not belong simply to the camp of the good guys, but he is an element between obscure forces animated by different interests. This conception of the game play renders the idea of a world that after the fall of Soviet Union became unstable and lucks of any kind of meaning. In other words, these videogames represent the current so called post political situation, where there are no other options than liberalism or chaos. We shouldn’t get surprised by the fact that more and more the production of games are constructed based on the doctrine of Bush’s administration regarding the preventive and antiterrorist wars. The pressing and the bets in these games are so important that lead to suspension of the ordinary moral conventions.

Practically speaking the imperative of ‘’saving the democracy’’ can justify its negation, the violation of the rights and the human dignity. The heroes may assassinate in cold blood and in impunity the alien agents. Exactly the same way, as the advertisement of Splinter Cell (Ubisoft, 2003) says: It’s only me that dispose the fifth liberty, the right to espionage, to steal, to destroy and assassinate so to guaranty that the American liberties will be protected. If i get caught my government will pretend that ignore my existence.

I should notice that the player of actual videogames is not only a beholder of the enemy regimes. He becomes the full actor of their back fall and he restores the hegemony of the liberal values in the utopia worlds. As Tony Fortin concludes at his article: The video games try hard to re- enchant an ideology that contributed so much at the de- enchantment of the world.

Wednesday 24 September 2008


By Molleindustria + EXGAE + CONSERVAS

The Free Culture Game is a game about the struggle between free culture and copyright. Create and defend the common knowledge from the vectorial class. Liberate the passive consumers from the domain of the market. A PLAYABLE THEORY GAME.

Anonymous Activision Pirate Admits Guilt, Condemns ‘Scare Tactics’

The governments of the United States, Canada, European Union, Japan and other countries are negotiating an anti-piracy agreement that could have a massive impact on digital media consumers.

And they're doing it in secret.

Last time on “I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead Downloading This,” GameCyte posited that there were far better ways to spend $100,000 than on pirating Call of Duty 3. But speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the defendants in Activision’s new RIAA-style lawsuits has informed GameCyte that though he himself was guilty of copyright infringement, neither the sub-par CoD3 — nor the reported $100,000 — were involved.

Asked the extent of his guilt, our source was unwilling to provide concrete details. “There was some [wrongdoing],” he admitted. But over the course of a brief telephone conversation, he remained adamant that the punishment did not suit the crime. Audibly shaken, our contact explained how he was scared into a costly settlement by attorneys who determined how much to sue based not on the actual material infringed, but on his purchase history, the equity on his home, and the number of cars in his driveway.

If he were to get an attorney, he was informed, he would have to pay even more.

When asked why he chose the sub-par Call of Duty 3 in particular to infringe, our contact told us that the title was not involved, and was something Activision had scrounged up all on their own. “They told us they had strong evidence,” he said, “but they never showed it or proved they had it.”

Though the defendant believes that Activision shouldn’t be ruining lives over a matter of copied merchandise, he told us that his in particular was “not totally” ruined, in part because the $100,000 figures touted in the lawsuit were inflated for shock value. Though he said the monetary loss was still substantial, he told GameCyte that having his name “slandered all over the internet” also plays a large part in his current predicament.

Asked why Activision might be keeping these lawsuits in the dark, he theorized that if word of these scare tactics became public, people might stop buying Activision games.

In 2004, the RIAA was taken to court for pressuring filesharing individuals into costly settlements, and although the case was dismissed in 2005, the ill will the organization has generated lasts to this day.

In a report commemorating the five-year anniversary of RIAA litigation, claims the only RIAA lawsuit to ever go to trial is now on the verge of being overturned.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Web 2.0 Wants You

The virtual environments, the social networks and the multiple ways of connecting through the world wide web, form today a special territory of controversies and claims within which the new online forms of subjectivities are created. Time, energy and the capacities of the users – producers, are the main elements that are being used for the production of cultural, political and educational features of the “user – generated- content” based social media of the web 2.0. But, how conscious are the users of these networks for the content they form, or else, do they really want to become conscious?

As Paolo Virno claims, the multitude – like the proletariat beforehand – is not a souvenir photo but a continuous struggle for constitution. It encompasses at the same time, loss and salvation, assent and collision, subservience and freedom. Its main element, its distinctive feature, common feeling in other words of the multitude, is the feeling of “not feeling at home”. And those, who do not feel at home to orientate themselves and find shelter, they have to seek, to find or invent and to use some new common places. These common places cannot be natural locations anymore; there is no inside and outside anymore; in the process of capitalization geography more and more collapses. Consequently, the new common places can only constitute new categories of a linguistic production of symbols and notions that are constantly being created and through which the management of things and facts are being perceived as the world itself.

The common places are many and are under continuous transformation. They could be seen as linguistic systems of communication, varying from the simplest ones as those that are formed by phone networks, TV networks, to the most complex social network systems and the 3D online virtual worlds of the web2.0

But what are in reality those common places being formed and forming the web2.0? What are the features of the relationships between the users or between the owners and the users of the network places that are being created by the users? At the very end, which of the features that Virno refers do they promote? Subservience or freedom? Assent or collision? And why?

Juan Martin Prada believes that it looks merely impossible to doubt that in a network society, the possibility of an effective political resistance can only be reached by the appropriation and recognition of the freedom capacity only some of biopolitical principles have, those of affection, collaboration and friendship. The new resistance wishes to save them from the appropriation of the corporations. And, it needs to be made clear through this resistance, that these principles encompass the power to form new groupings, new communities that could respectively create an active well built frame of the principle of the common. Maybe the artistic production – we shall remember that the aesthetic experience is purely emotional – is one of the best means to attempt this rescue.

Mediators: Daphne Dragona, Ilias Marmaras

Personal Cinema & the Erasers (GR)

Folded- in


Nils Andres - Brand Science Institute, CEO (DE)



Wayne Clements (UK)



Second Front (Second Life)

Grand Theft Avatar



The EKMRZ-trilogy


1. GWEI - Google Will Eat Itself


Paolo Cirio (IT),

Alessandro Ludovico (IT)

2. Amazon Noir - The Big Book Crime


Paolo Cirio (IT),

Alessandro Ludovico (IT)

3. The Sound of eBay



Web 2.0 Wants U @

12 – 20 September 2008

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Berlin Wall Map Offered for Garry's Mod (Half-Life 2)

The real Berlin Wall came down in 1989, but Half-Life 2 owners can check out a virtual recreation thanks to an awesome-looking Berlin Wall map which has been posted on the Garry's Mod site.

An explanation accompanies the download:

The anticipated BerlinWall map has been released. The map offers singleplayer experience from the view of an East German citizen, dreaming of living in the West Germany. The gameplay in the map is non-linear, you can take many paths to west. Also, avoid making mistakes, they can be deadly, and remember to check everywhere for some sort of weapons.

The map works the best in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, but like common Source-based maps, it also works in Garry's Mod. Not offering the best gameplay experience in it, but works great for posing and comics.

Thai Government Turns Against Video Games

Video game repression has surged in Thailand following last month's killing of a taxi driver by a 19-year-old man who told police he was re-enacting Grand Theft Auto.

Jesada Chandraprasert (PHOTO), who pens Cnet's Technology Thailand blog, reports this morning that five games have been officially banned by the Ministry of Culture:

  • Hitman
  • 300
  • Killer Seven
  • Hitman: Blood Money
  • Fifty Cent: Bullet Proof

In a story broken by GamePolitics, Thailand stole its list of "dangerous" games from an outdated list offered by Detroit prosecutor Kym Worthy during the 2007 holiday season. The five banned games constitute half of the list.

Chandraprasert writes:

To say that Thailand's ministries are conservative is like saying the Pacific Ocean is a puddle. In their efforts to maintain a level of control and conformity... they issue laws and regulations faster than a geek can whip out his credit card at a Pantip going-out-of-business sale. Such is the case with video games and Internet cafes...

Their official press release at the Government's Web site clearly states that they see gaming as "a problem which is obsessive and has an (adverse) effect on the behavior of children and teens...".

Chandraprasert also reports on a recent government and law enforcement conference which was held to discuss the video game issue - with ominous overtones:

The conference, held at the Queen Sirikit Convention Center on August 21, had an audience of over 1,500 people, mostly public officials and the police. The main focus of this conference was to find solutions to unregistered gaming stores (basically an Internet cafe like a setup where people can go in and game all day long on computers, not the traditional arcade) and "dangerous games". Their aim is to eliminate the "dangers" associated with said problem within 90 days of the conference.