I have a lot to say about each section and I don’t really know where to start, so I am going to go through two sections as I think of things to say.
America in Civilization III: A lot of interesting stuff here, and this section brings me back to my days as an avid Civ III player. I remembered a lot of the game play elements that Wark mentioned in her article, especially the obsessive focus on segmentation by measuring time in “discrete and concrete units” and turning the process of history, an analog procession if there ever was one, into a digital process full of individual “turns” and “units.” His description of the world as a “network of lines” that ultimately lead individuals to games in all aspects of their lives seems an accurate yet overly pessimistic appraisal of our current life. It is true that virtual objects constantly provide individuals with a display containing statistics about every aspect of the life, and individuals try to maximize their “score” in these metrics in every realm from calory counting to productivity management. However, I feel that these components of human life are not the completely new innovations that Wark implies, since corporate “rat races” and other “gamic” activities have been a characteristic of American society for at least one hundred years. The numerical and digital aspects of these gamic actions have been emphasized over time, but I think that the disappearence of the non-gamic has been occurring for a longer period of time than Wark admits.
The game also speaks to the ability for individuals to accept algorithms — with their quirky characteristics and their arbitrarily chosen parameters — as a way of examining governance. We are willing to accept the transformation of all elements of our human society into numerical and quantifiable data points, and we take on the role of game designer (with some game elements hidden from our view) with aplomb while playing these political simulation games. Most disturbingly, individuals do not seem to question the hegemonic expansion of “America” to encompass all aspects of the game world within Civilization, with all countries (regardless of their nationality or their actual history) looking to expand forcefully and seek power, not your people’s best livelihood.
Vice City: One of the things that I loved about this piece is that it addresses the irony that gamic systems seemingly provide us with violent means of relating to the gamic world while simultaniously sugar-coating our experience of the gamic world. Despite the fact that Vice City primarily consists of wastelands filled with “drugs, guns, cars and personal services,” it sitll remains a “nice place” for avatars to explore. Wark’s point that “no place is separate” fits well with Vice City’s mixture of the mundane with the morbid, combining scenes of brutality and death with prosaic scenes of driving and running. Even Vice City, it seems, in all of its lurid glory, cannot escape from the “boredom” and repetition that characterizes so much of the gamespace that Wark describes. His argument about dystopias was quite interesting as well, as the author contrasts the “line” of most literary fiction (and its focus on a singular theme) with nascient media forms that allowing process-based technology to replace text. He then argues that this conflict between process-based technology and literary fiction is at the center of the anguish seen in most dystopian novels, which was quite a new perspective on the issue for me. Finally, I think that one of the most devastating points that Wark makes against the gamespace is that it has so perverted our conception of fairness and meaning that the very act of winning the game — of even participating in the world of “agon of all against all” — is seen as an ecstatic feeling, providing individuals with the “chance and competition, intoxication and spectacle” needed to replace internal emptiness. It terrifies me that individuals are now demanding a Hobbsian game construct as a way to get rid of the boredom that we accumulate through the repition of countless tasks. My only hope is that this frustration doesn’t’ spill out in pblic protest, which is the reason that Wark posits that the “military entertainment” construct keeps churning out new games. Otherwise, Wark argues, individuals would rebel against the boredom that cucrently restains them.