Hyper War art
An interview with MacKenzie Wark by Ilias Marmaras.
Published in Greek at the Konteiner magazine.
---In your book The Gamer Theory you describe the Gamespace as the where and the how we live today? You use the Platonic allegory of the cave to describe not only the digital gamespaces of the videogames but also the space outside the cave , the so called ''real world''? Do you think that the Gamespace and the cave is at the end of the story, one and the same thing nowadays?
> Its not often noticed that what people are doing in Plato's Cave is competing in a game. If you can guess which shadow will pass next across the wall, you win. That struck me as a good contemporary allegory, at least for the experience of living in the United States. We're all playing games with shadows. All pursuits have become game-like, where all that matters is scoring points. Clearly that's what political life has come to, but also professional life for a lot of people. Not least in academia and the art world.
So in short, all our practices become game-like, and it seems like we are doing OK because we can measure our progress in these games relative to each other. Hip Hop music expresses this strongly. There was even a rapper called The Game. Even love and sex becomes game like. Two books that came out while I was writing Gamer Theory where 'The Game' and 'The Rules'. The first is about how 'players' can make women have sex with them. The second is about how women can get men to marry them. Its stupid, but that's gamespace. It became ubiquitous.
--- You say that ''the Gamespace proclaims its legitimacy through victory over all rivals''. That leads directly one to say, that today political struggles and demands are turned against the gamespace itself. In last years we faced in different countries and places revolts and violent riots (e.g Paris banlieux, Griots in Greece etc). These revolts they differ from past political acts because they do not have a recognizable political agenda and consequently specific demands. Would you call these riots early signs of a coming consciousness, of a new form of urban wars against gamespace?
> Yes, that's what's interesting. Could it be the return of forms of play as a politics outside of the capture of play by various games, by gamespace? Not to make demands is key. Once you make demands then the game begins again. Could the space of the city once again be an open space for play of a certain kind? One that makes up its own rules as it goes along, in which the rules are emergent out of play itself? It is perhaps not so new, however. This is the kind of constitutive play that Johan Huizinga talks about in Homo Ludens, and which was given a radical twist by the Provos of Amsterdam in the early 60s, and which continues up through various movements and practices and has remerged in the present time.
--- Although US citizens share the same social , financial, and political problems with Europeans, we haven't see yet violent reactions or massive protests against the state or the financial oligarchies. Why is that ? Would that be a sign that there are still different forms of gamespaces in the globe and not a unified form of it?
> I wrote Gamer Theory more about American experience, where gamespace really does appear to have incorporated so much of play and desire into itself, into closed worlds which define experience in terms of winning and losing, and in which one's desires are only met through victory in the game and only rewarded with mere tokens and trophies, commodified baubles that would be of no value outside of the competitive quest to attain them.
But elsewhere in the world you still find residual histories of other kinds of life that can be brought back to life and on which people elaborate and invent again. Gamespace has not become quite so total as Gamer Theory presents it. Its a book about a tendency in the world. Its about what happens when peoples lose their way. In the US all sorts of energies -- boredom, disgust, contempt -- have been captured by a corporate-sponsored populism of an almost proto-fascist explicitly racist, and here its different and in some ways even more dangerous than the right wing populisms of Europe. It is perhaps a more advanced form of reaction.
--- Further, would you consider the war against gamespace as ''a destructive creativity"?
> Its a question of whether its just about the loss of pensions and benefits, a reaction to the withdrawal of the state from biopolitics. Or whether its also about the creation of new forms of collective play. But this plays out differently depending on whether the social democratic welfare state ever got itself implanted in the social fabric in the first place. The 'northern' pattern is that it did, and now the end of the state's investment in the life of its populations is both a real threat, and one those populations cannot really counter as they lost their bases in everyday life outside of it. The 'southern' pattern is different. There populations only partly gave themselves over to the social state in the first place. People want their pensions and benefits but find all sorts of ways not to pay taxes, or to maintain the family as a base outside of the state, and so forth. So it plays out differently.
--- In which extent, terms, strategies, tactics and experiences gained into the online virtual worlds and games could be applied to analyze , better understand and finally, could be used as forms of struggle in the physical urban environments against power structures?
> One would not want to make a fetish of the mediated experience, but it turns out one of its uses is that the weak ties and rapid turn over of social media time can be quite usefully imported back into the space of the city. Mobile communication has its down side, as an enclosed space for commodified communication, but it also has a certain indeterminacy. It makes possible more than it intends. What in A Hacker Manifesto I called the vectoral class wants to profit from our desire to communicate with each other, to play with language, to connect and break up. And of course they keep a lot of data about all those patterns. But there's also space to learn and develop new practices of play within all sorts of spaces, far beyond what the designers of such systems intended.
--- How a player or a gamer should trifle with the games so to understand the nature of gamespace/s as the world/s? In other words how one should play to learn what is the gamespace? Is this play learning something that is limited only in virtuality (virtual worlds and games) or can be extended in the urban spaces' experience of fights as well?
> There's a lot of rhetoric about 'breaking' games and so forth, which can lapse back into romanticism, or worn out avant garde cliches about 'subverting' this or that. In Gamer Theory I thought it better to embrace the game, to trifle with it from within, to understand its purity and algorithmic order, but to renounce its goals, to not be seduced by its sham prizes.
On the other hand, in A Hacker Manifesto I was writing about a more open ended kind of creation and play, yes possibly sometimes 'destructive creation'. But there too, it was about affirming the power of this kind of play, rather than getting locked into a relation of being always 'against' something. Both books want to refuse the reactive posture, of defining oneself and one's practice against something else.