Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm really into Galloway's interpretation of modes of gaming as allegories of “informatic control,” and the ideologies inscribed within the algorithms behind games like Sid Meiers' Civilization and similar micromanaging presentations of societal struggle. But despite all of this, I think edonahue brings up an incredibly good point that Galloway largely overlooks : the intentions of the human participant within the gaming environment don't always match up with the victory conditions inscribed within the algorithms.

In the specific case of Civilization, there's quite a lot to be said for the ideological use of racial “typing,” as well as the assumed methods of victory (be it cultural, commercial, or militaristic) within the framework of the game. But as a player, I myself was always far more fascinated by the ways in which Civilization interrogates understandings of historical narrative. Regardless of whether or not my playing was successful with reference to the algorithm's understandings of “expansion” or “cultural assimilation,” I was hooked by the possibility of repositioning the Mayan empire in a modern diplomatic context, or of projecting the Iroquois as the militaristic and economic superpower within the North America of the twentieth century. The attribute qualities Galloway alludes to (as in the chart on 99) never had any impact on my choice of civilization, nor on my style of play ; and though these attributes may have somehow effected the gameplay on some level, I was neither aware of nor concerned with it.

Over the many hours that I spent playing Meier's game, I can't recall having ever actually finished in the traditional sense. I never won, was never victorious with regards to the game's cultural or military conditions. I'd always get bored and say “ok, a Persian rule of modern middle-europe has been cool to explore, but what if I were to reimagine a Mayan conquest of the area instead? And what if that conquest succeeded because of commercial instead of combative domination? What if the seeds of a cross-atlantic trade network had been planted in the first millennium!?”

In other words, though a certain mastery of the algorithm may be necessary to achieve victory as defined by the game, I didn't really care about that kind of victory. Though a game's informatic structures may provide certain “goals,” the ultimate motivating “victory” can still be subjective for the user in many cases. And even if the game inscribes a certain understanding of informatic control in the way it's played, Civilization (as an example) still importantly invites a very interesting reimagination of cultural domination and historicity on the part of the user (without the need for a Zinn-like ideological reinterpretation from within the gaming system) which can have profound effects on understandings of geographically specific nationhoods, the constructions implicit within orientalist modes of thought, etc.


Having said that, here's an unrelated but totally interesting link, if anyone wants a fun read:
"Humans Not Evolved for IT Security"

Also, !!!

1 comment:

Braxton said...

um, thank you for the godtube link. I think I've already been transubstantiated for ever (and ever amen).