Just got sent a link to a new book called GAM3R 7H30RY by Mackenzie Wark, the author of the "Hacker Manifesto." The book is exciting for a number of reasons. First, it’s a fanciful and erudite set of musings on two basic questions about computer and online gaming:
- can we explore games as allegories for the world we live in?
- can there be a critical theory of games?
Wark is an entertaining and intelligent writer, comparing Sims II to the colonization of the Congo, discussing the paradigm of the trigger and the game REZ, and considering Karl Marx and SimEarth. This is the kind of prose Wark spins:
Game time may be either geological, biological or sociological, but it
is no longer historical. History is history. Or rather, a certain
conception and a certain practice is history. History can no longer be
a storyline about free agency constructing its own conditions of
existence. Fredric Jameson: “History is what hurts, it is what refuses
desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective
praxis…”. In gamespace, history is where random variation meets
necessary selection. The game is what grinds. It shapes its gamers, not
in its own image, but according to its algorithms. The passage from
topography to topology is the passage from storyline to gamespace, from
analog control of the digital to digital control of the analog, from
the diachronic sequence of events to the synchronic
inter-communications of space. Perhaps history reappears, but at a more
synthetic, even photosynthetic level. Perhaps there is never any
history without the installation of a game. Events have to mesh in
causal chains, bouncing off given limits, to be something more than the
subject of mere chronicles.
I don’t pretend to understand a tenth of what he is writing about, but it gets me very excited.
And apparently I’m not the only one. Because Wark has written GAM3R 7H30RY as a "networked book" with the help of the Institute for the Future of the Book . What this means is that the entire project is a collaboration between the author and a community of engaged readers.
In other projects similar to this one, this has usually meant that a writer loaded up their first draft as a PDF onto the web, then added a phpbb discussion board and asked people to comment. Few people do, and the author gets to talk about how they are part of "Web 2.0".
Not here. Wark’s "1.1" draft is provided in manageable chunks of text like stacks of colorful note cards. In the right side bar you can read what other people have said and easily add your own comments. The level of care and critical thinking in people’s responses really impressed me. Meanwhile there is a more freeform discussion forum that uses a spatial means of representing what people are talking about, rather than just the traditional table format of most discussion forums.
I don’t have any strong opinions on this as a model for intellectual inquiry. Whether or not this is the "future of the book" it is certainly very engaging to read. Will I purchase the dead trees version of this work once it is complete? Quite possibly.