April 1st, 2008 Ryan G.
When originally reading Galloway’s analysis of allegories in videogames, I was under the supposition that he was attempting to create a new and more functional vocabulary for their analysis. However, I quickly realized that this was not the point of his discussion. Rather, Galloway was examining the very essence of videogames – that they are designed as action and require action – and that they are, as a result, their own discourse on the modernization of society. As Galloway states on page 34, “…they are indicative of two very different political and social realities: computerized versus non-computerized”.
Quite rapidly, Galloway adopts the terminology of Deleuze in the context of “control societies” (34). It is in these societies that although the citizens are in no way physically or informatically confined, they are utterly controlled. As Deleuze put it, “In making freeways, for example, you don’t enclose people but instead multiply the means of control” (34). Despite having found this to be a rather cynical approach to the nature of government, the more I analyzed the more true I found it to be. That is to say, the more control you want to have over a people, the more you will give them the illusion of freedom and maneuverability; in essence, you make it look as though you aren’t controlling them at all. Deleuze goes on to say, “I am not saying that this is the freeway’s exclusive purpose, but that people can drive infinitely and ‘freely’ without being at all confined yet while still being perfectly controlled. This is our future” (34). So although control might not be the ultimate goal of a new media or a new cultural outlet, it is innate to their creation.
Furthermore, Galloway later says that this new kind of control society is exemplified, even exacerbated, by computers and the new kinds of contextual spaces that they allow (34). If film made innocuous comments about political systems by excluding it altogether, then videogames place it at their forefront precisely because they are action and information-control combined. Galloway examines this concept on page 35 when he says, “…despite its unsexy screen presence, informatic control is precisely the most important thing to show on the screen, if one wishes to allegorize political power today”. It is therefore inherent within a game that to play the game is to control its information and to manipulate it in such a way as to control the system. This is what I feel Galloway was trying to convey when he said, “…to interpret a game means to interpret its algorithm – to discover its parallel ‘allegorithm’” (35).
It is because videogames are about the control of information that I can see their direct parallel of modern society’s frantic race to gain as much information as possible as quickly as possible. In the political realm as well as in the realm of videogames, to control the most information is to have the most power. Galloway understood this, too, when he said, “[Videogames] solve the problem of political control, not by sublimating it as does the cinema, but by making it coterminous with the entire game” (35). There is a distinct lack of double-speak in the realm of videogames because it is impossible to hide the requirement of information to perform any action in a videogame. The player must understand the interface, the rules and the consequences of actions within those rules if they are to be successful. Consequently, the player must then understand and control the information that they possess. Galloway again makes a nice summation of this point when he said, “…films about the absence of control have been replaced by games that fetishize control” (36).
Galloway also nicely listed what he calls the “core principles of informatic control”: flexibility and universal standardization (38). A system must be consistently adaptable to any number of incoming variations and updates with the ability to correctly interpret and assign information to those who control it. A result of this total flexibility is the complete assimilation of all other media and formats within the system, yielding a complete universal standardization of information outlet. So although we may feel that an information highway is ultimately freeing, we might not immediately realize that it is necessarily subsuming all other forms of information. As Galloway goes on to state on page 39, “Games are allegories for our contemporary life under the protocological network of continuous informatic control”. It is therefore inherent that despite having cast off old ideological and societal decoys, we have immediately replaced them with a new one. Galloway leaves us with some disturbing implications with his last remark, “A game’s celebration of ideological manipulation is also a new manipulation, only this time using wholly different diagrams of command and control” (40).
Entry Filed under: Notes