Control Society and Games
The agency of interactivity, called as player, are indispensable part of the video games. Games are meant to play and unlike any other medium, games can tell their stories via physical interactivity based on non-linear actions of player. In some ways, it is possible to interpret games as mirrors. All the actions of player are reflected on the virtual environment inside the frame of screen. Inevitably, the way player interacts with virtual world is interpreted through the semiotic structure of game. The control of player over screen is therefore represented by allegories. Although this is what Deleuze might have analyzed under his concept ‘action-image’, we will examine another theory of him, Socities of Control in relation to games. In this blog post, we wanted to show another aspect of video games in the age of computation and how they serve within a sociological point-of-view.
In Postscript on the Societies of Control, Deleuze talks about three different types of society. Inspired by Foucault, he explains what a society of sovereignty, a disciplinary society and a control society are. Very briefly, a society of sovereignty is what he calls the political structure for medieval ages and on the other hand, disciplinary society is the period where radical politic changes occur after industrial revolution and gives Napoléon and Nazi periods as examples. Our primary concern is, however, societies of control and Deleuze declares that nowadays a system is being established where everything is manipulated for keeping the society under control. He then states highways as an instance. Think about them for a moment. Back then, it was possible for drivers to create their own route, but now, even though highways seem to make the road experience more comfortable, they are also limiting the path alternatives. Deleuze says this might not have been thought directly, but reflects the result they want to establish.
In essence, the development of games theory, system theory and all similar mathematical theories in the mid-20 century aimed to reduce human equation into statistical data and geometrical models and created a metaphorical ‘cage’ for the society. Now in the post-industrial era, the corporation has replaced factory in which every individual is considered as employees or units rather than factory workers. Deleuze expands his concept:“If the most idiotic television game shows are so successful, it’s because they express the corporate situation with great precision.” Just as there is a competitive challenge between corporations, there is also a motivation that enforces individuals to oppose each other and compete against, dividing them as a result.
In the age of computation, human became nothing more than pure data and fleshless code. It is now possible to track your every movement on the net (unless you use Ghostery plug-in) and corporations like Google and Twitter are storing them to create profiles of human entities, then transform these statistics into meta products and sell them to third party companies with high amount of money in return. Every data you produce is used against you, not only to track but also to modify your thoughts and make you become an integrated part of system.
Alexander Galloway draws a similar picture and says that in ideological/traditional allegory, emblematic medium was cinema and the political expression was class struggle. Now in control allegory, the emblematic medium becomes video games and at present, political expression is information control. Likewise, he said “While it may appear liberating or utopian, don’t be fooled; flexibility is one of the founding principles of global informatic control. It is to the control society what discipline was to a previous one. Just as medieval scholars used the existence of contradiction in a text as an indication of existence of allegory, so Civilization game has within its many contradictions that suggest such an allegorical interpretation.” That’s why he called Civilization game as an ‘allegorithm’. Flexibility and allegory, supported by vicarious kinaesthesia, create a representational independence in games. Many games take the ‘critical approach’ away. And as Mathieu Triclot said “Video games are small dust of dream by which the big sleep of capitalism is shaken, things that are dreams connected to the numerical machines.”
Only a few games like Metal Gear Solid 2 takes a one step further and tells you to “Turn Off the Game Console Right Now! ”
1) Deleuze, Gilles. Postscript on the Societies of Control (1992)
2) Galloway, Alexander. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (2006)
3) Triclot, Mathieu. La Philosophie des Jeux Vidéo (2011)
4) Deleuze, Guattari: Societies of Control and Antipsychiatry (URL) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=720Kx3NdDig