[-empyre-] Sensory Materialism

Christian McCrea christian at wolvesevolve.com
Sun Mar 2 13:45:39 EST 2008

Sensory Materialism
Introduction from Christian McCrea

All that exists in my world is drawn by a rendering engine; my
viewpoint is referred to as a 'camera' but really it spews out
triangles of light rather than sucks them in. The cliff wall I face
only exists on this side; it is hollow. The building, the gun, the
car, the body, the flower, the world, the stars - they are hollow.
Even if they aren't and I can use them, they are hollow one level
below that. The wall of triangles does not possess a structure and
depth; even the skeletons inside people exist on a different plane. If
I can harm or hurt myself or other people, blood and bones are hollow

In Julian Oliver's "Buffering Bergson: Matter and Memory in 3D Games",
the most important elements of this technicity are laid out; that in
3D games, 'the technology must adapt to support a world that is
produced through and for the subject'. Quite literally, the 'unseen
faces are not drawn'. This has always struck me as somewhat Platonic;
weight considered as a property of surface, rather like a texture of
smoothness or roughness.

What strikes me about this is the poetic encapsulation of all my
gaming experiences; that my senses have always made the world. In
2002, I found this rather remarkable image on a now-defunct website of
photos from an abandoned theme park (an image doubly abandoned):


This is the control board for an American edition of Super Street
Fighter II Turbo; a game whose history is wrapped up in layers of
superlatives and numeratives; a central mechanic of duelling animation
cycles finely tuned to be at odds with each other. The romance of the
game's history is invisible unless your senses are already projecting
light and nostalgia onto the image. The first element of the image
that drew my eye was not the almost reverential framing of the image,
or the way the dying sunlight makes sundials of the joysticks. Rather
it was the dead spring I know exists underneath the second (right
side) player's medium kick (bottom row middle) button. I know this
because the springs on all the rest are intact; and the depression of
the medium kick button is common on American versions of Super Street
Fighter II Turbo. This is because American players like to play the
American characters, Ken and Guile, both of whom concentrate much of
their gameplay on that button.

The image is a map of uses. The scratches, stains and broken parts
reflect the ghosts of gaming labours accumulating and gathering
underneath the surface of every apparatus. These ghosts can haunt an
apparatus so much that they make an apparition recognisable to all; in
art referencing a particular moment of a shared nostalgia, or in a
glitch-exploit video uploaded to Youtube. The world is made by the
taking-ins and pushing-outs of the senses - our sight takes in and
creates the world, our hearing listens for location but quickly adapts
to calculate similarities, our touch creates actions but in turn
remakes our hands and gestures.

In these relationships, always variating in circuits, the one thing
which I don't focus on is newness. I don't know if this process is
new, or particularly able to distinguish me from other subjects. I
know it has its own politics and aesthetics, its own capitalisms.

"As the gamer becomes attuned to the game, they become one event, one
action; an oscillating between the line dividing self from other, and
the line connecting them as one substance. If the line dividing
provides a moment of autonomous self; the line connecting provides a
moment of selfless purpose. In games, action has its limits. It is an
endless bit-flip between targeter, targeting and target. And yet at
least it effects a transformation of gamer and game. Games are a
repository for a certain atopian labor, which has the power to
confront the necessity of its own choosing. Games do not offer a
contemplative response to boredom. If anything, topology makes labor
all too contemplative."
- McKenzie Wark, 'Boredom or State of Emergency', Gamer Theory,
Harvard University Press, pp. 162

I'd like to welcome everybody and thank you for participation in this
month's theme! Please contact Melinda Rackham or myself with any

-Christian McCrea

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