Insomnia | Commentary

Hardware Porn: Prologue

By Alex Kierkegaard / May 15, 2010

Fetishism
A form of sexual desire in which gratification is linked to an abnormal degree to a particular object, item of clothing, part of the body, etc., e.g.: Victorian men developed fetishes focusing on feet, shoes, and boots.


Fetishism, in all its forms, is a phenomenon consequent on extreme passion. The extraordinary amount of desire directed at the object fails to be fully satisfied by it and as it were "spills over" either to neighboring parts of it -- for example, a woman's ass, breasts or feet in the case of male sexual passion -- or to other closely related objects. These objects or parts of objects are always by definition of secondary importance. To take the example again of a woman, the part of her that's of primary importance is that which attracts man's desire in the first place: the vagina, which is why it wouldn't make any sense for us to speak of a "vagina fetish" (let alone of a "woman fetish"). It is passion towards this object which, when it exceeds a certain measure (or when, as in the case of the Victorians, finds itself uncommonly hindered in its attempts at fulfillment, and thus becomes intensified), spills over to nearby objects, whether still belonging to the woman, such as specific parts of her anatomy, or closely related to her, such as articles of her clothing.
   And that, my friends, in a nutshell, is more or less how people like us have come to develop a hardware fetish. Of course videogame hardware in itself, as I've already explained, is certainly not of secondary importance -- far from it: the "nuts and bolts" are indeed just as important as the "ones and zeros", if not in fact even more so -- since you could have an all-hardware videogame, where the code would be made up of discrete or integrated electronic components (and indeed the oldest electronic games were of this kind), but not an all-software one (and by the way, a person's stance on this point, i.e. on the relative importance of hardware versus software, provides yet another means of determining the degree of genuineness of his passion for gaming -- the pseudo-intellectuals and the artfags, for example, care as much about hardware as I do about gay rights). Yet being demanding when it comes to, say, PC specs or controllers or monitors is quite another thing from asking that hardware makers produce many slightly different versions of the same console for the sake of variety, as Lawrence Wright (aka "NFG", one of the world's foremost videogame hardware experts -- see NFG World, GameSX and Atari Labs (R.I.P.)) at one point did in a discussion regarding Sony's PSP Go on the Insert Credit message boards:

"You know, I miss the days where every platform had a dozen different designs. PC Engine / Core / Core2 / GT / LT / CD / SuperCD / Duo / DuoR / DuoRX / Shuttle. Mega Drive / 2 / CD / CD2 / CDX / WonderMega / WM2 / Aiwa / MegaJet / Nomad. Sony releasing variations on a theme is to be encouraged."

   It is this stance that's clearly fetishistic.
   Note that his examples are far from all being valid (a Mega CD, for instance, is not a "variation" of a Mega Drive -- it's something entirely different), and the differences between even some of his valid examples are not all gratuitous, or, worse still, entirely aesthetic, but we get the gist of what he's saying. He basically loves buying tons of differently-shaped, variegated consoles and messing around with them, and let's face it -- who among us doesn't!
   Yet this was far from always being the case, as I am sure Lawrence himself would be the first to testify; fetishes always come with a history. In my own case I can clearly remember a time (say around 1989) when the idea of buying two systems that do pretty much the same job would have seemed to me ludicrous, whereas today I own almost every piece of hardware Lawrence listed (and some of them twice, just in case one of them breaks down), even though much of the time, for convenience's sake, I end up emulating them anyway.
   So again: this behavior is clearly fetishistic. But far from seeing it as something objectionable, something that must be rectified -- as all the smarmy casual idiots scribbling about games nowadays would no doubt view it -- I see it as indicative of the intensity of my passion for the hobby, and of the great length of time this passion has been allowed to develop, "spilling over" and molding itself into several weird little fetishes (out of which, by the way, this site, at least in the form I'd originally been planning it circa 2003, when it was conceived as mostly a personal database for keeping track of my collection, is the most outstanding). Like the definition says: there's always something abnormal about fetishism, but then again great passion has always been abnormal -- it is in fact this abnormality that makes of it something deserving of the epithet "great". All of which is part of the logic of things: as everyone knows, people who don't play videogames simply do not develop fetishes for videogame hardware, and out of those who do play them only those who've been playing them for a very long time are liable to do so. For everyone else a computer or a console are mere gadgets on the level of, say, a microwave oven or a refrigerator, and certainly far from extraordinary objects whose aesthetic qualities deserve to be treasured and relished in their own right. -- And nor are they mistaken! any more than we would be if we laughed at a housewife who obsesses over the aesthetics of her kitchen appliances. The only reason it seems to us that they are (and to the housewife) is because we (and she) are fetishists! So let us realize this fact, accept it and move on!
   What I am trying to say is that there's nothing wrong with fetishes, and the only people who have a problem with them are those who lack the necessary passion to develop them, a fact which clearly accounts for their envy of everyone else who doesn't. -- It is the eternal envy of the underprivileged for the privileged in the realm of passion. So, my fetishistic friends, do not let the detractors get to you -- continue indulging your passions, whatever they may be, no matter how "abnormal" or "perverse", with a clean and easy conscience: you've nothing to be ashamed of except shame itself.
   Except, that is to say, if you yourself come to view one or more of your fetishes as undesirable, for whatever reason. For it is true that fetishes can, under certain conditions, become pathological -- under the condition, that is to say, that the patient himself deems them to be so (deems himself, that is to say, to be a patient). And he will do this only if and when he comes to decide that he derives more displeasure from them in the long run than pleasure (-- all this being a simple application of McCaffery's definition of pain ("Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he says it does") to the phenomenon of fetishism, with undesirable fetishism viewed as a form of pain -- whereas desirable fetishism viewed, of course, as pleasure).
   But even in such cases, the solution, it has always seemed to me, is not to try and abstain from indulging the fetish, but rather the opposite -- to indulge it to the point of satiety, to the point of disgust even, if need be (at which point pleasure naturally enough turns to displeasure, and no effort at all is required to abstain from it...), rather than by largely ineffective attempts at withdrawal. That way, by overindulging it, one really overcomes a fetish, a passion, an obsession; that way, instead of withdrawing from it, one really goes through and moves past it... Whither? Towards a new fetish, of course, a new passion, a new obsession, which, as if by magic, always seems to be waiting at the door...

Nietzsche: "I always believe that here is something that will give me lasting satisfaction and that I am to be envied for having found and recognized it; and now it nourishes me at noon and in the evening and spreads a deep contentment all around itself and deep into me so that I desire nothing else, without having any need for comparisons, contempt, or hatred. But one day its time is up; the good thing parts from me, not as something that has come to nauseate me but peacefully and sated with me as I am with it -- as if we had reason to be grateful to each other as we shook hands to say farewell. Even then something new is waiting at the door, along with my faith -- this indestructible fool and sage! -- that this new discovery will be just right, and that this will be the last time. That is what happens to me with dishes, ideas, human beings, cities, poems, music, doctrines, ways of arranging the day, and life styles."

   Or again:

Nietzsche: "By doing we forego.-- At bottom I abhor all those moralities which say: "Do not do this! Renounce! Overcome yourself!" But I am well disposed toward those moralities which goad me to do something and do it again, from morning till evening, and then to dream of it at night, and to think of nothing except doing this well, as well as I alone can do it. When one lives like that, one thing after another that simply does not belong to such a life drops off. Without hatred or aversion one sees this take its leave today and that tomorrow, like yellow leaves that any slight stirring of the air takes off a tree. He may not even notice that it takes its leave; for his eye is riveted to his goal -- forward, not sideward, backward, downward. What we do should determine what we forego; by doing we forego -- that is how I like it, that is my placitum [principle --Tr]. But I do not wish to strive with open eyes for my impoverishment; I do not like negative virtues -- virtues whose very essence it is to negate and deny oneself something."

   That is how I have my life lived so far, and this is, it has always seemed to me, the best strategy to finding one's way within the, let us call it, labyrinth of desire -- the best way, that is to say, to avoid getting completely and hopelessly lost in it. The moral is: if you cannot see whether a particular route leads to a dead-end (and that is what a genuine fetish is...), then keep going until you can -- at which point the gradually increasing predominance of feelings of displeasure over pleasure will begin to naturally steer you back around towards the correct path. If you step back and turn around before this, you'll never know what would have happened if you'd kept going -- what new sights or experiences you might have come across or what new paths you might have reached. -- Or will you take someone else's word for it?
   And this is what this whole "fetishism" business boils down to in the end: The charge of fetishism (for it is obviously a charge) rests at bottom on a value judgement: he who accuses another of fetishism is passing judgement on the value of what the other desires. This is the reason no one speaks of a "woman fetish" -- for it is widely agreed that women are valuable, worthwhile objects, and there is therefore no stigma associated with desiring them (-- quite the opposite in fact -- and with good reason). So women, money, knowledge, power of any kind, are generally never considered fetishistic objects regardless of how intensely they may be pursued, or however much time and effort one may end up expending in order to acquire them. It is the little things, the unusual things, the strange and exceptional things, those which to the great majority appear either worthless, or superfluous, or even just simply far too dangerous, and generally undesirable -- things which, to put it in a formula, offend the taste of the lowest common denominator, that are generally designated as fetishistic. The fetishistic charge then is, generally speaking, a sort of psychological bullying weapon employed by the coarse and vulgar on the subtle and more refined, those whose passions tend to be for unusual things. I have, for example, often been accused of "arcade fetishism" by imbeciles who are too stupid to realize that my love for these games is more than justified, that there is nothing "abnormal" about it at all -- since these are some of the best action games ever -- while these same people pride themselves on their more "balanced" gaming diet -- of JRPGs, zombie FPS and pseudo-artistic indie trash. This is how the trick works: instead of directly attacking my tastes by demonstrating with arguments the superiority of their tastes -- something which, let's not forget, would require reasoning powers, and hence a brain -- the imbeciles slap the word "fetish" on them and fancy that they've achieved something (see also tricks no. XII and XXXII in Schopenhauer's "The Art of Controversy"). To conclude then, the words "passion", "obsession" and "fetish" designate different shades -- different valeurs, to borrow a term employed by painters -- of the same concept, with "passion" having the most positive connotation, "fetish" the most negative, and "obsession" lying somewhere in-between. But one should never forget that the connotation is always chosen by whoever picks the word, and if that person is an imbecile his choice will be of little value. (And conversely, of course, if he is very intelligent it will be extremely valuable...)
   Videogame-related fetishes, by the way, to return to our main subject, are by no means restricted to hardware -- DonMarco from DPS, for example, collects strategy guides, of all things -- most probably even of games he doesn't even play. Others obsess over promotional shit of all kinds, posters, phone cards, etc., all of which has absolutely no bearing on the game experience whatsoever. Perhaps the most extreme form of videogame fetishism I've encountered is centered around Cave's shooters -- games that have become so highly treasured by fans of the genre that even the fucking cardboard boxes in which the arcade boards are shipped have been elevated to the status of prestige objects, with the rarest among them selling for hundreds of dollars (-- note: the empty boxes). And as goes without saying, there are of course many people who see this as "sick", "sad", "perverted", etc. etc., but all that as usual is envy and lack of passion talking (if not good old-fashioned lack of money...) -- the correct, intelligent and healthy way to see it is as cute. Whoever sees anything wrong with it is either too poor or too ignorant of the quality of these games (all of which are some of the best videogames ever made, period -- note also that all arcade games are sold in cardboard boxes, but only Cave's command outrageous prices, so at least in this case there's a clear link between the quality of the games -- the essential part -- and the degree of fetishism directed towards the various promotional materials associated with it -- the non-essential part), or most usually both.
   In fact we'd be well advised to head in the exact opposite direction than that which everyone else is pointing at, and hurry up and indulge our fetish for little colorful pieces of plastic (or cardboard boxes or whatever) as much as possible while we still can, because this sort of enjoyment is clearly on its way out. After all, as far as the gaming experience is concerned, the aesthetic qualities of consoles, controllers or monitors are irrelevant -- you are not supposed to be looking at these things while playing (any more than you are supposed to be fucking a woman's breasts, feet or panties). You are supposed to be looking at the screen -- which, being a fully transparent surface, lacks any aesthetic qualities -- and could thus never be an object of desire, much less a fetishistic one. Moreover the videogame industry is currently (albeit quite unconsciously, and with frequent retrogressions) caught up in a process whereby the ultimate goal of the design of new hardware is to bring this screen as close as possible to the player's brain (hence the spiraling dimensions of displays of all kinds: as if we were in a hurry to attain a size past which we could jump inside our screens and lose ourselves there), abolishing the distance which has hitherto separated them, and inside which all these wonderfully diverse pieces of hardware that we've been fetishizing over have been flourishing for the past three or four decades. What the screen is doing then, to put it simply, is devouring everything, and will eventually devour even itself -- for the fate of the screen is to disappear.
   But all that is still the subject of a somewhat distant future, and best left for a future essay. In the meantime let us turn our attention back to the hardware, while there still exists hardware to speak of. This new section of Insomnia then, in which every now and then I'll be presenting a number of interesting pictures of people's gaming rigs (either found on the web, or sent in by readers), is certainly to some small extent fetishistic. To the extent, that is to say, that we like looking at these pictures for the purely aesthetic enjoyment we get out of staring at naked gaming hardware. But there's far more to it than that, for otherwise I'd also be posting pictures of people's collections, something in which I have very little interest. The difference between collections and rigs is that the former are just sitting there, usually even boxed (and sometimes even boxed squared, lol, like those of our cardboard-box-collecting friends, who put the boxes in boxes to protect the boxes), and arranged in ways that usually have nothing whatsoever to do with the act of playing games; whereas the latter have always been arranged and hooked up first and foremost with functionality in mind, and are meant to be used; are in fact probably used every day. Collections then are usually mostly about fetishism, whereas live gaming setups barely at all. What attracts me specifically to gaming rigs, then, what I find fascinating about naked hardware, all hooked up and ready to go at the flick of a few switches (and as few as possible...), is the proximity, the immediate availability of access to as many virtual worlds as possible (-- and here's where the non-fetishistic aspect of collections comes into play: for the larger (and the better...) the collection the greater the variety (and the quality) of these worlds; i.e. gaming rigs provide proximity to the virtual, whilst collections constitute its breadth (-- and complexity, as we've already seen, its depth)). In all this, again, there's nothing fetishistic: this feeling of proximity to the virtual in all its wonderful variety is as much part of the allure of videogaming as a woman's beauty is in the sexual act (-- notice also that no one speaks of a "beauty fetish").
   The gaming rig, then, is something worth thinking about. My fascination with them goes a long way back -- perhaps all the way back to the beginning of the 16-bit era, at which point it started becoming apparent that the then-normal policy of owning a single system and continually updating it was no longer going to cut it. Up until then the idea of having a number of systems -- let alone every single one of them -- was generally out of the question (partly because of the lower disposable incomes of the much younger player base, and partly due to the relatively higher hardware prices), and much thought was being expended and many words written, in all seriousness, as to whether a Mega Drive, for example, was overall a better system than an Amiga, or an Amiga, say, than a PC. People were actually debating in lengthy magazine articles the relative merits of the various console and computer formats, as if it were somehow possible to pick out the best platform, and as if anything would be resolved by that choice. It had not yet occurred to anyone that the issue of purely technical superiority was, from a prospective buyer's standpoint, a largely irrelevant one, since any new platform, even the most technically deficient one (witness almost every Nintendo system ever...), was more or less guaranteed to have at least a couple of great games made for it, thereby immediately becoming a must-buy for any genuine game fan. But none of this had yet really sunk in prior to the 16-bit era, so everyone simply upgraded -- as one upgrades, say, a car or a motorcycle -- and no one kept anything old. And as you upgraded systems you also upgraded games, and usually without the faintest hint of remorse for doing so. For who would still care to play Shinobi once The Super Shinobi was out? As long as the trajectory of progress from title to title and from era to era was clear-cut -- and above all regular; as long as the artform was still clearly ascending, and every new milestone stood head and shoulders above previous ones -- no one would. Progress was far too rapid back then, far too exciting and spectacular for anyone to have the inclination (not to mention the time) to -- look back. All of which explains why there were no collectors either -- a sign of health in a hobby, since collectors generally begin arriving when retrogression and decadence have well and truly set in, there being, on the whole, far more enjoyment to be had by looking backwards than forwards.
   But, like I said, things started changing with the arrival of the 16-bit era. It was such an unbeliavably exciting time, a time of explosive enthusiasm and creativity for the hobby across all sectors (primarily of course in the computer and arcade spaces, in terms of quality and complexity, but to a lesser extent even for the home console market) -- the true Golden Age of gaming (and ignore the Pac-Man and Galaga crowd: the old farts have no idea what they are talking about) -- that it quickly became clear, even to the most short-sighted observers, that it was impossible to keep up with only a single system -- one needed more: one needed all of them. Thus began the preoccupation with gaming rigs, an aspect of the hobby which has been steadily growing in importance ever since (though the specialist press, as goes without saying, has yet to so much as acknowledge its existence), and still seems to be a long way from reaching its inevitable end.
   A preoccupation which, as usual, quickly became for me an obssession. Already by the early '90s I was pretty far advanced in this respect, having begun discussing the idea of pooling my small hardware collection with that of a friend's and setting up the ultimate gaming room. Our goal was simply to get as much hardware as possible in a single location. A location which would, at least in its ideal form, be superior even to an arcade, since it would accomodate all kinds of games: not merely the hardcore action (and, let's face it, rather dumb...) stuff that arcades excelled at, but also strategy, tactics, simulator and adventure games, and in general the entire diverse spectrum of videogame genres (at a time when it was still significantly diverse...) Our ideal location, as we envisaged it, would have comprised of two rooms: one for the rig, with enough desk space to allow for all systems to be laid out and hooked up to individual monitors and powered up simultaneously, and another to serve as a library for our combined collection. I think at the time I had an Amiga, a Mega Drive and a Super Famicom, and my friend had an Amiga and a PC -- not a modest start at all for a couple of 12-year-olds, considering the MD and the SFC were $400 imports at the time and hardly anyone had them, while the Amigas and the PC together were worth a couple of thousand dollars. The project, however, ended up floundering because, naturally enough, we could not agree on whose home to place the rig, lol, and no neutral location was available. But I've always retained this desire in the back of my mind ever since, a desire which has only intensified over the years, since my downright nomadic lifestyle (I've been almost constantly on the move since the age of seventeen, having lived, in the course of fifteen years, in over half a dozen countries across three contintents) will simply not permit it. By the time I've made myself comfortable somewhere, and put together a rudimentary setup, either something unexpected happens that forces me to move (I get into trouble quite easily), or I otherwise simply get tired of the place and move on. I don't even want to think about all the money I've spent in storage rooms and shipping fees to keep shuffling my collection back and forth across the planet: from the US (where I began seriously collecting stuff, in the winter of 2000...) to the UK, from the UK to France, from France to Japan and back again, then to Greece and on to Italy, and finally, at least for the time being, to the Spanish island chain in which I am now residing. I currently have with me a US 360, an EU PS3, half the components for a top-end PC and some handhelds, all the while my JP 360 (on which I'd love to play the latest STG ports) is in Athens, my Japanese Wii (on which I can't wait to try Oboro Muramasa and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom) is in Lyon, and my GameCubes, Dreamcasts, PlayStation 2s, Xboxes, etc. etc., on which there are dozens of games I'd love to be playing right now, are scattered between those two locations, remaining inaccessible to me without either paying a couple hundred euros for a return plane trip, or €1,000+ per location to have the whole lot shipped over (in which case I am better off simply buying again whatever it is I am currently eager to play, which is something I do, in fact, regularly do, which partly explains why I have duplicates of so many games and systems).
   I mention all this by way of an explanation of my fascination with pictures of other people's hardware rigs. I've been dreaming of setting up the perfect gaming room since childhood, and the way things are going there's a good chance I'll never get it -- so I've now resigned myself to daydreaming about it, which is the main purpose that pictures of this kind serve for me, apart from a purely academic interest. -- If anyone reading this, by the way, is wondering why I don't just simply settle somewhere -- well, the answer's kind of a long story, the tl;dr version being that I get so completely and utterly bored of life if I stay somewhere for more than a few months, that I begin verging on extreme depression. I've not actually experienced this depression, you understand, but I've often felt it approaching; I've seen it coming round the corner -- though so far I've always managed to escape before it gets here. Is there some medical term for this condition? for this almost pathological need for near-constant travel? If not I'll take the liberty of baptizing it as the postmodern condition -- a condition which, if you haven't experienced it, well... I guess it means you are not modern enough. Do not let the name mislead you though, it's not so much to do with a particular chronological era (i.e. the present one) -- though that is also part of it -- it is essentially part of a late evolutionary stage of the homo sapiens sapiens species (that's us), presupposing certain advanced physiological / mental / social requirements. To be in any danger of contracting it one must fulfill all of them, which is why Afghan people, for example, are immune to it: the reason being they have more pressing matters to worry about. But if you don't have more pressing matters to worry about: welcome to the 21st century! Grab your plane ticket and your remote and enjoy the ride! Or blow your brains out! Either way have fun! -- Fun being the key word here, the key concept, the only currently known antidote to what Baudrillard termed banality -- which is, after all, to come full circle on this matter, merely a fancy name for boredom.

"Travel was once a means of being elsewhere, or of being nowhere. Today it is the only way we have of feeling that we are somewhere. At home, surrounded by information, by screens, I am no longer anywhere, but rather everywhere in the world at once, in the midst of a universal banality -- a banality that is the same in every country. To arrive in a new city, or in a new language, is suddenly to find oneself here and nowhere else. The body rediscovers how to look. Delivered from images, it rediscovers the imagination."

   Unfortunately, things do not quite work out this way in practice. I mean they do, but only for a little while. If only a plane ticket sufficed to rediscover the imagination! Then the CEO monkeys would be the most imaginative people in the world. The way it works instead, is that you leave behind the old banality only to arrive in a slightly different, slightly more exotic one, which, due to its newness, does not initially appear as such. The novelty however soon wears off (three months is for me the average, fluctuating a little depending on how exotic the location is), at which point you are once more up against what you were running from: banality, and the choice is between either the screen or more travel. That's more or less what has been happening to me for my entire post-university life. I take a break from videogames to pursue "reality", only to end up with boredom and banality (this notwithstanding all the dangerous sports and little madcap adventures I go out of my way to throw myself into...) Then I swear off reality -- and by "reality" here I mean simply "travel" -- and plunge into the virtual only to end up with the emptiness which never fails to follow on the train of lengthy exposure to any kind of simulation (a term which includes, nota bene, as I'll eventually come to explain at length, also the literary and cinematic kinds...) Only the continual back and forth seems to be able to keep me somewhat sane. To be denied one of these I think would surely send me over the edge (-- or over a ledge). Where will this possibly lead? Most probably either to prison or to a madhouse. I won't say the grave, because that's where I am headed either way.
   But I wouldn't want my personal preoccupations to overshadow the far more important discussion on gaming rigs, so let's get back to that.
   And then again I've always also been fascinated by the design aspect of these rigs, their spatial, functional arrangement. In the early days this aspect did not exist, since we simply did not yet have enough separate, individual components for it to be an issue. My first system, for example, was an Apple IIc -- you placed it on a desk, hooked it up to its tiny flat widescreen monitor (both flat AND widescreen -- and also extremely thin -- in 1984!), then to the wall socket, and that was it. You sat in front of it and played. Several years later I would buy three Commodore 1084s monitors ("s" stood for stereo -- a rather big deal back then) and a 16" TV in order to connect my Amiga, Mega Drive, Super Famicom and Neo Geo and have several friends over playing on different systems at the same time. That was the beginning of a gaming rig, but things were still extremely rudimentary, with each system simply hooked up to a single screen (which also served as a sound system) and a single controller, or at most two. -- How far we've come since then! If I tried today to pool together and hook up all the hardware that I own -- a dozen computers, several dozen consoles, several dozen PCBs and arcade motherboards, at least a dozen displays (including a projector), at least three-four speaker sets, well over a hundred controllers -- and, to top it all off, a staggering number of switchboxes and specialized cables -- it'd be a logistical nightmare. The schematics of the connections alone would be mind-boggling -- it would simply be impossible to come up with a clear-cut ideal setup. How to hook up all of a given generation's systems (and their various regional variants...) to my single projector and top-of-the-line sound system, so that they'd all be ready to go with a couple of flicks? How to have, say, the JP 360 simultaneously hooked up to my 1080p monitor for the handful of true 1080p games, the 720p projector for the bulk of the console's catalogue, and a tated 480p CRT for the tate shooters? And the US 360? Or the PS3? Or the JP and US Wiis with their particularly stringent display requirements? (480p widescreen RGB CRTs, which are getting rather hard to find nowadays, especially new...) And the top-end PC, which would ideally be hooked up at the same time to the projector and to a 40" or 50" 1080p TV (or better yet a 1080p projector, a rather awesome piece of kit that I've yet to acquire...), both setups of which must somehow accommodate the use of a keyboard and mouse, and perhaps also flight sticks and throttles, steering wheels and pedals (all of which, if you are going for a theater-style, sofa-based setup, it would be particularly awkward to accommodate...), or dual- or triple-monitor setups (or triple-projector setups?) for some of those flight simulators and modern RTSes? And with ATI's newest version of EyeInfinity, six-screen setups could also be explored -- not to mention NVIDIA's 3D technology, which would complicate things even further. Any way you look at it the schematics would be daunting -- fuck the room; I'd need an entire apartment to properly accommodate all this shit, better yet some sort of converted warehouse space (a cathedral would be nice, or something along the lines of the batcave...), and the simple job of hooking everything up (not to mention tuning and calibration) would probably take days. I could no doubt turn Baudrillard's figurative comment about being "surrounded by screens" into a literal one. I could even have screens hanging from the ceiling; I could have them covering the floor. I could be walking on screens, sleeping on screens (-- shagging women on screens -- while perhaps porn movies play on them, lol).
   So I've always found it interesting to see how people have arranged their setups, what choices they've made, the exact placing of the various components, even the kind of furniture they've chosen -- and I don't mean just desks here, but even chairs and sofas, among other things. I've even seen people buy an an entire row of theater seats for christsake! Some nutter on rllmuk did this if a few years back. Again, all this is not at all fetishistic: try playing Gears of War in a movie theater and you'll see why -- there's nothing in this of "secondary importance" -- the playing experience is raised to a whole new level. Even the seat you use is as much a part of your "gaming rig", of gaming hardware, as anything else. Even the room you are playing in, when it comes down to it. Even the lighting in the room -- it's just as important as the lighting in a movie theater, and much can be achieved by experimenting with different lighting setups. I'll even go as far as to say that even the weather outside your window can, under certain circumstances, have a considerable impact on the gaming experience. One of the many -- perhaps far too many! -- unforgettable gaming moments in my life was exploring the excellent GameCube library in a dimly lit room inside a chalet high up in the French alps, while a snowstorm was raging outside my windows against a background of dark mountains. What a contrast with the sublimely serene landscapes of Pikmin; and, on the other hand, what a fitting setting in which to experience the moody thrill ride of Eternal Darkness!
   It goes without saying, of course, that all this stuff goes completely over the heads of the pseuds and the artfags, who are always too busy trying to interpret the social and cultural significance that a digital monkey collecting digital bananas has for the course of world affairs, sticking their noses right next to the screen while scratching their little artfag heads and wondering about the "social", or the "cultural", or the "artistic" implications of digital monkey antics, than to pay any attention to such little details as environment, immersion, interface, control, etc. etc.
   But for those of us who genuinely love videogames, and consequently know better, these "little details" are in fact of great importance -- indeed complexity aside these little details are all there is. And using this new section of Insomnia as a stimulus, we will start thinking about and studying them.





P.S. Hardware discussions on internet forums inevitably lead to some kind of pathetic standoff between the haves and the have-nots. It is basically impossible to discuss high-end hardware on the internet without some people getting offended because they cannot afford it, and other people, who can afford it, being made to feel guilty on this account and afterwards trying to get rid of this guilt through all sorts of retarded arguments. All of this kind of fagotry is expressly forbidden on this website -- you can take your money-related complexes elsewhere. I myself am completely free of them because, though I was born with a gold spoon up my ass, as the saying goes, have gone all the way down to the extreme poverty of being forced to sleep in 24-hour supermarkets, then all the way back up to staying in 500-euro-a-night hotels in Monaco, and everywhere in-between. Life experiences like these, and a healthy dose of philosophy, tend to raise one above the pettiness of money concerns. Most people, however, have not had such experiences, nor do they possess sufficient power of intellect to imagine them and draw from them the appropriate conclusions, which is why there is so much petty envy and hatred in the poor, and so much shame and guilt in the rich. All of this, however, is not my problem: it is between you and your shrink. As far as I am concerned, at the end of the day whoever does not have enough money for his "needs" either has too many needs, or is otherwise lazy, or a coward, or usually both: for one can always get a job or rob a bank. All I want to do here is look at pictures of cool gaming hardware and occasionally chatter on a bit about it, and I will do this with any reasonably intelligent and complex-free person who happens to come along. Moreover, I certainly couldn't care less how these people came about the money with which they bought all their cool shit: whether they stole it, or inherited it, or worked themselves to death for it -- or wiped an entire African village off the map, selling the infant boys for child-soldiers and the females for pleasure slaves. All of this is not my fucking problem: I am neither the IRS nor Interpol. -- And by the way, it goes without saying that those who have less money are less "in danger" of developing a fetish, either for hardware or for other stuff, simply because they cannot afford to -- this also partly explains the hatred they regularly display towards those who can. Here as elsewhere the following rule applies: Indifference signifies genuine absence of envy; hatred is a sure sign of it.

P.P.S. In my RPG article I denounce the "numbers fetishism" of the fake videogame RPGs, while in this one I am praising fetishism in general. There is no contradiction here ("These Are Not The Mistakes You Are Looking For"). This is because, generally speaking, as I also made clear in the RPG article, I do not have any problem with games based on "numbers fetishism" -- many of them are wonderful and I of course love them (W- and SRPGs are two of my favorite genres). The only reason I went off on them in the other article is because, by masquerading as RPGs, these tactics games are confusing everyone and ensuring the continued non-existence of genuine computer role-playing games. -- This was a note for asses who lack decent reading comprehension skills and as a consequence are given to inventing contradictions where none in fact exist.

P.P.P.S. My little theory of fetishism elucidated in this article is completely different to that provided by Freud, and afterwards elaborated further by his little charlatanic disciple, Lacan. Predictably enough, they go on for pages and pages about penises and phalluses and other such retarded shit -- shit which in fact explains nothing, compared to my neat and tidy little explanation which, at least it seems to me, explains everything.