On Darius Kazemi’s “Zeno of Elea”

I should have spent the break between semesters planning my course materials for the spring and working on my thesis, but instead I was playing World of Warcraft for “research,” which really meant performing the rote task of grinding in order to get totally kool gear and/or achievements for content that everyone else completed a thousand years ago.

A while back, Darius Kazemi released Zeno of Elea, a game that renders Zeno’s Paradox as (presumably) some sort of platforming game. Except the game never comes, because in the illustration of the paradox, it merely loads by half the distance between 100% and the current percentage of loading bar. Just like Achilles, we never get there.

The brilliance of the piece is that it really has loaded. It becomes an object that actually is complete. Even if Achilles never catches up the the turtle, we can catch up to Zeno of Elea as a game in the sense that we can watch it achieve its full capabilities as an object. Very quickly we see it exhaust itself, what it can do, in everything other than repetition. To put it another way, Zeno of Elea is a game where we can know all the motions immediately; everyone is capable of masterful play.

World of Warcraft is just a more complex version of Zeno of Elea. On the level of interface, what we’re actually experiencing, it seems like it is never complete — the edge of a “full experience” is right beyond our grasp, and maybe if we leave the window open long enough, we will get it.

But the turtle keeps moving. There’s more gear and mixups of stats and trinkets to compare and before you know it you’ve wasted a month.


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