Massively Multiplayer Standing Reserves

The primary thing from our readings that stands out to me throughout Gamer is how completely submerged the populous is to what Heidegger calls the standing reserve. You can see this throughout the movie, not just in the Slayer/Society scenes, but in the way the diegetic audience both engages with and consumes every aspect of the ordeal. The most prominent scene that shows this standing reserve attitude is when Angie is seen during the character selection screen where her user decides her costume. Her user, already portrayed rather inhumanely in his nondescript cellar, has a variety of images of her portrayed in different costumes. He flips casually through them, and every time a new costume is selected she poses in a very objectifying stance.

The shots of her user are framed in extreme close-ups, never showing him as a person but merely as a montage of grotesque attributes, from his bulging, sweaty belly to his greasy, salivating lips. The lighting is dark and there are a lot of soft, not-completely focused shots. It might be easy to see him as the ultimate consumer in this case but this isn’t the only scene we see him enslaved in the game. We never see this character in a mode outside of a Society player. We see him almost literally stuck, via wheelchair, in this life of a Society player.

Despite his unsympathetic appearance, we can easily draw comparison to Angie who is the obvious example of standing reserve here. She is literally inanimate during these times and serves no other purpose than to fulfill the whims of her user. She’s in stasis until he decides what she should wear and only then can she act, but never of her own voltion. She is both a literal and figurative puppet to the system, her purpose to stand in perpetual readiness to be used as a tool of consumption. This is a paradigm of Heidegger’s argument. This isn’t just a reflection of the poor and downtrodden, but as the Humanz warns us, this is just the starting point.

What the Humanz member seem to miss is that the standing reserve has already stepped beyond the icon and has expanded to the user – or, perhaps more accurately, it has always included the user. Angie’s user (Gorge), much like Castle, is an important part of the standing reserve. Whereas Castle is literally an avatar who, like the icons, is being used by the system he helped create (with his 98% reprogrammed brain), it seems as if the user has a less obvious place on the standing reserve. Society is, however, completely critical to users like Gorge. While we don’t see Society displayed on televisions all over the world like we do Slayer, it seems safe to assume there is an audience for the material. And if not, Society itself is dependent upon the user’s licentious debauchery for the game to continue and automatically has it’s own, internal audience. The basement dwelling nerd archetype is exactly what Society needs for its broader appeal so that there is always a ready foundation, or standing reserve, of people serving Society’s goals for new and old users to be attracted to. It is an odd paradox that, with Society only being an intermediary, the users are the ones creating the experience that attracts them to the program in the first place. This is as true of MMOs as it is of Society/Slayer, but more appalling because of its transparent and intentional use of the human standing reserve.

This sort of standing reserve, which should need no further elaboration as to why, is the very dehumanizing element that Heidegger warned us of. Though the entire system of Society/Slayer was developed to ostensibly be a game consumed by a user, it ultimately became a system where human standing reserves use other standing reserves, all for the ultimate profit of Castle. The movie takes pains to remind us, at the end, that this isn’t just Castle using the standing reserve – the closing words of “Well played, Kable” and the GAME OVER – INSERT COIN closing title card hints that the actions of our characters never really break outside of the game and that, unawares, they continue to be commodities in the standing reserve.

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2 Responses to Massively Multiplayer Standing Reserves

  1. mjd105 says:

    I completely agree with you on this. You did a good job of describing standing reserve throughout your entire blog post so i do agree that there need not too much more elaboration. I do find that the human standing reserve is a cycle that seems unlikely to be broken in this sort of extreme world of human control. Especially that Neveldine and Taylor leave us, after thinking the “game” was over, with a sly comment like “GAME OVER- INSERT COIN.” There is no escape from standing reserves in both the movie and in real life which is why I believe Heidegger would warn us to take a step back and control our need for more.


  2. Steph Roman says:

    Nice work. My only comment: “User”? Really? This isn’t Tron. (joke)


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