Pokémon Masters vs Pakman

Collect, train, battle.

In a Japanese franchised fantasy game, players capture cute wild creatures called Pokémon, and train them to become members of powerful fighting teams. If a Pokémon cannot escape the confines of the multi-function Poké Ball, it is considered owned by the Trainer. Volition goes out the window, and it must now obey all commands.

The interior of the spherical Poké Ball is designed to make the enslaved Pokémon feel comfortable, but there are no guarantees that this will happen. It's a world of tough luck and tough love.

Pokémon Trainers desire that their team of fighting Pocket Monsters beat all others. Thus the superlative Trainer will become the Pokémon Master.

Losing myself in games with textual others has long been a favoured altered reality experience. My immaterial body was born in a place of the dead in 1994. Late one night my fiendish friend and I— sharing a keyboard, crappy dial-up connection and inhabiting one generic avatar—engaged with a dyslexic vampire named the_Unborne.

We were in a morgue in an online world.

LambdaMOO—the Mother of all MOOs.

Life, in all its real virtuality, became amplified, splendid in its splinterings. Far from being second life, it was first and thirsty life, queer and unquenchable.

LambdaMOO catapulted me back to sensations firs experienced in pre-teen pastimes of make believe and “let's pretend”. Games like Nightclubs, where 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye spiced our mise-en-scene. We take turns in playing the dancer on a makeshift stage, wearing a silver satin flock dress, gauzy veil, and very little else. The stripper hoochy koochies her customer, her yearning trick. And then we switch.

Reading Coldness and Cruelty (Deleuze meets Sacher-Masoch) inspired my crafting of the Puppet Mistress, aka Gashgirl. A persona who would engage with the quirky, erotic fantasies of strangers, improvising pleasure scenarios on secret micro-stages.

The poet Laure writes to Bataille as she is dying: The poetic work is sacred in that it is the creation of a topical event, 'communication' experienced as nakedness. It is self-violation. Baring, communication to others of a reason for living, and this reason for living 'shifts.'

Social relations in the Realm of the Puppet Mistress were more Last Tango in Paris than One Night in Paris. Whilst real life identities would remain anonymous behind the screens, players could log their online interactions, for auto-replay. Occasionally, intimate revels in forever puppet peepshows would materialise as words in more public realms. Kind of porn, and kind of art. And definitely fun.

“Every child player wins a prize!” promise the laughing clowns, mouths wide open.

The Pokémon Master is driven by his competitive desire. He is the face of capital, with a capital C, determined to exploit the living labour of the subjugated pokemon—his flexible fighting flunky workforce. By contrast, although clearly no angel, the Puppet Mistress was driven by desire for connection rather than acquisition. She could succeed only through creative communication and co-operation. It takes at least two to last-tango, to mutually generate play that both replicates and mutates.

Irigarary's words resonate: Exchange? Everything is exchanged, yet there are no transactions. Between us, there are no proprietors, no purchasers, no determinable objects, no prices. Our bodies are nourished by our mutual pleasure, our abundance is inexhaustible: it knows neither want nor plenty.

I suspect that if the Puppet Mistress ascribed to a political position, it would be a flavour of Autonomist Marxism. She, I, always did have a soft spot for anarchic Italians.

Anarchia. Without ruler. A belief in the common good of humanity, in the possibilities of self-organisation. Worlds away from the neo-conned nightmares, from the society of control, and control orders.

Which brings me to Pac-Man.....

Pac-Man was a Japanese video arcade game which quickly became a worldwide phenomenon following its launch in 1980.
In this game, the player guides the dot-eating pac-man through a maze, avoiding the touch of four hungry ghosts. Translated from the Japanese, the ghost names are Chaser, Ambusher, Fickle, and Stupid.

When Pac-Man gets the chance to eat energising glowing dots, it gets the ability to eat ghosts. The ghosts turn blue and end up in a ghost pen while they regenerate.

And so it goes, level after level, a game of pursuit and evasion, of consumption and transformation.

But I want to speak tonight of another Pak man, and another set of spooks...

My point of departure is the judgement by Justice Adams handed down on the
fifth of November 2007, in the New South Wales Supreme Court.

It's a lengthy document, some 22,000 words.

Reading this stuff is how I squander my online time now, far from the pleasures of the Puppet Quarters. I should be working on my thesis but somehow these courtroom transcripts, police interviews and legal judgements are so much more riveting than the books on informational capitalism and political philosophy stacking up.

Both offer pathways into understanding, or at least reflecting upon, the machinations of power. The legal stuff is more engaging because I suppose it reveals clearly the nature of my homeland, that sunburnt country of dispossessed (again) aboriginals, obedient working families, dole bludgers, corporate crims, hordes of refugees, and other riff raff.

There's no time for detail, or fancy word play. Rapid gleanings, and the vague hope it will be the start of something. Writing as an archeology of the present. Or perhaps prophesy - picking through the entrails to forecast the future. Whatever, it's hard for me to read this stuff without feeling a mix of emotions and physical sensations. Reading the varying accounts of the protagonists reminds me of Kurosawa's film RAN, where a rape and murder is recounted from the perspectives of all involved.

The judgement is divided into sections, the sub-headings like acts of a play:

Act 1. ASIO officers meet the accused

Act 2. The accused is taken to his home

Act 3. The veracity of B15 and the accused

Act 4. The legal effect of the ASIO officers’ conduct

Act 5. The interview of 7 November 2003 with AFP

Act 6. The admissibility of the interviews of 7 and 12 November

Act 7. The interview of 12 November 2003

Act 8. The meeting with AFP officers at the accused’s home

Act 9. The interview of 9 January 2004

Tonight there is only time to speak of the first 2 Acts. And the judge's decision.

Izhar Ul-Haque is a young medical student living with his family in Sydney. In early 2003 he trains in Pakistan with Lashkar-e-Taiba, an organisation supporting the independence of Kashmir. After three weeks he decides it's not for him and heads home. Returning to Australia, Ul-Haque is questioned by customs and allowed re-entry. It is not until late 2003 that Lashkar-e-Taiba becomes a proscribed terrorist organisation under Australian law. It is his family connection with terrorism suspect Faheem Lodhi that brings him to the fresh attention of the government.

On the evening of 6 November 2003 ASIO officers accost him at the Blacktown Railway Station:

The accused, Ul-Haque, says: “As I was walking to the car park, two men approached me and one of them said, "I'm an ASIO officer" and showed me a badge. I was really shocked. Mr [B15] said, "You're in serious trouble", and he was just a few breaths away from me. He said, "We are doing a very serious terrorism related investigation and we require your full cooperation and it's in your own benefit to talk to us."

I was really frightened. I didn't know what was happening.

On his orders I got into the car and they said, "We are taking you somewhere to have a private discussion." At that time really I didn't know where I was being taken. In my mind a lot of things were going on, you know, am I being taken to a secret location or some secret ASIO interrogation rooms. I didn't know what was going to happen to me, and then they took me to a park near[by].

In his account, ASIO Agent B15 recalls drawing a figure ‘Y’ in the gravel with his foot. He says to Ul-Haque:
‘This is a Y. We are here.’ At that point I was gesturing towards the intersection of the ‘Y’.

‘We’ve got two choices. We can go down the difficult path or a less difficult path. The difficult path would mean that we stand here putting these questions to you like this, having you tell us things which we know to be untrue, and having to demonstrate to you that we know these things are untrue before you give us a truthful answer. Or, we can take a less difficult path which would involve you co-operating and proving truthful answers to our questions.

Interestingly B15 notes that neither he nor Agent B16 took any notes during the 40 minutes conversation.

The agents then announced that Ul-Haque's family home was being raided.

On the way to the house they declare that this issue has gone to the highest levels of government.
“If you don't cooperate, we have other sources of extracting information,” they tell Ul-Haque.

The Judge asks Ul-Haque if he believed he had any choice in talking to the agents.

He answers: "Not really, no.... I believed I was under arrest and that if I did not comply with whatever they asked me that they will either use physical violence or take me to a more sinister place to interrogate me or, you know, do something to my family or deport me."

The judge asks Agent B15 :
"And was there a reason given for taking him to a park rather than taking him to an office where the matter could be formally dealt with, where it might have been tape-recorded, where there would have been records about the time that he was taken into – well, if not custody, into your company and the time and an official recording as to when it ended?"

B15: I don’t recall, your Honour.”

Recollection is a strange bird.

In the transcripts the judge's frustration and disbelief is palpable. Later the media would report his judgement as being “scathing” and “damming”.

The judge says: "The very mode of questioning was intimidating. It is scarcely surprising that he hung his head. A later report by B15 says that [the accused] did not know what they were talking about. This is reminiscent of Kafka."

Act Two takes place in the family home, although Izhar Ul-Haque's teenage brother Izaz is still hanging about alone at the Blacktown train station in Izhar's car he couldn't drive.

When Ul-Haque arrives with three ASIO officers between twenty-five and thirty officers were in the process of executing the search warrant. Ul-Haque reports being shocked and frightened at the “immense nature of the operation”. During the next few hours the ASIO agents take him again to the train station car park and question him.

They then take him home, and question him in his parents' bedroom. The agents keep him in a state of incommunicado, insisting that other family members keep out. An AFP officer is present during this extensive interrogation which continues until 3.45am, in time to prepare for morning prayers.

There is much more to this story, but we will end here. And so I wont even begin to go into the agents' attempts to recruit the young medical student as an informant.

The Judge concludes that by assuming unlawful powers of direction, control and detention Agents “B15 and B16 committed the criminal offences of false imprisonment and kidnapping...”

The Judge is really pissed off, saying “It was a gross interference by the agents of the state with the accused’s legal rights as a citizen."

So the conclusion is that all the records of interview are inadmissible. And the result of this is that the case does not proceeed to trial, because there is no evidence. Of anything.

And so ends, for now, the latest version of Pak Man.

In this game there were three spooks, but if you recall, in the original there were four:




And Stupid.