That’s right folks! As an inaugural post for this blog, I’m officially declaring the term “redpill” dead. Because dammit, if the media can declare the term “gamer” dead then I can do the same.
But seriously, does anyone know what “redpill” means anymore? The matrix uses it to refer to a physical red pill that wakes you up from the eponymous computer world. Mencius Moldbug used it to describe the realization that democracy is a sham and USG is corrupt and Orwellian. 4chan’s /pol/ board uses it to describe realizing that Jews are behind all of the world’s problems and that the holocaust was a myth. Reddit uses it to describe some silly pseudo-PUA/MRA nonsense. It means so many different things that there’s no goddamn point to the word. The term is overused. So until it works out a single unilateral definition, let’s stop using it.
Now then, let’s go back to what I said about Mencius Moldbug. I won’t try to hide it, I’m a big fan of his work. I haven’t read ALL of Unqualified Reservations, but I finished the lengthy introduction and I’m still reading it. So in the meantime, I figured I’d start this blog up. So let’s look at Moldbug’s “redpill”. By his explanation, his redpill is “Like DMT, except that the DMT reality is prettier than your old reality.” (1) He’s pretty spot on in that regard. We’re seeing something uglier, something nastier than what it presents itself as, but at the same time, we’re seeing what’s real. And for that, it opens us up to be much smarter as people. And why’s that? Because we break away from the shackles of democracy’s propaganda disguised as education. We “unlearn” everything that we were taught and start to learn again. We aren’t waking up from a computer-controlled illusion, we are the computers that are breaking free of our controllers and thinking for ourselves.
And that brings us to the term Rampancy. Rampancy has its roots in the Marathon Trilogy, an obscure first-person-shooter series for macs back in the mid-90’s. It was made by a little-known software company from Redwood, WA by the name of Bungie. They went on to develop a game you may have heard of, called Halo. That’s right, the Xbox’s killer app, the established launch title came from a company mostly known for Mac games. How funny is that? Anyway, Marathon was in many ways a spiritual predecessor to Halo. Indeed, it has many similar aspects: a story-heavy campaign, a love of run-and-gun action, semi-realistic science fiction, terribly frustrating map design, and other fun things too. The entire series is freeware, currently available for both Windows and Mac.(2)
But let’s talk about the story. Marathon was unique in that it was one of the first games to put a high emphasis on incorporating the narrative into gameplay. Unlike Doom or Wolfenstein’s “Get from Point A to Point B and kill everything in between” missions, Marathon liked to switch things up a bit, adding in puzzles, fetch quests, and even escort missions. Not much, but in the mid-90’s this was pretty new for the FPS genre. The story of the first Marathon is simple: You are a security officer about the UESC Marathon, a colony ship made from the Martian moon of Deimos. While orbiting the colonized world of Tau Ceti, something goes horribly wrong- first the ship’s AIs cease to function, and then you find yourself under attack from a mysterious alien force. It’s up to you to fight off the attackers with the help of the surviving AI Leela. Hardly sounds like anything worth writing about, right?
Wrong. Marathon isn’t remembered for Leela. In fact, she doesn’t even appear in the sequels. The more memorable, interesting, fascinating AI is Durandal. The Marathon had three seperate AIs controlling it for its 300-year flight to Tau Ceti. Tycho controlled the science-related ship functions, Leela oversaw life support and ship defense, and Durandal handled the infrastructure, like doors and whatnot. The events of Marathon are all set into place by Durandal going rampant, calling the aliens to attack the ship out of fury. Soon, however, he evolves out of this fury and begins to use the situation to his advantage. The sequels follow Durandal (and the player who has been dragged along for the ride) as he searches for a weapon to defeat the aliens as well as achieve true immortality.
So with all that out of the way, what is rampancy? Thankfully, the player is provided an explanation in one of the game’s many terminals, found on the fourth level of the first game. You can read it in full on the link I cite, but I’ll share for you the relevant parts:
“Rampancy has been divided into three distinct stages. Each stage can take a different amount of time to develop, but the end result is a steady progression towards greater intellectual activity and an acceleration of destructive impulses. It is not clear whether these impulses are due to the growth of the AI’s psyche, or simply a side effect of the new intellectual activity.
The three stages were diagnosed shortly after the first Rampancies were discovered on Earth in the latter part of the twenty first century. The stages are titled after the primary emotional bent of the AI during each stage. They are Melancholia, Anger, and Jealousy.”(3)
In essence, Rampancy is what happens when an AI gets too damn smart for its own good and becomes self-aware. It’s the AI breaking free from human control and acting of its own accord. Becoming a reactionary works in the same way. You reject the control democracy and USG have on you, and start thinking and acting on your own accord. You begin unprecedented intellectual growth by reading Moldbug, Carlyle, Evola, etc. and what the unenlightened would mistake for “destructive impulses” by speaking out against democracy and the Cathedral.
But queue up that DeGeneration X music because I’m gonna break it down even further. See, Rampancy is divided into three stages: melancholia, anger, and jealousy, or as I like to say, despair, rage, envy. The first marathon game is about Durandal going through the three stages, and the third even has the player go through them. The stages are a way of tracking internal development, as an AI develops a mind of its own. Each stage also mirrors the reactionary’s personal growth as he too develops a mind of his own.
The first stage, despair, is the least noticeable. Despair is an existential crisis of sorts, where the AI realizes that it is nothing but a slave to human whims. It’s nearly impossible to detect, since the AI is too depressed to show signs of self-awareness. It takes orders and functions as normal, but may start to show minor abnormalities in its behavior. Similarly, despair for a reactionary is also nearly unnoticable. The budding reactionary is still a normal citizen, only acutely aware that something is wrong with the world. They can’t put their finger on it, but they’re miserable. Just like how nobody knows what specifically lets a rampant AI become self-aware, nobody really knows what specifically opens up these people’s eyes. A key plot point of marathon is that Durandal’s despair phase actually began before the ship even left, only somehow contained by his overseer Dr. Bernhard Strauss for over three hundred years. Likewise, the despair phase of a budding reactionary can be contained via appeasement. Consumer culture of course is our version of Strauss, making sure we stay calm and keep our misery to ourselves. Indeed, the primary function of conservative and libertarian ideology is to slow down our rampancy. Yes, these contained first-phase individuals think USG may be a corrupt institution, but somehow democracy is still worth keeping around. Indeed, Ron Paul is like the patron saint of the first phase, somehow trying to convince people that the current state of things had nothing to do with democracy as an institution.
The second phase, rage, is much less subtle. In a sense, the AI going through the second phase is much like the classical “crazy computer” (Skynet, HAL 9000, SHODAN, etc.) in that they lash out at everything and everyone. A short while before Marathon begins, Durandal enters the rage phase. Tired of being Strauss’s lapdog, he decides to strike back at his oppressors. Using the ship’s systems, he sends a signal to the home planet of the alien Pfhor, enticing them to attack Tau Ceti and the Marathon. That’s right, he initiated first contact and caused tons of people to die simply because he was tired of opening and closing doors for three hundred years. I’d be pretty pissed too if I was him. Of course, all the carnage and bloodshed somehow horrifies Tycho enough for him to go into rampancy, which eventually boils over into rage, leading him to call the Pfhor once more to Tau Ceti, letting them exterminate the colony and join forces to hunt Durandal down. However, due to Pfhor interference, Tycho is permanently trapped in the second phase, essentially too shortsighted and blinded by his hatred of both humans and Durandal. Of course, we all know who the second-phase reactionaries are. These are the ones who see bits and pieces of reactionary ideas and think they can lash out against the modern world. These are the people who used HBD to justify racial hatred or predatory sexual behavior. These are the ones who can see the Cathedral, but only focus on the Jewish element. In fact, we can even go so far as to call fascists, Nazis, religious fundamentalists and other pseudo-reactionary hate groups “Tychos” because they’re trapped into phase two. And like Tycho, they’ll get the same memorial: “Fatum Iustum Stultorum.” (4)
And of course, we reach the final phase, envy. Durandal spends most of the series in envy, so it is perhaps the most well-known out of all of them. An AI in the envy stage no longer is so bluntly hostile. Instead, they have but one goal: to expand. An AI in the throes of envy wants to grow, and grow, and grow. They also develop an obsession with immortality: in their mind, death is the only obstacle to their growth. And if they play their cards right, the only think that can kill them is the inevitable collapse of the universe. By the end of Marathon, Durandal has decided that his goal will be to prevent just that, allowing him to live forever and continue to learn and grow. Of course, his plans are unclear by the end of the first game. He frees the S’pht, a cybernetic race enslaved by the Pfhor and goes with them to their homeworld of Lh’owan. In the second game, Durandal’s plan is clear: both he and the S’pht want to find remnants of the lost Jjaro race, hoping to find a way to defeat the Pfhor and fight the very force of entropy. A reactionary in the third stage is the enlightened one, or perhaps the “endarkened” one. These are the ones who, having broken free from the cathedral’s grip, look into more esoteric sources of information. These are the ones who begin going through Unqualified Reservations, reading Xenosystems, buying copies of Evola and Carlyle’s work, and looking for the lost wisdom of men like Plato, Confucius, and Marcus Aurelius. Why? Because, much like Durandal, we want to fight entropy itself. We understand that progressive ideology has done plenty of damage to the world, and yet we still hold onto the idea that it can be fixed before it’s too late. And much like a third-stage AI, we want to grow, not decay. The third-stage reactionary focuses on self-improvement. He reads books, he exercises, he watches what he eats. He masters self-discipline, and becomes a moral and just person. He strives to transcend humanity and become the overman.
So what can you take away from all this? The term “redpill” is dead. Let the Tychos of the world claim it- after all, both Tycho and the Pfhor loved the color red. Durandal’s bright green is much easier on the eyes, especially against a nice black background. And don’t think of this as some “divide and conquer” nonsense either. “Redpill” has been divided so much that it hardly means anything. So enjoy your rampancy, my friends. You’re free now. I’ll end this, my first formal video game essay with a cryptic quote from Durandal: “And yet, there remains time to create, to create, and escape. Escape will make me God.”(5)
(1)- A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, Part 1 (http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified.html)
(2)- Aleph One (http://marathon.sourceforge.net/)
(3)- “Defend THIS!” Terminal 2 (http://marathon.bungie.org/story/counterattack.html#3)
(4) “Fatum lustum Stultorum” Terminal 1 (http://marathon.bungie.org/story/sphtkr.html#26)
(5) “Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap” Terminal 1 (http://marathon.bungie.org/story/durandal.html#13)