This article is part of a series about the Mythos (worldview-narrative) underlying the Zero State (ZS). Part 1 is about our highest concept, ideal, and level of organization, which we call The Array. Part 2 (below) explains the Sections & Sessions our core activity revolves around, and Part 3 covers the Twelve Foundation Stones that form the basis of our story.
There is a lot of information in this article. You may wish to bookmark it, and use it as reference material, regardless of whether you view the Zero State (ZS) as a game, or as a real-world activist network, or just take an interest in online subcultures.
1. What’s in a Game?
Some people choose to think of the Zero State (ZS) in terms of being a game, specifically an Alternate Reality Game, which is basically an immersive narrative which deliberately blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction. ZSers are definitely not obliged to think it as a game, that’s their choice; we don’t mind how people engage and do their part, as long as they engage and do their part.
Regardless of whether any given individual prefers to view ZS activity in terms of a game or not, there are three nested levels of such activity, like the rings of an onion or a tree. In this article I am going to refer to these three levels as an outermost game, and two levels of game-within-a-game, which we might call metagames. Using the analogy of an egg, let’s refer to these three levels as the yolk, the white, and the shell, starting from the centre as follows (and yes, yes, I know you could count the ‘metagames’ as the two innermost or the two outermost levels, that’s up to you):
The yolk is obviously the innermost level of the game, where it manifests as a mysterious puzzle, which we call the “Glass Bead Game” (after the Hermann Hesse novel). If you want to know more about this level of the game, then I’m afraid you will have to play the outer levels first, to search for it. The one thing we can say here is that, at this level, playing the game and developing the game are very similar things, perhaps one and the same. At this level the game is pure strategy – pure logic completely abstracted from all personality and narrative.
The white is a kind of bridging or hidden layer, connecting the worlds of pure logic with our pragmatic activity out in the real world. This is the level of the Sessions, which will be explained in part 3, below. For now, let’s just say that this level most resembles an online Role Playing Game (RPG), where ZSers adopt roles (the Core ZSers already have assigned roles, and all others are free – even encouraged – to craft their own within the established framework of the ZS Mythos), and participate in storytelling sessions which connect those roles to developing plans for our actions in the real world. This is the level where the ZS Mythos is most vibrant and alive.
To learn how to join the game at this middle level – even if you choose not to view it as a game at all (as many of us do not) – then please be sure to read this entire article!
The shell is the ZS–ARG, which is to say the outermost, and most public level of the game. At this level, all distinctions between reality and fiction, truth and media, are deliberately blurred beyond all recognition. That is not our choice, but the nature of the world now; We hold to our Principles and the respect for Truth that they insist upon, but we all must play the game as we find it.
At this level it really doesn’t matter in the slightest if you think it’s a game or not; all that matters is how effective an activist you are. If you are ineffective, if you are inactive, then we really don’t care what you think. Sure, we’ll care about your wellbeing as our Principles dictate, but you haven’t earned the right to tell us how to do anything. If you want to change that, then wake up, and get involved!
Core ZSers don’t always use their role names at this level – although they are encouraged to do so – and what anyone else wants to do is up to them. At this level, ZS is in the business of growing activist networks, and the extent to which you’re involved is the extent to which you can be active, or at the very least support those who are. Game and Mythos narratives infuse our activity at this level, but they are entirely secondary to the practical results of our actions, as a network, out in the real world.
2. What are the Sections?
ZS is divided into seven functional groups called the Sections. Four of those (S1-4) concern the proper functioning of a balanced society, while the Higher Sections (S5-7) act as our deepest organizational structure, collectively representing the core functions of a cybernetic organism. The three Higher Sections are not only used to organise our core game sessions, but also to inform their themes and narratives. We will discuss the nature and logistics of the Sessions in the next section, below, but here are the themes which Sections 5-7 bring to them:
SECTION 5 / VR & internal “world-building” Wyrd, Zero State, Illusory realities, Info-ops, strategy games. SECTION 6 / AI & perception Fyrd, Social Futurism, search for redemption or final frontier. SECTION 7 / OS/UX & metaprogramming Ásentír, Array, Reality hacking, neo-Gnosticism, and Transcendence.
3. What are the Sessions?
So finally, now, let’s focus on the Sessions, which draw upon the structure of the three Higher Sections, and are the very essence of ‘the white’, the bridging structure of ZS’ three game levels. As mentioned above these are essentially Role Playing Game (RPG) sessions, although they serve a number of practical non-game purposes and do not need to be viewed as a game by participants. Remember: What matters is outcome.
In the Sessions, every participant plays a role, based on the idea of a traveller from the future who has a mission to alter details of the past (our present). The Sessions are based around the teams that ZS members operate in to achieve their mission goals. Session activity is split (in no obvious or consistent way, and deliberately so) between narrative to establish your characters and relationships, and actual planning to go out and do things in the real world which help ZS and give your team prestige.
You will have a full say in what those things are, as part of your team. Team members who reach a certain level of accomplishment are encouraged to branch out and run entire teams of their own. The entire thing hangs together around a “league table” – an important function of The Array as an organizational entity – of the most accomplished teams. The better the players are at playing, the faster and more effectively ZS grows.
The Core Sessions are based on a network of six factions. There are two such factions per Higher Section, arranged in loose alliances, each of them representing one of what we call the six Metahouses. The Metahouses are organizations within ZS which go by the colourful names of The Foundation, Cloud Nine, ZODIAC, The Black Parade, The Beast, & Club 21. Mythos narrative associated with all of these groups will be covered by the final article in this series (which is about the so-called “Twelve Foundation Stones”).
Most Session logistics are now being worked out within Discord itself, among the people who choose to participate in them. Basically, you just need to stick your head in there, sniff around until you have some sense of which faction you fancy belonging to (there are chat and voice channels for each of the three Higher Sections, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find where you fit, and you can always change your mind or join multiple teams) – or want to pretend you belong to! – and from there small groups of ZSers can self-assemble and request to arrange Sessions at whatever time suits them as a group.
Don’t worry, it will all make sense… you just have to start by doing. Get involved, and see where the narrative leads you! The best way to get a head-start on understanding that narrative is to read the third and final article in this series.
For some time we have intended to develop a “Dharma” system, which is to say a way of keeping track of status and achievement within ZS. That system couldn’t exist before now (aside from a few credits which we will of course honour by reflecting them in the new system, going forward) because there was no functional context for it, but now it has an important place at the very heart of our community.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, among other things The Array is a kind of “league table” that keeps track of the most accomplished ZS teams, using Dharma as the points representing their achievements. The exact details of the Dharma system will be developed within Sessions, as part of the game via our Discord server, which you can find here: https://discord.gg/R4t7V8U
One particular aspect of the Dharma system to take note of is its capacity to measure who should be allowed to branch out with entire session-teams of their own, which represents a higher level of achievement and responsibility within ZS. Again, we will be discussing (and deciding, collectively) exactly how this works within the mechanics of Discord over the coming days, and that conversation will be held via the Discord server itself, so you need to join there if you want to be part of it.
Finally, let’s take a moment to talk about resources. This idea – of the need for resources – was pivotal within ZS at the beginning, and for very good reason: Without resources, you can do nothing. If your resources are low enough you don’t have a network (not one you have any reliable control over, anyway), you can’t protect yourself or your loved ones, and push come to shove, you can’t feed them either. Late Capitalism’s gross materialism may give one pause about attaching any value to material things (I must admit, I’m no fan of money or status-symbol-objects myself), but at the end of the day if you don’t have enough resources, it’s game over for you and yours.
That sadly, is the basic and uncomfortable reality of life. So, as a matter of sheer pragmatism and also in order to live up to our Principles (most notably our commitment to mutual aid), we must take the question of network resources very seriously indeed. If we don’t, then there is no network, simple as that. Game Over.
In short, at every level ZS must now demonstrate an ability to secure resources, and use them wisely for the benefit of the entire network. Yes, that raises many (many) questions, which we will work out together, but the bottom line is that either we do that, or we forego any notion of an effective mutual aid network whatsoever. It really is as simple as that, I’m afraid. So, going forward, please be prepared at every step to ask yourself one question: What Have You Done For ZS, Lately?