In the spirit of the idea that April 1 is the one day of the year that netizens are especially careful in judging what they read on the Internet, electronic book review offers new approaches to familiar topics that deserve taking a second look.
This month, Hannes Bergthaller offers an essay that extends ebr’s necessarily ongoing conversations on the relationships among text, media, and nature—for instance, in our Critical Ecologies thread. Bergthaller’s “Beyond Ecological Crisis: Niklas Luhmann’s Theory of Social Systems” is soon to be part of a gathering-in-process on Natural Media, that ebr Co-Editor Lisa Swanstrom is preparing for presentation during the summer of 2018.
Also this month, Jason Lajoie reviews Queer Game Studies (2017), edited by Bonnie Ruberg and Adrienne Shaw, the first anthology of its kind that brings a much needed perspective of queer theory (its discourses, practices, and identities) to game studies.
Jason Lajoie explores the uniting of queer theory and game studies in the 2017 anthology Queer Game Studies. Addressing a lacuna if not occasional outright exclusion in game studies and game discourse for models of thinking “queer”—including queer identities, queer narratives, queer culture, and queer politics—Lajoie argues that the anthology shows why a queer game studies is needed, characterizing its ultimately dynamic nature as itself a critical framework.
With the task of surveying nearly thirty texts, Lajoie offers a comprehensive view of the anthology’s five sections (definition, game play and design, readings, failures, and futures), highlighting specific approaches that aid in expanding how scholars can alternatively approach games. He shows that the contributions of authors from different disciplines abet unique ways of looking at game studies queerly: technology and media theories are explored for what they miss in the consideration of alternative user communities and infrastructural systems, and social science-based methodologies hone in on the unique experience of queer-identifying players.
While negotiating these new approaches, Lajoie is equally detailed about the anthology’s potential furtherings: the specificity of media materiality in game hardware and design, for instance, deserves closer and even independent attention. Readers may appreciate these observations alongside Lajoie’s helpful recommendations of text and publisher series pairings, as well as his contextualization of the book’s presence at recent game studies events.
Hannes Bergthaller’s essay offers a clear and yet often overseen idea: while environmental studies seem to be inseparable from ecological thinking, they are not the same thing. He differentiates between historical periods where concerns about the environment (around the time of Chernobyl, Bergthaller notes) did not extend as far as to think about the living and changing networks of environments—their ecologies. Understandings of “ecology” are multitudinous and complicated, and humans are to blame for a pending ecological demise (described in terms of the Anthropocene). In this sense, why, when we are more aware of ecological crisis than ever (indeed, we know it, we talk about it, and we write about it), are so many also unwilling to take action towards ecological sustainability?
Through this string of observations, Bergthaller makes a crucial point: as the Anthropocentric nature of ecological crisis must be understood relative to a network of ecologies in which humans have never been singular, “the ecological embeddedness of human beings puts their self-sovereignty radically into question — and yet, it is presumed that they are able to refashion society in accordance with ecological insights.” In effect, the rest of the essay ponders: how much power do we really have to influence ecology, “except in cases where [we] destroy it”?
Bergthaller considers examples of social systems as they fit or do not fit “traditional” understandings of ecology, including in the family and in practices of communication. These comparisons are in an attempt to renew attention to notions that have not followed through in praxis, including positive outcomes to identifying the Anthropocene. Bergthaller argues that “there is no longer any realistic prospect of ‘critical interventions’ … which could, for example, reverse climate change and return the planet to ecological conditions as they prevailed in earlier times”; for him, a major detriment in tackling ecological crises is in fact rhetorical. What, then, is the role of ecology scholars in critical representation and how can it be done in a way that allows others to understand that knowing is not enough?
Associate Editor and Director of Communications, ebr