The economy of gaming, like probably any economy, functions according to the principles of “general” and “restricted economy”. On the one hand, there is the phantasm (or the promise) of “free (or radical) play” – difference unleashed. On the other, there are the reality principles, the “structures” or “rules” without which no game would actually be playable. This aporia – highlighted in Derrida’s work ever since “Structure, Sign, and Play…” – sets out the playground so to speak of what is thinkable, not just within “game studies”, but it certainly seems to inform the foundational debate between “ludologists” and “narratologists”. This paper, however, does not wish to revisit what has by now probably become a stalemate, but, instead, returns to some “earlier” theoretical questions about the relationship between play, reality and simulation. It will attempt to reconceptualise and recontextualise the debate about the ethics, politics and aesthetics of (digital) games in the light of two related developments which I would call digitalization and posthumanization. What role do (digital) games play in the transition from an “analog” mediascape to a global(ised) digital and simulational “network”? What effects of remediation can be seen at work in this transition – an aspect that seems to me to have been somewhat neglected in the ludology/narratology debate? What kind of “posthumanist” subjectivities and “reading” practices are thinkable under these conditions, now that “our” more than five-hundred-year-old forms of “literacy” might be giving way to what Gregory Ulmer refers to as “electracy”?
Stefan Herbrechter is Reader in Cultural Theory (Department of Media, School of Art and Design, Coventry University, UK). He studied English and French at Heidelberg University, and English literature and Critical & Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. He is series editor of Critical Posthumanism (Rodopi) and author and editor of a number of books on a variety of aspects in English and comparative literature, critical & cultural theory, continental philosophy, cultural and media studies. He is also a translator of cultural theory/philosophy from French into English (Derrida, Cixous, Stiegler).