Harman on Bogost

Well worth reading in toto, but here’s Harman on Bogost’s Unit Operations:

As for the book itself, the prose is lucid and the work very hard to put down. You wouldn’t expect that the same volume could convincingly discuss the video game Grand Theft Autoand Badiou and Spinoza, but Unit Operations somehow pulls it off.

The title is even more interesting than it appears. “Unit” is Ian’s Latin version of Leibniz’s Greek term “monad,” and not too different from how I use “object.”

That’s right, of course. The odd thing was introducing Bogost to my class (though, some of them knew him from his writings on gaming already) and making sure they didn’t hear “video games” and then think this was somehow unphilosophical or just something on the order of “Grand Theft Auto and Philosophy.” It is amazing to read him: here’s a guy who learns in his spare time when he’s not being interviewed on Colbert or NPR to program a 30-year-old Atari, and then engages the philosophical tradition in a way that is clear and enlightening. Maybe another way to think about it is how bad it could have been. I love me some Derrida and a lot of the 70s-80s lit theory. But that lit theory could be really awful to read when taking high concepts and marrying them to, say, the hybrid gender of Joe on the Facts of Life. There’s room for that kind of engagement in way that my quick joke shouldn’t elide, but it’s not the clearest reading or writing, and it’s frankly not all that enlightening. But here’s Bogost doing this theory and able to take philosophers and not kill them en route to pop culture. And I say that as someone who has a sun who plays video games, but hasn’t played anything more role playing than MLB baseball. So, uh, go read Unit Operations.