It occurred to us that we should probably address the most common usage of the term Earthbound, which has nothing to do with Latour, and everything to do with video games and pop culture. Well, that’s not entirely true. There is actually more in common between the two than one might at first imagine. Earthbound is the English name of Super Nintendo (SNES) video game from 1994/95, better known as Mother 2 in Japan. You can find out more of the cult following at the EB Fanfest here, and learn the game back story at Starmen.net, which is the company that developed the original game.
Fast forward to 2013. Latour gives a lecture where he combines the idea of the Earthbound with Carl Schmitt’s concept of the political, and its reliance on the friend/enemy distinction. As chance would have it, consider the following wonderfully titled image, “Good Friends and Bad Friends“.
While the game predates Latour and his lectures by more almost two decades, it’s amazing that somehow the connection between the Earthbound and friends/enemies still appears. Or one might argue that, in fact, the connection was always there from the start. Consider the following description from Starmen about the starting premise of the game, and think about the links between being at war with Gaia (i.e., climate change chaos, etc) and the perils we face to our future as signified by the Anthropocene.
The story is set in the 1990s in Eagleland, a kitschy and romanticized parody of America (perfect lawns and quiet suburbs). No dragons, mystical knights, or staff-wielding wizards appear in this game. You are just an average 13 year old kid from the suburbs…until the night a meteor lands in your backyard. The local wildlife start attacking you, a gang of local hoodlums begins causing trouble downtown, you realize that you have psychic powers, and a mysterious messenger from the future tells you that you are destined to save the world.
While psychic powers are not on the menu for Latour, basically everything else is. Consider the following analogs from his 2013 Facing Gaia lectures:
|Earthbound game scenario||Latour lecture parallels|
|a meteor lands in your backyard||The open and dynamic system of Lovelock’s Gaia Theory|
|local wildlife start attacking you||The return of Hobbes ‘state of nature’ and Gaia at war with people|
|a gang of local hoodlums begins causing trouble downtown||War and political conflict between the Earthbound and Humans|
|a mysterious messenger from the future||Walter Benjamin’s Angel of history facing Gaia and the Anthropocene|
|you are destined to save the world||People of Gaia fighting to save the Earth|
The game is also full of talking non humans, ranging from monsters and quasi-aliens to robots and other chimeric creatures. I think my personal favorites are the Spiteful Crow and Territorial Oak, wonderful examples of other-than-human agents at their finest!
While on the surface this game is really not all that relevant to Latour and his lectures on the Earthbound people. Nonetheless, the game does suggest some potentially interesting linkages within the deeper pop culture id that, knowingly or unknowingly, Latour may have been influenced by when it comes to questions of agency and the nonhuman. After all, video games and cartoons are two of the premier sources for finding more-than-human agents playing central roles alongside the standard humans.
So if you stumbled here by accident looking for Earthbound video game information, this is about the best we can offer. Either way, it is interesting food for thought.