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backlashIn the week to 19th July 2009 AD, what were the best pieces of videogames blogging that I stumbled across? That’s what we’re here to find out.

Gregory Weir wrote this week about the aesthetic choices in working with pixel art and going lo-fi. It’s written in response to a commenter’s criticism of the art style of How to Raise a Dragon and their assumption that Weir chooses a pixel art aesthetic just to avoid having to develop lots of art assets. Not so, says Weir.

The After Action Report aggregator and hosting site ‘Blue Casket’ discusses how to write better personal experiences with games in the post ‘Thoughts: Better Meta‘:

So, what is the deal with gaming diaries, anyway? They’re all… too long and not that good. It’s fun to watch other people play games, isn’t it? Some games anyway. I have fond memories of trudging over to my friend’s house on a Saturday afternoon to watch him beat half of Devil May Cry on the PlayStation2, and spectator gaming has got it all – backseat puzzle-solving, shared moments of swearing at the screen, and of course the knowledge that if it all goes to shit then, hey, you didn’t do it…The problem with reading about someone playing a game is that it’s not as immediately gratifying.

When it comes to telling awesome stories based on gameplay, it’s hard to go past the stories generated by MMO’s and the online interaction of real human beings. Destructoid ran a piece this week written by a former GM for Ultima Online in which he recounts a number of entertaining anecdotes of dealing with player transgressions.

A good way to cover these next two pieces is to link to LB Jeffries meta-editorialising about a few pieces from elsewhere. Looking at the ‘Games for Girls‘ piece at Wired, which examines what these games are purportedly teaching girls and whether they could actually be worse (or just more insidious) than the GTA et al.’s, as well as Tom Chick’s response which includes his perspective as the father of a young girl. Jeffries sums up both quite nicely.

Jim Rossignol at Rock Paper Shotgun wrote about Open World Games this week, talking about what works and what doesn’t in games like STALKER, Far Cry 2 and even Assassin’s Creed. He says,

One day I should like to see a game perform the incredible genre-splicing process required to marry up the elements that make various successful open worlds so strong. I should like that game to give me a direction, a purpose, without telling me exactly what I need to be doing. I should like it to ignore me, but nevertheless carry my mark when I choose make it. This imaginary game will, I hope, dump me on the midst of a strange place, perhaps with with a pyre of smoke on the horizon, and instruct me: “survive”.

I’d like that.

Which, I suspect obliquely inspired a conversation on twitter between CLINT HOCKING, Manveer “both humble and amazing” Heir, Soren Johnson, Harvey Smith, David Jaffe, Brenda Brathwaite and others, using the #gamedesign tag. A great visual record of the conversation can be found here courtesy of Mike Watson (known as in_orbit on twitter) from Telltale games.

Tom Chick (again) links to an interview with Jenova Chen (of Flower, flOw, etc) which contains some really interesting virtual sound-bytes on his unique approach to game design.

Chen’s comment highlights one of the reasons that the concept of “fun” is largely useless in the discussion of videogames, and even during the development process. Unlike so many people who write about and make videogames, he understands that “fun” is only a superficial layer, so gossamer thin and indeterminate as to be impossible to capture and nearly useless to discuss.

Kieron Gillen wrote an excellent discussion of the differences between game critics and music critics, this week. He talks about why he is most certainly the former and it’s my pick for must read of the week – managing to be both inspiring and elucidating at the same time;

And games are at the point where they desperately need critics. Without them, and people willing to throw away their lives doing this thinking for a laughable pittance, it’s entirely possible that dialogue around them will be forever stunted. If games are socially normalised before the argument that this shit matters has been won – as it was for pop music – it could be doomed to being considered mere product.

Matthew Kaplan weighs in on the Perma-Death discussion by critiquing Clint Hocking’s response to the experiment.

Duncan’s Fyfe’s 3rd Last post asks “Why write about games?” and features interviews / contributions from a number of prominent games writers and is well worth reading. He’s going to be missed when he’s gone – I hope it’s not going to be a case of not knowing what we have in him until he’s gone.

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