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Since last week’s instalment, Justin Keverne completed his annotated walkthrough-meets-examination-meets-deconstruction of Deus Ex’s first level – Liberty Island. Weighing in at six lengthy parts, it’s very thorough.

Missed this one in the shuffle last week but it’s too brilliant to omit; Auntie Pixelante teaches us some level design lessons by way of Castlevania.

After Leigh Alexander’s expose about Activision discouraging its developers from taking creative risks and, in particular, having female protagonists, Dilyan Damyanov at the Split/Screen Co-Op blog writes in defence of the much maligned company, in a post titled “Activision’s all-male games are quite okay, really”. And Dilyan’s blogger-mate Vanya Damyanova concurs, in a follow-on post about “Evil game makers and women’s rights”. Are they convincing?

Pippin Barr writes about ‘Playing With Your Dinner’ on his personal blog:

Being a modern couple, we watch a whole shitload of movies and TV series when we eat our meals. Yeah, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks – we’re watching something. That’s what meals are for. Surprisingly, though, Tales of Monkey Island has taken over all of that.

Over at the PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog, G. Christopher Williams looks at ‘Brutalizing Children in Limbo’ and, um, stares longingly at Chun Li’s thighs.

Chun-Li’s sexuality becomes something more than an incidental quality to be admired merely because she inherently possesses an extraordinary physical trait.  Chun-Li’s thighs might be eroticized, but they represent an earned physical extraordinariness.

Williams’ blogger-mate Nick Dinicola comes back with another piece on Limbo in ‘Dreaming in Limbo’.

Mark Cullinane at the No Added Sugar blog has a rather different reaction to Limbo, turning his attention to the critical response to the indie XBLA title and finds its reception unwarrantedly hyperbolic. Cullinane says,

Starved for such avant-garde minimalism, visual novelty and effective mood-setting elsewhere, Limbo has become a receptacle for the hopes and dreams of a videogaming generation: and it is here that the problems begin- because it simply can’t bear such a weight on its slim shoulders.

On the subject of the critical response, George Kokoris looks at the Echo Chamber nature of our responses to media and videogames in ‘On Echo Chamers’. Kokoris explains himself, saying,

I’ve found that I’m really uncomfortable with the world of videogames. With all aspects of it; commercial, indie, academic and journalistic. My reasons for this are still largely intuitive, but I know enough to say that homogeneity is at least partly to blame.

At the Border House blog, Quinnae Moongazer asks “Ain’t I a Gamer?” It’s an unfortunate tale that seems to indicate Microsoft doesn’t think that any women use their Xbox LIVE service:

Chantaal describes a customer service letter that was sent to her by Microsoft that assumed she was writing about an issue her nonexistent son was having, instead of making the correct inference that she was the gamer in question.

Jake Adelstein writing for Boing Boing involves some real life Yakuza in an assessment of Yakuza 3.

S: I don’t know any ex-yakuza running orphanages.

K: There was one a few years ago. A good guy.

M: You sure it wasn’t just a tax shelter?

K: Sure it was a tax shelter but he ran it like a legitimate thing. You know.

Steven Poole’s ‘Don’t Believe Everything You Read’ for Edge Online made me chuckle this week. It’s a short piece about an imaginary world in which books are treated like the moral degenerates games are often assumed to be.

And similarly, Kieron Gillen at Rock Paper Shotgun writes about parallel universes in games. Well not in so many words, but that’s the implication I took from what he’s talking about here – it’s regarding StarCraft 2’s method for dealing with certain player choices in the campaign.

Emily Short writes this week on her personal blog about Braid, Tom Bissell’s book Extra Lives, and explains her unique diagnosis of the issue afflicting many (dare I say, most?) indie/art games:

This ghastly indie-art-game prose: it’s writing that tries to communicate ideas in the same way that game mechanics communicate ideas. Such writing offers allusions and suggestions, hints for the player to assemble, but it shies away from specifics or a through-line plot. Characters often go unnamed, or are named something thuddingly symbolic, or are Everyman. Theme is presented heavy-handedly (you wouldn’t want players to miss it!) and via the most cliché images.

Robert Yang at his blog Radiator takes a very quick look at a particular videogame title and why it’s so good. Which videogame? “Sins of a Solar Empire”. It does have a certain ring to it. Click through to hear why it makes for such a great title.

Adrian Forest at the RedKingsDream blog makes a case that Ian Bogost’s Facebook game Cow ClickerIsn’t Exploiting You Enough’. Forest’s exceptional thesis applies only to a particular kind of social game, one that “…is running a social structure, and treating it like a business.” Essentially Cow Clicker, while an excellent pastiche of the act of playing this type of game, fails to replicate the social forces involved in playing a game like this.

A game that might follow the logic of Bogost’s procedural rhetoric in a way more relevant to the social gaming system might be something along the lines of a management sim about running a social gaming development company.

David Carlton at Malvasia Bianca looks at ‘Operas, Musicals and Videogames’ and wonders why,

If these well-respected art forms can use a threadbare narrative as a vehicle for glorious set pieces, why on earth shouldn’t we do the same?

Kirk Hamilton on how Grand Theft Auto IV should have ended – I never got around to playing GTAIV so this one’s all Greek to me.

Linda Holmes at NRP debunks some of the myths surrounding the market for the Scott Pilgrim film. It’s interesting in that it exposes the pervasive level of game-awareness that exists outside the stereotypical ‘gamer’ culture.

Gus Mastrapa looks at how “Game Designers Can Be Cursed By Their Successes” for the Joystick Division blog.  Mastrapa says,

Somehow the Scorsese principal doesn’t quite translate over to games. In games, it seems that you’re almost forever indebted to your first hit. Only multi-hit geniuses like Shigeru Miyamoto get to flit from one idea to the next like a beaming fairy with a magic wand.

And finally, Michael Abbott of The Brainy Gamer is compiling something like a list of “What makes each game fun” and is asking for your help. It’s called ‘The Fun Factor Project’.

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