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Time to play catch-up. Since Christmas there’s been no shortage of worthwhile reading so let’s take a walk around the blogosphere and see some of what’s worth your time.

Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog returns his critical eyes to Civilization V, taking his early comments on the how barbarism and civilization are depicted in the game in a new and profitable direction. Here’s an excerpt from his conclusions:

Civilization V procedurally renders a vapid conception of social relations marked by blanket uniformity. Although players can unlock globalization as a technology, the game does not model a complex economic system of globalized production and consumption across borders. Civilization’s are neatly confined and controlled. Poverty and inequality are not an issue, and class holds no explanatory relevance for historical processes or civilizational growth.

Albor also wrote for Pop Matters about ‘The Topography of Fear’ in Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Darshana Jayemanne got in touch this week to let us know about something he’d written a while back in the Overland literary journal looking at videogame culture. It’s a piece titled ‘The Resident of Evil Creek’ and it starts a bit like this:

In developed economies, design is valued highly. Designers receive attractive remuneration and are celebrated in glossy trade publications. Video-game designers, however, get treated as a cultural blight. According to a recent white paper by the International Game Developers Association, they even face significant quality-of-life issues, working long hours but with poor job security. Designers of video games simply aren’t as dear to the managerial class as the wunderkind who created their flimsy prefab furnishings, the engineer who devised their plasma screen and the entertainment executive behind the reality TV fare they watch.

Gamasutra hosted a neat two-part series on CityVille by Tadhg Kelly, for which Kyle Orland wrote a little forward titled ‘How Self-Interest Supports CityVille‘s Socialization’.

Also at Gamasutra, Michel McBride writes about ‘Affordance Design in Half-Life 2’, another neat little look at the ‘Pick up that can!’ and other scenes in Half-Life 2 and how the communicate to the player.

This week just gone Clint Hocking delivered the fifth post in his ‘Convergence Culture’ series. It’s largely about the changing expectations audiences have of their games, and Hocking says,

We were too long handcuffed by a wrongheaded desire to protect the coherence of the fiction of our game worlds, and this made allowing players to play co-op games difficult.

At the blog Digital Kicks, author Lyndon Warren talks about ‘Wittgenstein, Games and Language’. I won’t tell you what the post is actually about, however, as it’s a bit of a surprise. It is very good though, so do give it a chance.

Adrian Forest at the Three Parts Theory blog takes a look back at some of ‘2010’s most interesting games spaces’. Enough said.

Robert Yang has begun a new series called ‘Dark Past’ (semi-in-response to Rock Paper Shotgun’s ‘Dark Futures’ series) which will be taking a look at the history and future of ‘the immersive sim’. And what’s that, pray tell? Yang tells us,

…the difference between sandbox games and the immersive sim is that emergence didn’t affect the “whole” of the game. Is JC Denton the guy who uses a taser or a shotgun? NPCs notice. The world notices.

Dan Cook of the Lost Garden blog celebrates beginning 2011 by looking at all the new frontiers of game design still waiting to be mapped out. He exhorts us,

If you come across someone who claims that all games have already been designed or that game design is a solved problem, show them this list. And then challenge them to stop fiddling about with over-exploited games from decades past and make something new and wonderful that will change the world.

Radek Koncewicz plays through all of Super Mario Bros 3’s World 1 and gives us some Level Design Lessons to take away from it. Thorough! Oh boy is it thorough.

Have you been keeping up with Troy Goodfellow’s ‘The National Character’ series about nations as portrayed through Civilization? Well either way, he’s up to Egypt.

For The Border House blog, Gunthera looks at some ‘Characters Done Right: The Honeywells’ who are a family of characters in The Last Remnant, and Denis Farr looks at ‘Final Fantasy VII’s Drag’. I remember this scene with much fondness, even thought I played it when I was a little too young to know just how risqué a scene it was.

Ferguson at Interactive Illuminatus thinks about when certain kinds of dissonance might be a desirable thing in a game.

Jeff Jackson at the Game Language blog looks at ‘Religion in AAA Releases: Some Thoughts on Real and Fictitious Faith’. Primary targets of analysis are Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

Rob Goodman writing at literary site The Millions tells us about ‘Interactive Art: What Videogames Can Learn From Freud’. Here’s an excerpt:

…every argument about art is about validation, about the assignment of prestige—yet those arguments are still worth having, because they can also be about something else. The argument over video games is about finding a place for choice in art, about respectability, and about empathy. And the best way into that argument may come from considering another cultural practice’s struggle for respect in its early days. I think that there’s already been a powerful interactive art, one that has some lessons for video games: psychoanalysis.

Here’s another one from a while ago that has only just been pointed out to me: Richmond Chaisiri at Art-Eater looks at an arcade game from the 90’s in ‘Darkstalkers and the Twelve Principles of Animation’. Practical analysis of 2D sprite animation that I can see being beneficial to apply to other games.

NPR’s On The Media did a whole series on videogames this week, and they’re all very listenable. Comments from favourites like Tom Bissell, Clint Hocking and Jamin Brophy-Warren are all worth hearing again, even if it’s stuff they may have said elsewhere.

Kris Ligman looks at ‘The Business of Falling in Love with the Virtual’, in other words, falling in love with a computer:

…taken in context as flights of fancy, you can see why they occupy the same entertainment role as an Edward Cullen or a yamato nadeshiko. Or, as Cleolinda Jones put it when explaining the appeal of the Twilight series in otherwise sane women, it’s like a twinkie. Sometimes you just want sugar.

Speaking of falling in love with a computer, Jonathan McCalmont is back this week with his column for Futurismic, this time talking about a similar thing in ‘Digital: A Love Story; Nostalgia, Irony and Cyberpunk’.

At The Escapist, Brendan Main discusses cult point and click adventure game Grim Fandango in ‘No Gods, No Devils’: “It imagines an underworld without…diabolical fixtures – no hellfire, no eternal torment. Instead, the afterlife looks like Thursday afternoon.

John Walker at Rock Paper Shotgun considers owning our own games. He asks us,

What do you pay for that’s yours to do with as you wish? Food, clothes, knitting needles. But what about games? When you pay money for a game, do you own it? Increasingly, not in any understood meaning of the word.

And lastly for the week, and also from RPS, Tim Stone talks to a flight sim enthusiast who is very enthused. The things you learn when you take games pretty seriously.

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