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Five hours sleep. That’s all I got last night before getting up to spend the day in the freezing chill at the top of a mountain. Needless to say, this one’s gonna be as short as possible.

At Nightmare Mode, Lizz Quinlan discusses Valve’s “Project lil” and inclusiveness in Portal 2.

Ernest Adams at Gamasutra writes about ‘Eight Ways To Make a Bad Tutorial’, and they seem like all great tips.

Eric Lockaby writes for The Last Metaphor, and we’ve linked to his creative/critical fiction work before… this next piece, is it real? Is it invented? I really don’t know, but the words coming from this allegedly real and completely unknown developer are worth reading anyway: “Your Homosexual Lover is in Another Castle”.

“…I was thinking about speedrunning culture. You know, where people compete to get their total time down, carefully exploiting glitches in the game world, until, over the course of months or even years in some cases, they gradually shape the original game into something much smaller. As if it were some new kind of stoneworking. And yet, in stonework we’re shaping raw material inward; speedrunners begin with a finished product. So what are they doing exactly? Are they making the game more finished? better finished? Or are they simply working a product back into its raw material again?”

At KillScreen Magazine’s blog this week, Simon Ferrari writes about Neptune’s ‘Pride and it’s Dark Side’:

One of the first things I learned while studying game design under Ian Bogost was that these [“negative”] emotions can and should be used expressively by game designers (ennui is Bogost’s specialty). And recently we’ve seen a few highly publicized cases of players modifying their own personal rule sets—doing iron, hardcore, or permadeath runs in difficult videogames—in order to amplify potential negative emotions and the resulting cathartic load.

And Danielle Riendeau considers ‘Moral Goods’ and the interesting tale of the indie game Smuggle Truck, talking to one of the game’s creators Alex Schwartz. Riendeau descrbies the games as:

actually a biting satire of the American immigration system, made by a tiny team of people—Boston-based Owlchemy Labs. It’s a complete counterattack on the “serious game” paradigm of sober graphics, coalition banners strewn about the title screen, and not-so-subtle messages peppering simple gameplay.

Olly Skillman-Wilson is clearly a man after my own heart, as he has written in to alert us to his ‘Open Letter to Dan Hay regarding non-diegetic gameplay elements in Far Cry 3’, with the trust of his issue being:

How can the game deign to reward the player for killing another human as if it knows what was right, what the context was, or what the player was feeling, Far Cry 2 nailed that moral ambiguity so well that when you enjoyed the killing, you knew its world had claimed you in its sick seduction of brutality.

Do you need a smart new game criticism podcast to add to your rotation? I think you do, and Playable Character is it. Try episode 3, but episodes 1 and 2 are excellent also. And if that’s not enough, Jorge Albor of the Experience Points blog is teaming up with Patrick Holleman of The Game Design Forum to tell “the Stories of Developers, Gamers and Games” and they’re asking for your input and suggestions.

Adrian Forest at Three Parts Theory on Prototype and Infamous in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

At the Project COE blog, Charles Sharam takes a look at ‘Native Americans in Video Games: Racism, Stereotypes, & The Digitized Indian’.

Zach Alexander at Hailing From The Edge mentions ‘Frozen Synapse and Poker’ in the same breath.

Craig Wilson and his merry band of dashing-do-gooders just one fellow do-gooder at the Split/Screen blog have a metric truckload of data visualisations on videogame metacritic scores. Must see.

Pippin Barr at his personal blog on dead space within L.A. Noire (I totally stole that joke from him).

Doubtless, many readers will already be aware of the treasure trove of cogent and thought-provoking writing that is the Moving Pixels blog at Pop Matters? But for anyone in doubt, here’s the stuff they’ve been doing recently, in list form.

Troy Goodfellow at the Flash of Steel blog attempted to define ‘The Greek National Character’ as seen through the lens of strategy gaming.

Robert Yang at his blog Radiator writes the third instalment in his impressive series on the immersive simulation genre, and it’s called ‘Dark Past (part 3): Letting Go of the Immersive Sim, of flu viruses, ghosting, and why we’re all Kate Winslets at heart.’ I’m really loving the trend to produce large, drawn out arcs of critical writing about gaming, and I hope Yang and others can pick up the ball and run with it.

We value the aesthetics that systems produce (a mission) but not the systems themselves (the traveling in-between missions), aside from the occasional YouTube video of weird stuff — thus, the somewhat recent success of stuff like fast travel or the ghost town of LA Noire.

I don’t even have to do any work on this next one, the Edge Online sub-editors have made my pull quote for me: “Steven Poole wonders who’s really in control: the player, or the game?” in ‘Mastering the Puppet’.

And we’re through! I’m going to go collapse onto my bed and leave you to digest the week’s goodness. As always, you can suggest your own or other writer’s suitable work via email or twitter. Oh, and we’re on Facebook too, if that tickles your fancy.

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