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Hello there! I’m Katie, and I’m doing Critical Distance duty today. We have a great selection of reads this week, so get comfortable and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate. (Hot chocolate is an excellent accompaniment to games criticism, and I should know; I’ve had three cups of it while compiling this list.)

On to the latest edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging, then.

We’ll start with an intense interview piece, courtesy of Rock Paper Shotgun. In the first of a new series called ‘Level With Me, Dan Pinchbeck’, modder Robert Yang chats with the aforementioned Pinchbeck, who’s currently working on a reboot of his 2008 Source mod Dear Esther; Pinchbeck especially has some interesting ideas on whether “lazy” narrative really needs to be “saved”. The discussion later shifts focus to the design of a Portal 2 map, a collaborative project between Yang and Pinchbeck. This is the first of a seven-parter – Stick to the end of this series, and you’ll get to download and play the map that they’re putting together!

Blogging at The Machination, Jack McNamee suggests that the stories of 1001 Nights may have been an early example of gamification:

Princess Shahrazad finds herself married to King Shahriyar, who takes one bride every night and cuts their heads off in the morning. Thinking quickly, she invents Gamification, doing in one night what would take the rest of the world thousands of years to rediscover. 1001 Arabian Nights – the collection of stories she tells to the king keep herself alive – is made of wheels within wheels. Instead of tasks, though, it’s wheels are made of stories.

Following a previous piece on sexism in Arkham City (which we linked last week), Film Crit Hulk has now posted a great follow-up, addressing the criticism his first piece received. Read on for his thoughts on why realism, freedom of speech, and context do not necessarily excuse the sexist language used in the game.

The ever-excellent Kirk Hamilton, writing for Kotaku, imagines what it would be like if buying a book was like buying a game, in the process making some great commentary on the inconsistent marketing decisions made when publicising games. It’s so true! Just consider if you had to face this dilemma every time you bought a book:

Hmm, it’s been a month and I still can’t decide: Should I pre-order through Amazon, or through Barnes & Noble? It looks like Amazon gets a special bonus of a foreword from the author… that would be pretty cool to read. Oh, but Barnes & Noble has a special bonus chapter in the book itself, which folds seamlessly into the narrative. Hmm. I remember preordering from Barnes & Noble once and when I went to get the book, they didn’t have it.

In another neat example of games criticism featuring in a more general-audience publication, Hayley Tsukayama interviews Irrational Games’ Ken Levine for the Washington Post. It’s an intelligent discussion about the politics of Bioshock Infinite’s world in relation to that of real world events, particularly the Occupy movement.

‘Off Book’ is a PBS arts-focused web series that in this episode takes a look at videogames. It features comment from a healthy blend of games designers, journalists, and academics, and is worth a watch.

Meanwhile, Dan Cox at Digital Ephemera looks at the concept of “asymmetrical knowledge” in tragic stories. Cox writes,

If “audience member who knows that the big fall is coming, but doesn’t know when” then there is not a symmetry between what the character knows and what the audience knows. The audience knows more than the character. In books, plays and film, this is what builds dramatic tension. The audience is watching “the slow-motion train wreck” about to happen and is transfixed by their sheer curiosity of how the situation will resolve. Will the character escape their fate (made manifest by their flaw) or not? Can Oedipus escape the Oracle’s prophecy?

Cox goes on to examine asymmetrical knowledge in games, a significantly less linear medium than plays and film, with some interesting discussion of how in-game achievements can alter the narrative’s tension.

At the Brindle Brothers blog, John Brindle looks at the way that physics has been replicated in touchscreen phones’ operating systems, and how the tiny touches of physics simulation supports the verisimilitude of the virtual. He says, “This facsimile of physics lends a material weight to immaterial. It exists in part to meet the demands of the new and still not completely intuitive gestural vocabulary which smartphones and pads have introduced.”

The Brainy Gamer’s Michael Abbott, in ‘Little Nuggets of Truth’, discusses an IndieCade speech on the nature of creating puzzles, delivered by Jonathan Blow and Marc ten Bosch:

So, how do you design good puzzles? By not trying to make hard puzzles, say Blow and Bosch. Not even by trying to make good puzzles. “Look for the truth and illustrate it with a puzzle.” The point of the puzzle is to show some truth, and the designer must know what that truth is in the context of his or her game. “Eliminate anything that is not about that truth.”

In an opinion piece at Gamasutra, Richard Fine writes about the role of music in shaping a gaming experience, more so than many other factors of a game. With my own recent re-immersion in the soundtracks of Darwinia and VVVVVV, both of which Fine namedrops, this is a topic that hit home with me. As he says, “Music is, I think, the only thing you could use if you needed to set my mood in 30 seconds. And if you picked the right music, you’d be guaranteed success.”

In a great piece that sits on the margin of games criticism and games criticism criticism, David Lake at his blog, Meditations on First Gaming Philosophy, discusses the player character’s place in Kieron Gillen’s concept of New Games Journalism:

In terms of a game’s narrative, the PC is the entity that kills the monsters, returns the princess to the castle, but also who rampages into innocent villagers’ houses, stealing their possessions and then high-tailing it to the nearest dungeon. The PC is the catastrophic effect the human player has upon the game world. This is in contrast to the Main Character, the in-lore hero who we control. The Main Character is the one reacted to in cutscenes, who never commits any of the ridiculous acts us players have them during gameplay. Where the Main Character is the game’s official report of a hero, the Player Character is the reality.

At the new and well-written blog Ambient Challenge, Lee Kelly annotates his playthrough of Metro 2033 in ‘Learning Russian’, looking in particular at the game’s unique handling of post-apocalyptica, and how his own gameplay decisions strengthened the story. He says,

Had I set the game to its lowest difficulty settings, I could have just gunned down the man and his comrades with no trouble. I probably wouldn’t have been skulking around in the first place. It would have also completely undermined the story, which would have continued insisting that Artyom was in danger despite evidence to the contrary. It was only by genuinely pushing my limits that the game could deliver on its narrative and thematic intents, but a lot of people just don’t want that kind of challenge. An attempt to make Metro 2033 more accessible to a casual audience would inevitably just prevent it from succeeding on its own terms.

Critical Missive’s Eric Schwartz examines the automation of player skill in game design, in response to a recent Gamasutra feature (found here). For instance, in the case of auto-aim, Eric says, “Shooters on consoles can still be fun and complex games, but taking out the aiming reduces skill involved and cheapens the play experience.”

And now for what was likely the most talked-about event of the gaming world this week: Blizzard’s controversial decision to end this year’s Blizzcon with a video of Cannibal Corpse’s singer using homophobic language to describe his hatred of World of Warcraft‘s Alliance faction. Gaygamer.net has coverage of this speech, including an uncensored version of the expletive-riddled video.

This prompted Denis Farr to write a very brave, personal piece about his own experiences with homophobia over at his blog Vorpal Bunny Ranch, where he explains why such language cannot be excused as “just words”. He says:

Because, if you think I am oversensitive, I dearly hope you never go through a fraction of what I have. Otherwise, you might find that your skin isn’t so much thick, as it has been largely untested. I am still here. I have been suicidal, but I am still here, ready to raise a middle finger, yell, and demand that I not be subhuman.

Following the feedback of Farr, as well as numerous other players, Blizzard issued an apology, and it’s a notable apology in that the company takes responsibility and does not try to shift blame. Bravo, Blizzard.

And finally, in light of the controversy shadowing Simon Parkin’s Uncharted 3 review, Critical Distance is pleased to present the following: a review of a loofah.

That’s it for this week. If you have any great links to share, you probably know where to find us by now (and if you don’t, that’s at both Twitter and via email). Thanks for reading!

Critical Distance is an attempt to curate the best videogame articles available on the web, to give you reading material that’s well worth your time. We hope to arrest your attention with what we’ve compiled in this edition of This Week in Videogame Blogging.

First up is an insightful article by Maddy Myers on The Boston Phoenix, who explores Gears of War 3′s women warriors, and tackles the issue of gender in game spaces. Much like the difficult interactions between the game’s characters, the situation in real life is equally complicated.

Equally engaging is Morgan Dempsey’s essay on the PAX Valkyrie tumbleblog, which addresses casual sexism in videogame spaces based on an experience she had in real life. She writes about how the silence of her two friends, and the shame they faced afterwards awakened a new sense of vigilance towards sexism.

At Gameranx, Annie Dennisdóttir Wright takes a hard look at Beyond Good & Evil and its political narrative. She contrasts the political climate of the game to the real world. In the game, the protagonist manages to spark a revolution by bringing what Wright calls “The Awful Truth” to the huddled masses—unrealistic by today’s post-modern standards.

The reason I say this particular trope doesn’t work anymore (even though maybe it did even 8 years ago) is because nowadays, when someone reveals The Awful Truth, we don’t see it. Or we think of it as any number of potential opinions out there to adopt, floating around. By and large, we are so used to having the luxury of willful ignorance towards anything that contradicts what we want to be true, that we consider the act of witnessing something like photographic evidence, hard data gathered by different sources that all points to the same conclusion, or leaked documents revealing all kinds of difficult facts straight from the horses’ mouths (and the horses in this case are various national governments and corporate entities) to be on a par with when a friend tells us something along the lines of “You know, you really can’t pull off that shade of blue. It makes your hair look like cat vomit”.

Poignant. The article couldn’t come at a better time given the rising intensity of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

True to form, Michael Abbott takes on Dark Souls on the Brainy Gamer, comparing the experience with that of Kendo training, in which Abbott says is more about practice than punishment.

And so in the Dark Souls Dojo the player cultivates his mind, spirit, and technique through disciplined practice, aiming for “Ki-ken-tai-ichi,” (“spirit, sword, and body are one”) a Kendo term used in teaching striking moves. “Ki is spirit, ken refers to the handling of the sword, and tai refers to body movements and posture. When these three elements harmonize and function together with correct timing, they create the conditions for a valid strike.” This concept embraces a way of playing this game that appeals to me and enriches my time inside the game. I know what a “valid strike” is in Dark Souls. I have felt it.

The convicts in Arkham City don’t think Catwoman is a very nice lady, and they’re rather vocal about it. Internet persona “Film Critic Hulk” takes the writing of Arkham City to task, and paints it as sexist—or rather, he refers to it as a form of “stealth sexism” because it isn’t anywhere as in-your-face as Duke Nukem, but argues that it is, in effect, more damaging. Be wary however, for in keeping with the “Incredible Hulk” persona the writer adopts, the post is written in allcaps.

Kirk Battle, once known to the blogosphere as L.B. Jeffries, has written a piece on Killscreen Daily about complexity in games—with Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey as his example—and how understanding that dynamic may give us a better grasp on dealing with it in the real world.

On GameSetWatch is an interview with Pippin Barr. In the interview, Eric Caoili Jason Johnson queries the game designer on the subject of The Artist is Present, a game which consists entirely of waiting—and one that steps outside the restrictions of what it means to be a game.

If you’re reading this, of course, chances are you already play videogames, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading Lee Kelly’s Ambient Challenge blog, where he hopes to illustrate his love for videogames to non-gamers in a language that’s easy to comprehend. First up his an article that both praises and disparages Crysis for its virtues and flaws. Crysis, he says, offers a strong emergent storytelling component that’s weakened by the forced storyline its creators forced upon the player.

Kelly also writes about the dual narratives of Red Dead Redemption, which he declares a dead end for Rockstar’s refusal to break from convention.

At International Hobo, Chris Bateman writes about genre categories of video games and how they fail to properly encompass the history of games and their origins. He suggests grouping games into clusters based on common constraints—both soft, and hard—as an alternative to ad hoc genre categories.

On the Gone to Strange Country blog, Andrew Lavigne writes about the subtle morality system of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, a game–released in 2005—which often goes largely unnoticed by the gaming masses. The article lauds the game for its humanity, an afterthought in most action games.

Charlie Hall of Gamers With Jobs writes an open letter to the creator of Minecraft, Notch, detailing the rich experiences he’s had with Minecraft’s open, but lonely environment, and asks that a future version of the game offer an option to disable non-player characters and quests Notch intends on putting in.

Andrew McMillen, the journalist who uncovered the Team Bondi controversy some months back has a few words of advice for his fellow game journalists with lessons he’s learned from the entire experience.

Last but not least is an entry by Patrick Molloy on his Molloy Boy blog which explores the ins and outs of Final Fantasy IX’s character. Often overlooked in favor of the more popular Final Fantasy VII or the flashier Final Fantasy X, IX is a game that sets out on its own path instead of sticking to the worn and beaten road of its predecessors.

As always, you can reach out to us on both Twitter and email with suggestions or contributions.

Hello and welcome to #OccupyTWIVGB, where we’re interested in the best and brightest alternatives to the videogame review hegemony! Down with the 100 point scale! Up with rich description and analysis! Onward to an imaginative and constructively critical videogame future!

Beginning our week of occupation and reclamation we start with the incredible engineering-and-technology informed criticism of id’s Rage that’s come out of the excellent Dead End Thrills blog. Yes, it’s a collection of beautifully treated screenshots from Rage, but it’s also more – it’s a giant photo essay, and some prescient future-thinking about games engines and the direction games are taking:

Calling the tech ‘revolutionary’ seems a little premature when so much seems geared to Rage’s old habits, its look harking back to the likes of Myst and Riven. But it is disruptive tech which, at a time when games are still struggling with parallel processing, provides the clearest indication yet of how old techniques – sparse voxel octrees and the like, which in id Tech 6 might bring this game’s uniqueness to geometry as well – can show us the way forward.

On top of that, Rage is a disruptive game. It reminds us how far we’ve erred from the thrills of ‘run-and-gun’ into pedestrian ‘stop-and-pop’; how we’ve lost the rhythm of the firstperson shooter; and how look and feel are still more important than gimmicks and Gamerscore.

At The Brainy Gamer blog, Michael Abbott summarises Richard Lemarchand’s Indiecade Keynote about ‘Beauty and Risk’.

Our own Katie Williams wrote this week a great piece on ‘Peter Molydeux’ (sic) for Kotaku Australia. Molydeux many will be familiar to many of you as the satirical twitter account parodying the weird mix of enthusiasm and outrageous claims that his namesake, Peter Molyneux, is so well known for. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s extra material to read at Williams’ own Alive Tiny World blog.

Jonathan McCalmont writes this week about ‘The Shameful Joys of Deus Ex: Human Revolution’ in his typically evocative style:

DXHR’s myriad eccentricities form a thematic whole that casts a rueful eye over the miseries and frustrations of modern life. The game begins this examination with a meaningful departure from the culture of generosity and empowerment created by the first two games in the Deus Ex series, before ushering in an atmosphere of frustration, claustrophobia and willing submission that closely resembles the mind-set required to survive in a system dead-set on grinding you into the dust.

Meanwhile at Joystick Division, James Hawkins tackles the military shooter genre and airs his reservations, pointing out that generally “stories about war have to be about something much more than combat to be widely accepted as fair, legitimate works of art.” Hawkins doesn’t find that to be the case in videogames, and wonders why:

Black Ops never once portrayed the Vietnamese as living, breathing people. In the storied history of the Call of Duty franchise, or in the Battlefield or Medal of Honor franchise for that matter, never once have we seen the opposition as people. We shoot them as people, they stumble and roll across pavement as people, yet their humanity is categorically absent from our encounters with them.

As a small aside, I’ve always thought it was an overlooked corollary of the games-as-art position that if games are art, and if art affects people, then we should be open to seriously considering what the effects of videogame art might be. There’s nothing that says they must all be good effects, and the ease with which the “games cause violence” discussion is waved away by some of the same advocates doesn’t gel with a real belief in the affective capacity of art.

The Erics at Nightmare Mode had a couple of posts this week, with Eric Lockaby writing the third part of his ‘Your Homosexual Lover Is In Another Castle’ series (I think this is one that needs to be read from the beginning), and our own Eric Swain writes to argue that ‘Atmosphere is not enough’, comparing both Limbo and Another World. He notes

…how similar they are and how one gets what it’s doing so right and the other gets it so wrong. Both games are silent environmental puzzle games that tell their story through imagery and mood more than anything else. Both games exude an air of loneliness and oppression by the world at large and end ambiguously. But where Another World utilizes this as a basis to dive into other matters and themes, with Limbo it’s the whole show.

LB Jeffries has written a great post for KillScreen this week, called ‘In Brief: What Can Games Teach Us About Law?

One of the most famous examples of someone using a game to explain a legal concept is Ronald Dworkin’s Hard Cases on the difficulties of creating a representative democracy. He uses the example of a chess tournament dispute to explain why the same rule can affect two people differently. Let’s say you have a rule which says, “If you taunt another opponent, you immediately forfeit the game.” Seems innocent enough, right? Two players sit down and one smiles at the other. For cultural reasons, the opposing player is insulted by smiling and flips out. They demand that their opponent be forced to forfeit for taunting them. How do you call that? If the player is genuinely offended, then technically the other player broke the rule. Is it a fair outcome to let them win in this manner? What if they’re just abusing the rule? Dworkin explains that the best we’ve come up with for resolving this problem is to have a judge make a decision one way or the other. And that comes with a whole host of issues about how they should go about doing that.

Somewhat enigmatic blogger ‘Emtilt’ wrote in to tell us about a post he or she had written, and we’re glad they did as it’s an intriguing analysis of ‘Agency and Animals in The Cat and The Coup’. It describes how making the player assume the role of a cat locates their position on the side of the Western powers:

To some extent, then, the game is an accusation, a statement that we, the game players, are responsible through our apathy for events of this sort that transpire. This is quite different than most games, which typically cater to appeasing the player entirely.

At the Malvasia Bianca blog, our dashing editor David Carlton discusses ‘The psychosexuality of Rock Band vocals’ with a real frankness and candour. It’s a very intimate archaeology of Carlton’s inner responses to different types of vocal singing in Rock Band; as a former singer myself, I too know how intimate and personal the activity can be.

At his blog Groping the Elephant, Justin Keverne posts the second part in his outine for ‘Systemic Storytelling’ that received kudos this week. The first part is here, if you missed it when it was posted back in March.

At the Pop Matters Moving Pixels blog, G Christopher Williams writes that ‘A Quiet Start Screen Speaks Volumes’, referring of course, to the newly released Demons’ Souls:

I wasn’t really sure what I was expecting, but the game quietly informed me in three brief screen changes that Bandai Namco had published it, From Software had developed it, and that it would be running on the Havok engine—nothing especially surprising there.  Most modern games run through these brief “credits” before a start screen.  They had appeared quietly, though, as I said before.  There was none of the “WE’RE TEAM FUCKIN’ NINJA KA-BLAMMO” fanfare that some publishers go for.

Then, the next screen came.  It was black with just vaguely pulsing white letters, and it simply read: “Dark Souls,” then “Press Start Button.”  No music.  No intro movie.  That was it.

And it filled me with utter dread.

Independent developer Krystian Majewski has been having trouble keeping the trailers and gameplay videos for his indie game Trauma up on the video hosting site Vimeo. After reading his account of their treatment of him, one has to wonder, does Vimeo just have it in for videogames? Majewski says as much:

…all this time I can’t help thinking that this was because I’m working with games. If I was a fimmaker, this is issue would never crop up. But games have to constantly defend their status as a way of creative expression. When creating games, you are by default suspected of either selling out or producing nothing of value what so ever. Or both.

And least but not least, Quinnae at The Border House blog would like to have a bit of a discussion with Mary Kirby and David Gaider to discuss some of the importance nuances in transgender representation and portrayal in the Dragon Age games.

That’s it for our occupation: the police have come and taken away our laptops so we’re going to head home now. But until we meet up again to protest the Game Journalism Hegemony, please consider sending us links of your most revolutionary, liberating, and inspirational pieces of games writing throughout the week. You can get in touch via twitter or email.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another instalment of This Week In Videogame Blogging. We’ve got some cool pieces this week, so let’s jump in the deep end.

At the Vorpal Bunny Ranch blog, Denis Farr has been playing the first Metal Gear Solid for the first time. Here’s what has to say about the bosses, in particular:

…it felt like I was entering a Western, ready to engage in a  duel. Considering each of these bosses was a personality unto his or herself, it really felt like a clash of personalities in which you were able to know your opponent. Raven’s stature along with spirituality made for a curious blend when he was using these very man-made weapons to try and kill you. Sniper Wolf’s expertise with her weapon of choice led a calm sense of superiority which was only confirmed in the cutscenes. Psycho Mantis was perhaps the most unique fight, and seemed the most psychotic of your opponents; in order to defeat him easily, you have to actually physically change the way you input your controls.

Richard Dillio at The Gwumps blog, writing about Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, says that “Gamers Can’t Handle the Imperium”:

I asked a friend the other day how he would classify the political structure of the Imperium of Man.  He responded with Theocratic Feudalism*, which I think is a great start.  I also think there is a strong streak of dictatorial control in the Imperium (theocracies and dictatorships are different, so this isn’t redundant) and when fully realized, we could call the imperium a Theocratic Feudalist Dictatorship.   I’m not just splitting nerd-hairs, here, because this background has a profound effect on how you would create a game – especially a role playing game, a game that demands the player invest in an imaginary character.

At the Magical Wasteland blog, Matthew Burns tells a story involving the incongruous appearance of an AD&D character sheet, a shared crush on a girl, and a long school trip – ‘In the realm of the dragons’. Poignant.

As a Berlin-based game designer, Anjin Anhut of the How To Not Suck At Game Design blog found the ending to Gears of War 3 uncomfortable, and he spells out similarities to the kind of language used by Nazis in the Second World War in his post ‘Gears of War 3 and Genocide’:

…as it turns out, launching a super holocaust to solve the Locust problem, worse and more thorough than anything the Nazis were capable of, is the celebrated victory you achieve when beating the final boss of Gears Of War 3.

And at the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog, Scott Juster also writes about the game in Gears of War 3: A Triumphant Past, a Familiar Present, and an Uncertain Future’.

Sarah Elmaleh writing for GamerMelodico reflects on the recent Hurricane Irene that hit the US East Coast and the contrast of: ‘Hurricane Heroism vs Videogame Heroism’:

Videogames, as you enlightened people know, can be mirrors to our deeper selves. They highlight the disparity between who we are in reality and who we are—or wish to be—when the stakes are imagined. They are rehearsal, and rehearsal can have a crucial impact on how you respond during a “real event.” Granted, the type of rehearsal that proves effective in real life is more likely to be safety drills than videogames.

Leigh Alexander at Kotaku regales her readers with the story of Ian Bogost’s Cow Clicker Cowpocalypse and ‘The Life Changing $20 rightward facing cow’:

The past year has been one of the strangest ever in the life of game designer, lecturer and author Ian Bogost. It started with the launch of the most successful game he’s ever developed, and ended with him bringing it to a strange, cathartic end.

And game designer Frank Lantz blogs at Game Design Advance his own take on the satirical game and the journey it has undertaken.

And if that’s not enough Cow Clicker for you, the Playable Character podcast recently finished up its first season, so why not take a look back at episode 6’s interview with Ian Bogost in which he talks about the Cow Clicker journey with a lot of heart and feeling. This is one of my favourite interviews they’ve conducted – great stuff.

At the Lost Garden blog Dan Cook has a huge post on the tuning he’s doing to the Facebook game Triple Town and how changing visual elements has changed dramatically player responses to certain NPC bears, as well as a lot of other good stuff!

Jonathan McCalmont at the RuthlessCulture blog has a good piece this week riffing off Tim Rogers ‘Who Killed Videogames (A Ghost Story)’, in which McCalmont asks ‘Why Does It Matter That Game Designers Are Evil?‘:

If evil game designers means better games then I shall be the first to fall to my knees and praise the Dark Ones for they are truly the source of our deliverance from a world both boringly cruel and cruelly boring. Evil is not the death of games design… it is its logical end point.

Michael Clarkson at the LudoNarratology blog wrote this week on ‘Human Revolution’s giant hole’ and the poor ending to the game. Meanwhile, Thomas Wilburn at the Mile Zero blog who, in the words Clarkson uses to describe the post, “thinks Human Revolution is the fairest Deus Ex of all, but…he [also] thought it ended poorly.” For what it’s worth, I turned my apathy for the ending into a murderous rejection wherein I killed everyone I could, “good” or “bad”. Hmm!

Eric Schwrtz of Critical Missive has a ‘Belated Design Analysis’ of Portal 2. Better late than never. So what does he think?

I won’t lie – there aren’t too many things to complain about in this game.  Still, however eager a critic I am, and however difficult it is for me to be nice, sometimes one can learn just as much from things that are done well as from things which are done poorly.

That’s nice then. It’s always good when we can get along. Speaking of nice things – at McSweeney’s, Wil Buchanan writes about a couple of levels of Call of Duty: Postmodern Warfare. Stunning.

And lastly in this slightly shorter-than-usual entry, Tom Auxier at Nightmare Mode writes about his ‘Radical Gaming Blues’ in response to some musings by Tadhg Kelly at the What Games Are blog, which wonders if games can be radical art.

That’ll do it, I think. As per always, you can send in good reads during the week via a tweet or via email. These are our bread and butter, as no one person could possibly hope to stay on top of everything, so please do send in recommendations when you read something good.

Welcome to another installment of This Week in Videogame Blogging with appearances from some of our usual suspects as well as a few newcomers. It’s been awhile since I last curated this series—since June, if you’re keeping track—so I hope you’ll enjoy what we have on show in this week’s edition. After all, it’s only the best of videogame writing, blogging, and criticism.

To crank things up is an excellent piece by Tim Rogers on Insert Credit, in which he writes about the death of videogames as we knew them and the birth of something much more insidious. As Rogers so eloquently puts it, it’s all about the “cruel mathematics.” The piece is in multiple chapters, so be sure to grab a coffee, find a nice place to sit, and read this one at your leisure – it’s worth your time.

At Digital Romance Lab, Marc Bell brings up the subject of female nudity in games, and how we—the audience—approach it. He asserts that while many gamers and critics who express discomfort at the presence of female nudity are themselves the immature ones, videogames have yet to reach a level of maturity of technique comparable to film.

Dan Bruno writes about Bastion for his blog Cruise Elroy. It’s succinct, and it touches upon the introductory portions of the game. Had he not played the game for longer than two hours, he says, he’d have missed the game’s brilliance entirely. The same, perhaps, could be said of many other games so deliberately paced.

At Second Person Shooter, Laura Michet writes about the terms “gaming” and “gamer” and what it means to be a “real gamer”, who plays “real games.” She refers of course of that familiar phenomenon of gaming elitists, whose supposedly superior opinions offer them the privilege of denigrating anyone with a view counter to their own.

Fans of The Wire should take note of this next article. Matthew Armstrong draws similarities to David Simon’s gritty TV series and Demon’s Souls on his Misanthropic Gamer blog. Armstrong compares and contrasts each of the five seasons with the five different stages of Demon’s Souls, just like that.

Next up is a PopMatters piece by Nick Dinicola on Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s use of text for story recaps. For anyone who’s ever paused a game, and gone off to play something else for a few weeks (or months) hopping back in isn’t as easy as flipping back a few pages—even though it should be. One worth noting, developers!

Also on PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog is an article by G. Christopher Williams on the monetization of social (read: “Facebook”) games. “Monetization” is undoubtedly an awful word, but it’s one we’re slowly but surely getting familiar with thanks to the proliferation of “freemium” games. The article talks about the different ways these games make money. A nice pair with Tim Rogers piece we mentioned earlier.

And more from Mr Rogers himself, at Kotaku this time, wherein he proposes ten suggestions that would make Facebook games fun to play, if not actually great. For those of us inured to the “cruel mathematics” and “engagement wheels” he refered to in the first article I linked (you did read it already, yes?), these suggestions are quite welcome.

At the Brindle Brothers blog, John Brindle shares his thoughts on the moreish Robot Unicorn Attack, a game I’ve attempted to understand—attempts which lasted about as long as the attempt to suffer through Nyan Cat. What initially begins as an exercise in futility (to you perhaps! – Ed.) quickly becomes an insightful look at Robot Unicorn Attack’s aesthetics, which John argues shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of analyzing its rudimentary game mechanics.

Next up is a piece by Leigh Alexander in Edge Magazine, in which she proposes gamers should keep level heads and get upset about the right things:

…gamers might have suffered for years feeling like second-class citizens, but now they’ve grown extremely invested in ideas of what they are owed from both sides, highly precise about what they deserve, and vocal when they feel they are not receiving it.

Last, but not least is Alex Raymond’s killer article on Dragon Age 2 at the While !Finished blog, which broaches the subjects of choice and triumph. Complaints abound around the game’s supposed lack of agency—complaints that Raymond wants to address. She points out how the companion characters, after all, have just as much agency within the story as the protagonist.

That’s it for the week, and as usual if you spot any good reads during the week, tweet us, or hit us up with links via email.