It’s This Week In Videogame Blogging. Short and sweet this week as I have videogames I need to get back to playing. Straight into it then.

At the intriguing new blog Gamamoto, Pietro Polsinelli looks at Dinner Date, and has a nice wine to wash it down with it:

This is a game where living the story is everything. The story is completely canned, there is no interactive storytelling – thank god, actually. The craft went in the writing, and then supporting the story in a fitting environment, creating the right atmosphere. You must be a player capable of enjoying this atmosphere – it’s not a game for neurotic teenagers.

Jaime Griesemer at The Tip of the Sphere blog talks about why he plays every game as if it’s a 7.5, and what that means for designers:

At the beginning of a project, when you are prototyping a new game mechanic, you are not going to have a polished, tuned experience.  It’s going to be noisy and buggy and awkward.  You are going to need the ability to spot the glimpses of fun, no matter how obscured or faint, even if they only exist for a few seconds at a time.  You need to lower your flow barrier, learn to ignore distractions and technical errors, to focus in on fun gameplay instantly before it slips away.  You need to spontaneously create a polished form of the game through imagination and mental tricks like making your own sound effects and storylines.  All so you can snatch up those seeds and grow them until everyone on the team can see them.

Nicholas Geist at the Saved Games and Lost Lives blog writes about the idea of treating the “Reviews as a Lens” – i.e. ostensibly using the review format to look at games, irrespective of age, etc:

The more I think about it, though, the more I feel like reviews are more valuable to us than recommendations. For me, the importance of reviews isn’t rooted in whether or not to buy the game in question. It’s the value reviews offer as a genre of writing, as unique as the essay or the letter, that serves as a lens for looking toward a game. What reviews offer is a chance to change our stance toward the games we play, to think about them in a new and different way, and to draw conclusions about what the game means.

A pair of pieces from the Kill Screen website, the first: ‘Radical Dreamers’ by Jason Johnson talks about Timothy Leary and videogames:

Leary had lofty ideas about the role and function of games. He wanted them to be intimate experiences. He thought they could exhibit the ultimate potential of the mind. As a result, overambitious ideas sunk most of his projects before they ever got started.

The second, by Brendan Keogh, is a story about fun times had at GDC, itself masquerading as a review of the full-body-action game Ninja. Even the piece is in a Ninja disguise!

Another duo this week, but from the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. Scott Juster grasps at the meaning behind Jason Rohrer’s Inside a Star Filled Sky, and Kris Ligman regales us with tales of ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsless Rogue: ‘Dragon Age II”s Isabela’.

At GayGamer, Denis Farr gets in touch with Irrational’s Ken Levine to talk to him about the flamboyant character of Sander Cohen in Bioshock:

…as Levine confided, “If you asked Sander Cohen is he was gay, he’d probably say no.” It’s in the details.

The Escapist magazine has a very interesting piece by one Robert Rath called ‘Ghosts of Juarez’, exploring the violence plagued Mexican city’s relationship with one videogame, namely Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter 2:

…bad press wasn’t the only issue. In GRAW2, an attempted Mexican army rebellion backed by Central American mercenaries spreads to Juárez and spills over the border into El Paso. The game follows the Ghosts, a U.S. Army black ops unit that assists loyalist Mexican forces in putting down the insurgency. Though absurd to American audiences, this plot was incredibly provocative from the perspective of the Mexican government.

Do you remember the real-time, asynchronous multiplayer, browser-based space strategy game Neptune’s Pride? Joel Goodwin of the Electron Dance blog was part of a cadre of videogame bloggers who jumped into a game about a month ago and who has now written up the experience. Here’s the index page for the series, and this is how it kicks off, in the part titled ‘Sartre was right’:

Jean-Paul Sartre famously opined, “Hell is other people.” Actually he opined “L’enfer, c’est les autres” but I don’t understand a word of that.

This is the story of four weeks spent in a Sartrean hell known as Neptune’s Pride.

At the Alive Tiny World blog, Katie Williams writes about the iPhone game Sally’s Spa, putting herself inside the rapidly fraying mind of the titular Sally.

The author of The Gwumps blog wrote this week about ‘Post-Traumatic Wastelands’:

…whether or not you choose to have sex with a bi-curious elf who sounds like Antonio Banderas, the trend seems to be continuing – game developers are trying to incorporate more and more “realistic” elements of adventuring as they expand what an RPG can do.  Two games especially – Dead Space II and Fallout: New Vegas – have tackled with various success two key elements that I think have been horribly, almost criminally, overlooked.  These are: 1) The effects of violence on the psyche and 2) The emotional tolls of dealing with that violence.

Dear Readers, you’ve been keeping up with Leigh and Kirk’s Final Fantasy VII email series, correct? It’s up to part IV. Good.

Something for those interested in Game Preservation: at Bitmob this week, Rus McLaughlin talks to Chris Melissinos of the Smithsonian Museum’s ‘Art of Videogames’ exhibition.

And finally for this week (I did say it was going to be short!) the ‘Overthinking It’ blog author ‘Stokes’ looks at ‘Grand Theft Auto and the Problem of Evil’. An interesting music on an old subject, and one that could definitely see its implications fleshed out into a book chapter length investigation.