Happy Saturnalia, gamers young and old! As you know, today is the day we celebrate the Sega Saturn, a game console too divine for mortal hands. On Saturnalia it is traditional to gather around the Sega fire pits in town squares all over the world and warm our hands on the flames of crackling, melting discs of 3D Sonic games, singing our chiptune carols all the while. Perhaps when the day draws to a close you’ll return to your iHouse and light up your Saturnalia tree with a traditional portal gun, then curl up by the firewire for a rousing ol’ tale of game criticism, theory and commentary. It’s This Week in Videogame Blogging!

Our piece for the week to light up that child’s heart of yours goes to Jason Tanz over at Wired, whose new critical piece on Ian Bogost’s notorious Cow Clicker is a game in itself.

Next, two pieces on the experience of “flow” as it pertains to games. The first arrives to us by midnight post from Lana Polansky, who likens mastery of fighting games to music, describing the focused state of mind it induces in the player. The other, also emerging from the crisp white pages of Kill Screen, is Tom Armitage’s meditation on landscaping and the direction of the player’s attention.

This week in digital pedagogy: researchers Laleh Aghlara and Nasrin Hadidi Tamjid have released their findings on the role of electronic games in vocabulary retention among Iranian children. Meanwhile, Robert Yang at the Radiator muses on a future where game design is not iterative, test-marketed commercial product but a pastime for everyone.

Dan Apczynski offers us an extrapolation on Andrew Plotkin’s cruelty scale, which is not what you’d expect (or perhaps it is). While over on Forbes, Paul Tassi wants these damn dragons off his lawn:

Is Skyrim a monumental achievement in gaming? Absolutely. The world Bethesda has created is perhaps the most technically impressive in video game history. It’s teeming with life and adventure, and it’s easy to see why you can spend countless hours getting lost in it.

But from a narrative and gameplay perspective, which I would argue are the two most important facets of a game, it’s surpassed by a few titles this year, Portal 2 and Deus Ex among them. A thousand square miles of map means nothing if there’s not a compelling story to be found anywhere.

To round off our rather brief last TWIVGB of the year, the Extra Credits team has a new episode up which should prove an interesting use of your time even if you’re not a fan, as they go step-by-step through a practicum analysis of Bejeweled 2.

We hope you enjoy your last week of December, however it is you choose to spend it! Remember that the deadline to submit your recommendations for Eric Swain’s 2011 This Year in Videogame Blogging is December 25th at midnight, Eastern Standard Time. Don’t be late! Our normal weekly roundups will resume the first week of January, 2012.