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This Week In Video Game Criticism: The Pokemon Villain Showcase

We're partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing on video games, from Pokemon to villainy and beyond.
[We're partnering with game criticism site Critical Distance to present some of the week's most inspiring writing about the art and design of video games from commentators worldwide. This week, Ben Abraham examines everything from Pokemon through a history of villains in games to the 'loneliness of multiplayer'.] This week Michael Abbott reveals the secret of Pokemon’s success – and you’ll never guess – it's chocolate ice cream. That’s what he’s saying here, right? The latest Pokemon comes with chocolate ice cream. Misanthropic Gamer also wrote about ‘Pokey Men’ but he seemed to miss the chocolate ice cream angle. And that very same site also wrote a manifesto this week, somehow bridging Crackdown and the topic of the male nude figure and its troubled relationship with heterosexual men. Fair enough. At Kotaku this week, we have a pair of interesting essays. First, Owen Good writes around ‘Religion in Games: Less a Leap of Faith, More a Suspension of Belief’, and then Brian Crecente looks at the modern movement away from undead zombies to fast, violent infected humans in ‘Infection vs. resurrection: the new science of the zombie’. Jorge Albor writes about ‘Quarian Exiles’ and their place in the politics of the Mass Effect universe, discussing their place as a 'permanent diaspora of refugees' and how that affects their in-game behavior. Elsewhere, Greg Kasavin -- writing on his personal blog -- looks at some of videogaming’s proper villains: "One reason there are so few proper villains in games is implied by the word itself: The concept of villainy is kind of dumb. It's not how the world works. In reality, what happens is that when two people want opposite and mutually-exclusive things, they enter into an antagonistic relationship. Villainy is just an extreme form of antagonism where, most often, either the antagonist's motives are not rational or simply not well-developed." At Pioneer Project, Michelle Baldwin writes about ‘Memories lost: the fear of saving’, saying “All of my most horrible gaming experiences have involved losing or almost losing save files, because anything that puts this fail-safe in doubt means the loss of my most precious commodity; time.” A long time fan of the semi-similar Indie Game Bingo, I was delighted this week to see Brinstar bringing her readers word of ‘Rapelay Bingo’ and the weirdly resurgent media coverage of a notorious game from several years ago. One of the best pieces from this week’s aggregation is Tom Francis ‘On Screwing Around’: “So I’m in the playpen. On the up side: woo! Playing! On the down: I kinda want to fuck with the grown up stuff after a while. Because I’m not just a child, a scientist, and a brat. I’m a tempest of genuine malice, a power-thirsty psychopath with a crowbar of dysfunction. I want to tinker, but not just with the Meccano set. I want to break the car.” It may sound obtuse but it does make sense, and he’s got an important bigger point in there about the future of the open world game. Chris Breault at Post-Hype looks at Sound in Starcraft II and how certain sounds add an extra layer of potential enemy intelligence to observe. Sound in games is area of gaming I’m always keen to see more treatment of. Andrew at the Little Bo Beep blog notes in ‘The Loneliness of Multiplayer’: "Without a doubt I would never assert, categorically, that offline or single-player gaming is “more fun” than the multiplayer alternative. MMORPGs wouldn’t be anywhere near as lucrative as they are if people didn’t froth like addicts over the pleasures they offer. But in most cases, the single-player experience tends to be more finely crafted and narrative-based than games designed specifically for the online crowd." Pre-empting Ellie Gibson’s much linked and talked about ‘Farmville Diaries’, Brian Longtin of the Under Culture blog wrote about ‘Being and Nothingness and Farmville’, declaring hyperbolically: "What I’ve come to realize, fellow farmers, is that the hypnotic power of that playful tune has lulled us into a stupor. What we’re really hearing is the endlessly looping elevator music as we descend into agricultural hell." Clint Hocking was interviewed by GamesTM in their March 2010 issue of the print magazine, (a magazine that I was incidentally also interviewed in) and it’s made its way onto the newly launched GamesTM’s blog. And, in completely unrelated links, Border House has ‘A few more characters done right in FFXIII’. Elsewhere, Annie Wright at GamerMelodico finds ‘5 Real-World “oddities” that could be games’ – my favourite is the ‘Haken Continuum Fingerboard’ and the suggestion of a fingerboard-hero game. Lastly, at Rock Paper Shotgun this week Kieron Gillen got tired of an old argument and stepped up to defend the honor of the Computer RPG: "In short: the common insult is that computer-role-playing games don’t have any real role-playing, so shouldn’t be called role-playing games. The only riposte is that pen & paper role-playing games don’t have any real game."

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