This Week in Videogame Blogging returns with a fresh showcase of the best writing and criticism about videogames the internet has to offer.

First on the list is a thoughtful article on the Brainy Gamer blog, where Michael Abbott writes about how games can provide meaningful narrative experiences through gameplay, rather than stories delivered through forced cutscenes. He does so by juxtaposing Etrian Odyssey III with Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, suggesting that the latter suffers from an impotent narrative.

EO3 doesn’t try to keep your attention by doling out backstory and plot twists. You’re glued to your characters because they’re your babies – evolving works-in-progress that you must wisely and patiently help along if they are to reach their full potentials. It’s not paint-by-numbers. Classes can be played differently depending on how you spend your skill points. It’s in your hands. There is no single right choice, but you can make plenty of wrong ones. Sort of like life.

True to form, Hellmode’s Ashelia penned an insightful piece to share her experiences of Final Fantasy XI and her impressions of Final Fantasy XIV in a piece entitled “The Final Fantasy MMORPGs: Roads Less Traveled” [dead link, no mirror available].

My overall conflicted experience with Final Fantasy XIV still didn’t stop my jaw from dropping the first time I saw a dust storm settle over the sky of Ul’dah at night.

But for better or worse, Ul’dah and its dust storms are something that many gamers will never see. Unfortunately, not many saw its distant cousin Bastok either. The roads to the cities of Bastok and Ul’dah, to the games of Final Fantasy XI and XIV, are one and the same. They’re all roads less traveled in a world covered by interstate. Still, I like to believe that the scenic route is worth taking time to time–if you aren’t afraid of getting lost.

In a new piece on Kotaku, Leigh Alexander takes a close look at her personal gaming habits and how they define her. In this intimate piece, she writes about how she’s never gamed alone and how she now misses the companionship.

On Gamasutra, Alexander has a report of Richard Bartle’s GDC Online talk on the creation of the first multi-user dungeon that definitely merits a read. In his presentation, Bartle discusses the immersion offered by text-based MUDs and explains how present day MMORPGs suffer from limitations imposed by graphical representations and inconsistent physics.

Bitmob returns to us this week with a new piece by Rob Savillo who tears into Front Mission Evolved and its failure as a mech game [mirror], arguing that it plays more like a standard third person shooter than anything else.

Pippin Barr has a short piece on his love of videogame glitches [mirror] and how they can impact his experience of playing a game in a positive way by taking him to a place out of the ordinary.

At Popmatters, L.B. Jeffries talks about the fragmented perspectives of Fatal Frame 2 and how the game’s insistence on leaving the player in the dark to its secrets strengthens its narrative as a survival-horror title.

For this reason, a Japanese horror game is often unconcerned about resolving spiritual issues. Ghosts just exist. There is a unique advantage of not getting bogged down in explaining supernatural details in the narrative because the whole point is to play on the person’s worst fears. Leaving the dark unspeakable evil unexplained is better because the moment you reduce it to words or images the player’s imagination no longer feeds it. The abstraction loses traction.

Also on Popmatters, Nick Dinicola takes apart the ending of Mass Effect 2, calling it the least suicidal suicide mission he’s ever experienced — at least after his second playthrough. Nick examines the strengths and weaknesses of the endgame and postulates on how it could have been better executed. He writes:

Attacking the Collectors’ base in Mass Effect 2 is far from suicidal. If I have even a vague sense of what to do, it’s easy to keep everyone alive.

GamerMelodico’s Kirk Hamilton writes about his return to PC gaming [mirror] and looks at how tweaking his system settings is a joy in itself.

Alex Raymond of the Border House has something to say about the “Dickwolves” issue on Penny Arcade and how the whole episode has left her feeling excluded [dead link, no mirror available] by a gaming community she wanted to be a part of.

Rob Zacny writes on his blog about the difficult decisions he’s had to make while playing Valkyria Chronicles in a new piece about the game’s rescue mechanic.

Rounding up this compilation is a post by Clint Hocking on his personal blog discussing the problems that current fashion design games face in a post titled “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Hocking proposes a theoretical game that not only solves those issues but enables such a title to share its content across a wide variety of different games in a meaningful way.

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