[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 looks at minimalist game design and real vs. fictional in games.]

Reader and contributor Eric Swain does a fantastic job of sending me links, this week being no exception. In the week before last, Daniel Bullard-Bates writing for the criminally underrated ‘Press Pause to Reflect’ blog discusses Mitch Krpata’s own piece on the minimalism of Uncharted 2 which we linked in TWIVGC a few weeks gone.

Bullard-Bates expands on Krpata’s thesis and looks at other games that do (or don’t) ascribe to a similar minimalist game design aesthetic.

The Borderhouse blog continues steaming ahead, and I was pointed towards an excellent post about ‘character versus gameplay’. Relating an anecdote where a player picked a character they identified with only to be frustrated by the unique rules applicable, the author discussed the void between character and gameplay:

[The in game character] may have represented her in the way she would like to be perceived, but [that character’s] rules/style didn’t represent her as a player. This disconnect may have lead her to have a poor experience with the game because the game didn’t reward her for how she likes to play.

Denis Farr continues his obsession with BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins, turning the spotlight of his personal blog’s series on LGBT characters onto Zevran. Looks like no one will be winning the TWIVGC pool this week.

After a protracted absence, The Runner finishes its lengthy jog. For our more recent readers, The Runner is a first-person account of Mirror's Edge that blends image, story and game critique together into one big delicious mix.

Charles J Pratt writes about ‘The Jungle of the Real’ and the blurry, contested line that separates the ‘real’ from the ‘fictional’ in a game. He particularly notes:

There is a way in which part of every game is real. Perhaps rules are arbitrary, but what’s more important is that the consequences of those rules are not. When we play a game we pretend that we have certain constraints on our behavior, but the actions we take and the decisions we make as a result of those constraints are not pretense. Instead they are the explorations of the logical space of possibility that’s generated by the arbitrary rules we’ve adopted.

LB Jeffries wrote a piece at the Moving Pixels blog about the novels of Philip. K. Dick and what they can tell us about our relationship with video games.

Elsewhere, Richard Clark at Christ and Pop Culture writes about the 2009 that was, and ‘How gaming changed us’ – essentially, it’s one person’s picks of some of the trends that have cropped up time and again this year.

Conversation across the blogspohere is a wonderful thing, so here’s Eric Swain responding to Danc of Lost Garden’s post we linked to last week. Those are fighting words!

Finally, Matthew Burns-nee-Wasteland seems to have taken up Duncan Fyfe's mantle for unconventional, non-essay style criticism, this week explicating an all too believable situation from a game developers point of view in 'Soft Body Dynamics'.