[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 writing on Gears 3's treatment of women, the cleverness of Just Cause 2, and more. ]

Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw hasn’t been sleeping this week, writing about why he likes Kratos so much, primarily because he’s a character and not a blank slate:

“The "relatable hero" thing is an idea that a lot of people in mainstream media seem to have gotten hold of, and which seems to infect a lot of games. That an audience needs to be able to project, and so the central figure should therefore be this blank, predictable everyman. The bog-standard "protagonist." And I find it a little offensive that story writers think I would relate to most of the bland, personality-deficient bubble-people that take this role so often.”

At The Border House this week, Alex Raymond quite rightly points out just how worrisome a picture has been painted so far of Gears of War 3’s treatment and representation of women, essentially relegating them to them the role of human ‘incubators’.

Michael Abbott at The Brainy Gamer is pretty keen on Jason Rohrer's co-op story game Sleep is Death this week, offering some tips from his experience with theatre direction that may help both players and controllers. And in related news, Nels Anderson -- writing for his blog Above49 -- also has some good advice for Sleep Is Death players, taken from the book ‘Truth in Comedy: A manual of improvisation’.

Kyle Orland at his new website The Game Beat has a short piece about the reader/writer value proposition (with thanks to Mitch Krpata for passing word of the new site): "We should remember that the reader/writer relationship is, at its heart, a value proposition. We're asking the reader for their time and attention, and in exchange they expect some given entertainment or informational value."

HardCasual’s Filipe Salgado reports that a domestic dispute erupted over a N64 this week: "He kept rummaging under the bed and found it easily. It was an ugly translucent turquoise piece of plastic, and Daniel thought that the coating of dust actually made it look better, like an artifact. He grabbed it, along with that menacing claw of the controller. He picked them up, went back to neutral ground, and put the 64 into a box labeled 'plates.'"

Jorge Albor at the Experience Points blog writes about ‘Salarian Dilemmas’ in the second part of his series on the politics of the Mass Effect universe: "Like the quarians who developed the rebellious robotic race, the salarians in the Mass Effect universe wrestle with the outcomes of their scientific endeavors. From the real world into the fictional realm and back again, the politics and ethics of scientific advancement raise fascinating moral dilemmas."

Jun Chen wrote to me to say that he thinks “Square Enix is laughing at us, [and] that Just Cause 2 is actually a smart game posing as a dumb one”, see what you think. And on the subject of Just Cause 2 – Tom Cross writes about the game also, suggesting that, “Just Cause 2 is what I thought everyone in this industry had been waiting for”, i.e. a big, dumb, explosive video game.

Adam Ruch at his Flickering Colours blog talks about the relative lack of difficulty in both Assassin's Creed games and proposes a couple of ways to increase the sense of desperation. Coincidentally I had a conversation with a friend about this very subject this week.

Have you heard of the Vintage Game Club? It’s been around for a while, since 2008 no less, but it’s recently had a significant facelift and a re-jigged approach to playing through classic, ‘vintage’ games. Go have a look and see if it takes your fancy. [Full disclosure: Critical Distance and the VGC enjoy a close working relationship and we have an interest in seeing the VGC flourish.]