[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham, on topics including the implicit themes in Dead Space 2, the significance of the spawn point, and how games portray both real and fictional wars.]

Another week, and another attempt at corralling the week’s most interesting and engaging writing, blogging and criticism of video games into one place.

First up: Duncan Fyfe’s ‘Bad Dreams’ at Life Starts Here. In his latest short story, Fyfe touches on the perennial bug-bear topic of developer-journalist relationships, with the main thread of the story revolving around a game PR representative and her interactions with a retiring videogame journalist.

But Fyfe also cleverly places some biting critiques into the mouths of his characters: Mass Effect 2 and Gears of War both receive very pointed examinations.

As these are delivered via specific characters they feel more… attached to a specific perspective than they would if these criticisms appeared in a critical essay. Fyfe’s ‘Bad Dreams’ is one of this week’s must reads.

But this next piece also knocked me off my feet – one of the great things about doing this job is I occasionally get to share amazing gems like the following: the authors of the ‘They Came From The Deep’ blog write about the ideological presentation of war and the battlefield in Advance Wars:

"Advance Wars at its simplest is an abstraction, an 'ideal war': it is no war you have ever seen, but it is in its own way deeply reminiscent of any modern war. However its almost geometric simplicity and focus on the superiority of attack brings to mind the 'ideal war' not of Clausewitz himself—who oft stressed the superiority of defense— but the Clausewitz many late Prussian and early German strategists imagined and assumed to exist."

At The Border House blog, Denis Farr chats with independent game developer Deirdra Kiai about her recently released game ‘Life Flashes By’, talking about a range of issues, including Kiai’s philosophy of character design:

"I never really understood the game design philosophy in which one puts as little “character” in a player character as possible so that players can have an easier time projecting themselves into said character."

Aaron Poppleton at PopMatters’ Moving Pixels blog writes on ‘The Cybernetic Conundrum: Posthumanism and 'Dead Space'’: "The game’s narrative serves as a caution against the fusion of man and technology, while at the same time finding that very fusion necessary to saving the day." Elsewhere, Scott Juster talks about 'Race in Rapture: Black Characters in BioShock 2 and Minerva's Den'.

And the blog Play The Past has been firing on all cylinders recently, and Mark Sample injects more fuel into the blog-engine this week with a piece on ‘Containing the Past With Virtual Prisons’: "This disappearance of institutional sites of imprisonment and interrogation in videogames, replaced by on-the-spot interrogation is an example of what Ian Bogost calls procedural rhetoric, the implicit or explicit argument a computer model makes."

William Weir at The Atlantic traces the history of video game music ‘From the Arcade to the Grammys’. A long essay from Max at the Boom Culture blog, ‘On inhabiting false realities’, it’s one of those pieces that takes a long and circuitous route to get to its point (as it relates to games, anyway) but the scenery is fantastic so you might enjoy the ride:

"This is really the essential difference between news (a worldview) and games (a false world): durability. 'I like to build universes which do fall apart,' [Philip K.] Dick confesses. I would argue that most game developers also build fragile universes, although this is usually a function of limited ambition and questionable execution rather than intention."

A pair of posts from The Escapist magazine this week; first is Rob Zacny’s examination of Alan Wake and how it embodies the story of its own creation. The second from The Escapist is Michael Samyn of Tale of Tales, articulating an argument about the wider social relevance of games (or lack thereof) in a post entitled ‘Almost Art’.

Pippin Barr writes for his personal blog this week about Minecraft and the allure of the Spawn Point He says, "Standing out there in the unknown really brought home how important the spawn point is in Minecraft. You could build a house anywhere on the surface of the giant (infinite) planet, but your true home would still be the spawn point. Naturally enough, too, since 'from the spawn point we come, and to the spawn point we will return.' The spawn point is very literally the centre of your existence in the world of the game."

Kirk Hamilton, games editor for Paste Magazine, talked about how the phrase ‘Over The Top’ has permeated game marketing, indicating a very specific attitude to maturity, seriousness and content (it's also an attitude that, when called into question, sees developers react quite defensively about).

And while we’re at Paste, check out Michael Thomsen’s discussion of ‘The Wii Plays’, a series of plays inspired by Nintendo Wii games. Thomsen writes, "You won’t find a Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, or GoldenEye riff here. Instead the stories derive from games most fans would rather steamroll into oblivion."

At the Second Person Shooter blog, Laura Michet talks about the lessons she took away from running an ARG game called ‘Humans vs. Zombies’. It comes in two parts.

And lastly, at the Up Up Dn Dn blog Jason Killingsworth gazes longingly out the windows of Dead Space 2 in ‘Gloom with a View’. And yet, "the gorgeous views of space provided by these window panels could be read in a far more sinister way. They’re a monumental tease, for one thing, providing glimpses of heaven from inside The Sprawl’s apocalyptic hell. Like golden sunlight filtering through a barred prison window, illuminating a world from which you are irreparably divorced."