[This week, our partnership with game criticism site Critical Distance brings us picks from Ben Abraham, on topics including how to zero in on fun game mechanics, the portrayal of psychological trauma in games, and why interactive storytelling isn't always important.]

It’s This Week In Video Game Criticism. It'll be short and sweet this week as I have video games I need to get back to playing. Let's get straight into it then.

At the intriguing new blog Gamamoto, Pietro Polsinelli looks at Dinner Date, and has a nice wine to wash it down with it: "This is a game where living the story is everything. The story is completely canned, there is no interactive storytelling ... The craft went in the writing, and then supporting the story in a fitting environment, creating the right atmosphere."

Jaime Griesemer at The Tip of the Sphere blog talks about why he plays every game as if it’s a 7.5, and what that means for designers. "At the beginning of a project, when you are prototyping a new game mechanic, you are not going to have a polished, tuned experience. It’s going to be noisy and buggy and awkward," he writes.

Nicholas Geist at the Saved Games and Lost Lives blog writes about the idea of treating the “Reviews as a Lens” – i.e. ostensibly using the review format to look at games, irrespective of age, etc:

"For me, the importance of reviews isn’t rooted in whether or not to buy the game in question. It’s the value reviews offer as a genre of writing, as unique as the essay or the letter, that serves as a lens for looking toward a game. What reviews offer is a chance to change our stance toward the games we play, to think about them in a new and different way, and to draw conclusions about what the game means."

A pair of pieces from the Kill Screen website, the first: ‘Radical Dreamers’ by Jason Johnson talks about Timothy Leary and video games: "Leary had lofty ideas about the role and function of games. He wanted them to be intimate experiences. He thought they could exhibit the ultimate potential of the mind. As a result, overambitious ideas sunk most of his projects before they ever got started."

The second, by Brendan Keogh, is a story about fun times had at GDC, itself masquerading as a review of the full-body-action game Ninja. Even the piece is in a Ninja disguise! Another duo this week, but from the PopMatters Moving Pixels blog. Scott Juster grasps at the meaning behind Jason Rohrer’s Inside a Star Filled Sky, and Kris Ligman regales us with tales of ‘The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsless Rogue: Dragon Age II's Isabela’.

At GayGamer, Denis Farr gets in touch with Irrational’s Ken Levine to talk to him about the flamboyant character of Sander Cohen in Bioshock: "…as Levine confided, 'If you asked Sander Cohen if he was gay, he'd probably say no.' It's in the details."

The Escapist magazine has a very interesting piece by one Robert Rath called ‘Ghosts of Juarez’, exploring the violence plagued Mexican city’s relationship with one videogame, namely Ghost Recon: Advance Warfighter 2: "The game follows the Ghosts, a U.S. Army black ops unit that assists loyalist Mexican forces in putting down the insurgency. Though absurd to American audiences, this plot was incredibly provocative from the perspective of the Mexican government."

Do you remember the real-time, asynchronous multiplayer, browser-based space strategy game Neptune's Pride? Joel Goodwin of the Electron Dance blog was part of a cadre of video game bloggers who jumped into a game about a month ago and who has now written up the experience. Here’s the index page for the series, and this is how it kicks off, in the part titled ‘Sartre was right.’

At the Alive Tiny World blog, Katie Williams writes about the iPhone game Sally’s Spa, putting herself inside the rapidly fraying mind of the titular Sally. The author of The Gwumps blog wrote this week about ‘Post-Traumatic Wastelands’: "Two games especially – Dead Space II and Fallout: New Vegas – have tackled with various success two key elements that I think have been horribly, almost criminally, overlooked. These are: 1) The effects of violence on the psyche and 2) The emotional tolls of dealing with that violence."

Something for those interested in Game Preservation: at Bitmob this week, Rus McLaughlin talks to Chris Melissinos of the Smithsonian Museum's 'Art of Video Games' exhibition. And finally for this week (I did say it was going to be short!) the ‘Overthinking It’ blog author ‘Stokes’ looks at ‘Grand Theft Auto and the Problem of Evil’. An interesting look at an old subject, and one that could definitely see its implications fleshed out into a book chapter length investigation.