I've been reading Ian Bogost's book Unit Operations lately. It's fairly dense and clearly of interest mostly to academics (Bogost's background is in comparative literature), but I like his line of questioning very much. Here's a quote I particularly like: ""Instead of focusing on how games work, I suggest that we turn to what they do--how they inform, change, or otherwise participate in human activity" (53). He envisions a comparative videogame criticism that would go far beyond the usual talk of technology and narrative to "understand how videogames reveal what it means to be human" (53). I'm really looking forward to reading how Bogost himself answers these questions, but wanted to ponder them myself a bit first, and I invite you to join me.
I have had more time to play games in Japanese arcades and have run across a few more interesting titles.
Tetris Plus 2: This is a fun Japanese only spin-off of Tetris. In the Puzzle Mode, you get to control either a Professor or her Apprentice through Tetris levels with a bit of a twist: you have to make the Tetris board completely empty in the time limit. Your cartoon avatar runs arounds the blocks as you make lines and a spiked wall tries to crush you as the time limit goes down-- the higher your blocks are, the more your avatar wants to climb to the top to get killed! It is a fun take on Tetris.