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Simple and efficient, rail travel nonetheless inspires a sense of romance. By train, subway, and a seemingly endless variety of trams, trolleys, and coal shaft cars, we've moved on rails for hundreds of years. Industry too relies on the billions of tons of freight moved annually by rolling stock. Gathered here are images of rails in our lives, the third post in an occasional series on transport, following Automobiles and Pedal power. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
An employee adjusts a CRH380B high-speed Harmony bullet train as it stops for an examination during a test run at a bullet train exam and repair center in Shenyang, China on October 23, 2012. (Stringer/Reuters)     

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Liu Jie / Xinhua News Agency

Portrait series, 3rd Place: Peasant worker Wang Jianjun who serves as low-income labor in Chengdu city of China sits beside an image of his daughter being left behind at the undeveloped rural area in Sichuan province in China, Dec 05, 2011. As the progress of urbanization in China is speeding up, there are 250 million young Chinese peasant and farmers moving to cities working as low-income labors, leaving 20 million old people and 58 million children behind at the undeveloped rural areas.

By Meredith Birkett

It's photojournalism award season which gives us a chance to look back at last year's images and acknowledge some of the best work captured. Last week, we published some of the winners from the World Press Photo contest.

Sam Dean / The Roanoke Times

General News, Award of Excellent: "I had to be here and look and feel if there was anything here," says Gil Harrington, left, supported by her husband Dan Harrington while visiting the site where their daughter Morgan Harrington's remains were discovered. She went missing after a Metallica concert in Charlottesville, Va. in 2009.

This week, winners were announced in the University of Missouri's prestigious Pictures of the Year International. The winning images are a reminder of the huge stories that made the year remarkable. From tsunamis to the Arab Spring, photojournalists had more dramatic, historic and poignant events to capture than usual. To do it well takes expert skill. But it's also the mark of a great photojournalist when they can cover the everyday and mundane and still make a compelling frame.

In this post, fellow editor James Cheng and I point out a few of our favorite frames from these quieter stories. If you have time this weekend, take a look at the POYi website to see them all, from the big stories to the less well known.

Pavel Koubek / Nerikes Allehanda

Portrait, 3rd Place: The person looking back at you in the mirror never changes. It is the same person as it was when you were five years old according to Kjell Nilsson, life coach. Like the forest lake`s reflection of the world, where the surface seems to split reality. Above all is elusive, comes and goes from birth to death. Underneath is the anchorage, the awareness of the constant being.

Preston Gannaway / The Virginian-Pilot

Feature, Award of Excellence: Joe Patch grabs a drink of water during a break between acting for groups during Bethel Baptist Church's Judgement House. The dramatization is an evangelistic tool for the conservative Christian church. In the Judgement House play, the character, who had not been saved, is sent to hell despite being "a good person."

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The lunar new year is celebrated throughout the world, but especially in Asia when the lunisolar calendar ticks off a new cycle. This year is the Year of the Dragon on the Chinese zodiac, and is viewed as very auspicious. In China, the holiday is known as 春节, the Spring Festival, and kicks off 15 days of celebration. It also triggers the largest human migration in the world, as hundreds of millions of Chinese trek to see families. Gathered here are images of the preparation for the holiday, the travel scene in mainland China, and celebrations in many parts of the world. 新年快乐! -- Lane Turner/雷恩 (38 photos total)
Chinese folk artists perform the lion dance at a temple fair to celebrate the Lunar New Year on January 22, 2012 in Beijing. Also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar calendar, it is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with the Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Feng Li/Getty Images)

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In Friday’s Pictures in the News, Filipinos brave strong winds blowing rubbish in Manila, Indian soldiers train on stunt motorcycles in preparation for an upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi, Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso wears a wig in a slalom race, and Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops as a tear gas canister flies overhead during a weekly protest against the Jewish settlement of Qadomem, near Nablus, the West Bank. There’s more.

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China, the most populous country (1.3 billion people) and the second-largest economy in the world, is a vast, dynamic nation that continues to grow and evolve in the 21st century. Recent events in China include a successful satellite launch that lays the groundwork for a space station, the completion of a massive skyscraper in a rather small village, the 26th Universiade games for student athletes, the celebration of National Day, the Mid-Autumn Festival, and much more. This collection is only a small view of the people and places in China over the past several weeks. [49 photos]

Chinese artist Liu Bolin waits for his colleagues to put a finishing touch on him to blend into rows of soft drinks in his artwork entitled "Plasticizer" to express his speechlessness at use of plasticizer in food additives, in his studio at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China, on August 10, 2011. (AP Photo)

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“I started developing Monaco in October [2009], and in 15 plus weeks, it won IGF,” began Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games during an Independent Games Summit talk at GDC 2011. Though the game is not yet released, working on Monaco got him out of a depressive rut, and wound up being his saving grace – and it only took him 15 weeks to make the build that won the grand prize at the IGF in 2010.

“I was depressed,” he admitted. “Not clinically depressed … but I was in a huge rut.” He’d been independent for a few years, he had an employee, and he was making a game called Venture: Dinosauria, “and it sucked,” he said. He had to fire the employee, and he ran out of money.

“If I’m not there now, I may as well give up,” he thought, after 5 years being an indie. So he took a break to do other fun things. “I started working on board games. I think board game design is a really fantastic way to get up your designer juices,” he said.

The first board game he made was with African animals. “Finally I got to the point where I’d been working for 5 years on animal games,” he said, with kids as main audience. “But there was this one game I’d had in the back of my mind for years and years, but it was about stealing shit. So I’d lose my entire audience immediately.” But he went for it, and made a Monaco board game.

“I’m gonna make that heist game in XNA,” he thought, and started working on it for fun. He started out by trying to use Torque, “which I think was a mistake,” he admitted “If you prototype in an engine which enforces a certain type of look, you’ll wind up making that game.” He made it just in XNA which kept him out of that rut.

“A couple days later, I’m having a great time working on it,” he said. “Another problem with Dinosauria was that the scale was too big. I was trying to make the game, the game of my life. … I think that was invariably a mistake. It’s very good to have ambitions, but it’s bad to set too many expectations for yourself at the beginning of a project.”

Monaco, which was initially his diversion, became a much better presence in his life. “I made sure to work on one cool thing every day,” he said. “One thing that made it happy, one thing that was awesome, and made the game better. I made sure I worked on one cool thing per day, and I made sure the game was better every day after I was done.”

“I got much further because I was enjoying myself,” he says. In terms of making the game better, one of the best things you can do is to “have people playing your game from like day two,” says Schatz.

“There’s two types of people you should have play your games, first is your advisors, and you can’t have too many of those because you’ll get conflicting information. For me very early on Dan Paladin from The Behemoth helped out,” he said. “He kept the game from being more cerebral, which is what I tend to do, and made it more arcade and snappier.”

“The other kind you want is people who don’t know shit about games,” he joked. “You don’t want their advice necessarily, but what you do want is their impressions. Their experience with the game, and their impressions are always right.” Schatz asks them three questions: “What did you like, what did you not like, and what confused you.” Those things are always right every time, he says.

Schatz had $150k in the bank when he went indie, and through the next five years, he had gotten down to $40k. “At 31 years old when you’re about to get married, and you’re thinking you might have kids in a few years, having $40k in the bank starts to look pretty scary,” he said. He had to do some contract work to build up his finances again, which he says “makes you rich, but is not fun. “

“If you work on a game that’s really cool, you’ll either get recognition or you’ll make money,” says Schatz. But if you make a game to just make money, you’ll either fail, or you’ll make money. “So the way I see it is that if you make a game just to make money, that’s actually riskier.”

At the end, Monaco made him less depressed, “The big reason is that I focused on enjoying my job every day. Every day I built something I thought was cool. Then 15 weeks later I won the IGF.”

When he got into a rut even with Monaco, he told himself, “You should not be not enjoying your job right now! Fuck it! Do something awesome. I made my first game when I was 7, and I’ll make my last game when I die.”

 

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