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Anyone can master the fundamentals of game design—no technological expertise is necessary. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses shows that the same basic principles of psychology that work for board games, card games and athletic games also are the keys to making top-quality video games. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, Anyone can master the fundamentals of game design—no technological expertise is necessary. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses shows that the same basic principles of psychology that work for board games, card games and athletic games also are the keys to making top-quality video games. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, or lenses. While touring through the unusual territory that is game design, this book gives the reader one hundred of these lenses—one hundred sets of insightful questions to ask yourself that will help make your game better. These lenses are gathered from fields as diverse as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, writing, puzzle design, and anthropology. Anyone who reads this book will be inspired to become a better game designer—and will understand how to do it.


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Anyone can master the fundamentals of game design—no technological expertise is necessary. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses shows that the same basic principles of psychology that work for board games, card games and athletic games also are the keys to making top-quality video games. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, Anyone can master the fundamentals of game design—no technological expertise is necessary. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses shows that the same basic principles of psychology that work for board games, card games and athletic games also are the keys to making top-quality video games. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, or lenses. While touring through the unusual territory that is game design, this book gives the reader one hundred of these lenses—one hundred sets of insightful questions to ask yourself that will help make your game better. These lenses are gathered from fields as diverse as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, writing, puzzle design, and anthropology. Anyone who reads this book will be inspired to become a better game designer—and will understand how to do it.

30 review for The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    On one level, this is a textbook about how to design a game. On another level, this a work of love by someone who clearly understands why games are fun, and how to manage the tricky business of coordinating all the people required to build one. Jesse Schell breaks games down into their individual components, and explains how those can work together to reinforce an experience of fun. The book is full of practical, folksy wisdom on managing artists, programmers, playtesters, and clients. A charmin On one level, this is a textbook about how to design a game. On another level, this a work of love by someone who clearly understands why games are fun, and how to manage the tricky business of coordinating all the people required to build one. Jesse Schell breaks games down into their individual components, and explains how those can work together to reinforce an experience of fun. The book is full of practical, folksy wisdom on managing artists, programmers, playtesters, and clients. A charming, conversational book full of hard advice and useful ideas. A good read for anybody who loves games, and essential for somebody who plans to design one.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Graham Herrli

    This book contains some thought-provoking suggestions about game design, but it also contains enough empty truisms to become annoying. For example: "there were many decisions the designer made to lay it out, and these decisions made a significant impact upon the game experience" (p. 237). The final paragraph of each chapter and subchapter could probably be omitted without removing any information from the book. And the number of typos was astounding. (I sent Jesse Schell a list of nearly twenty t This book contains some thought-provoking suggestions about game design, but it also contains enough empty truisms to become annoying. For example: "there were many decisions the designer made to lay it out, and these decisions made a significant impact upon the game experience" (p. 237). The final paragraph of each chapter and subchapter could probably be omitted without removing any information from the book. And the number of typos was astounding. (I sent Jesse Schell a list of nearly twenty to correct in e-books or reprintings.) Their sheer volume made me a bit dubious of the depth of thought that went into the book. Some parts of it, especially the emotional ramblings toward the end, read like first drafts. The premise of the book intrigued me. Schell pulled together a collection of one hundred "lenses": ways looking at a game to see what needs to be changed about it. Some of these could be quite useful, although most don't need the surrounding context of the book to support them. The book has a companion Deck of Lenses that might make a better purchase for anyone actually intending to use the lenses for a design. As a former professional juggler and former employee of Disney, Schell's perspective on the entertainment side of the industry was valuable, albeit somewhat trite. Here are some things this book says: (view spoiler)[ *Compared with other media, it is harder to hide the artifacts and connect the user directly to the experience in games because games are more interactive (p. 11). *The lack of standardized definitions in game design means that we have to clarify what we mean more. Although this step of clarification slows the process, it also means that we think about each detail more thoroughly (p. 25). [This concept reminds me of the essay about Short Hand Abstractions from This Will Make You Smarter. By using SHAs, we can think about combinations of SHAs faster, but we don’t stop to consider what each SHA really means.] *Schell proposes a ten-part definition of a game (they are entered willfully, have goals, have conflict and rules, can be won and lost, are interactive, have challenge, and create their own internal value to engage players in closed, formal systems)(p. 31-4). He then combines all these as “A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude” (p. 37). *The four main components of a game (mechanics, story, aesthetics, and technology) (p. 41-3) should support a unified theme (p. 53). *When brainstorming, numbering the ideas in lists helps to give each idea individual significance (p. 71). *Games are built on top of toys. One way of designing is to come up with the toy first and let that inspire the form of the game (p. 90). *In much the same way that comics simplify perception by aligning with our mental models (with large faces and lines dividing objects), games may be fun because they are simplified models and thus require less thought than non-abstracted perceptions of reality (p. 117). *When designing a game’s mechanics, it’s worthwhile to consider separately the six basic elements of spaces, modes, actions, rules, skills, and chances (p. 130-69). *Playtest with a mix of novices and experts to ensure that players begin in and remain in the flow channel (p. 177-8). *Each individual game element should serve as many purposes as possible. Elements with few purposes should be merged (p. 197-8). *If a game for children is designed to require only one mouse button, it can be useful to set the right-mouse button to also act as a left button so that if their small hands mis-click, the game still responds as anticipated (p. 244). *A successful entertainment experience should have an “interest curve” that begins with a hook to engage the person’s interest and then adds gradually more interesting experiences until concluding with the most interesting (p. 246-52). *Inconsistency in a story world is bad because it takes people out of the world and prevents them from imagining themselves in it in the future (p. 276). *When creating game characters, it can be useful to consider their relationships with each other character, including their relative statuses (p. 318-23). *One technique for designing aesthetics is to pick a song that evokes the feeling you want to convey and then structure the rest of the game around it (p. 351-2). *It’s worthwhile to make your client feel like a creative partner in your design (420). *Schell explains how the education system has many mechanics of a game but that it doesn’t feel like a game because it lacks the elements of a good game design. “It’s not that learning isn’t fun, it is just that many educational experiences are poorly designed” (443). *If curiosity is a trait that can be nurtured, then structuring the education system to support the development of curiosity will be beneficial to students because they can then seek out any information they need on the internet (p. 447-8). (hide spoiler)] EDIT: Jesse responded to the list of typos I sent him by sending me a pack of his Deck of Lenses as a thank you. This was a very proactive gesture and gave me considerable respect for his professional courtesy. Now that I own the deck, my earlier recommendation that the deck is likely more useful than the book still stands. The deck also has the added merit of being beautifully illustrated and satisfyingly crisp. I think it's a good idea to publish the media in multiple formats like this; multiple entries into a world are something which Jesse Schell advocates convincingly for in his book. I've heard that Stephen Anderson also created a complementary deck of psychological principles to go with his Seductive Interaction Design .

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Mae Stover

    Update: My giftee has read deeper into this book and shared some parts with me that I hadn't yet seen. This book is sexist and misogynistic. I'll update with more details as soon as I have time (I want to look into who else is responsible for publishing this material in support of the author), but, wow: those parts are terrible, poorly cited, and contain glaring problems such as "people are saying" weasel words. I'm going to go ahead and say most reviewers here likely would not have given this boo Update: My giftee has read deeper into this book and shared some parts with me that I hadn't yet seen. This book is sexist and misogynistic. I'll update with more details as soon as I have time (I want to look into who else is responsible for publishing this material in support of the author), but, wow: those parts are terrible, poorly cited, and contain glaring problems such as "people are saying" weasel words. I'm going to go ahead and say most reviewers here likely would not have given this book a pass if it contained racism and antisemitism equivalent to the book's sexism, yet look at the 4-5 star reviews with not a single mention of the outrageous sexism contained herein. Either those readers believe as the author does, without evidence, so they didn't notice, or they just don't care, which is frustrating and disturbing no matter how you slice it. This book is used as a university textbook, and I cannot imagine seeing those sections in a classroom setting. Furthermore the table of contents for the offensive sections hasn't changed for 3rd edition, so the material is still there! Until I return with more detail, this is being talked about online in other spaces: https://medium.com/@partytimehxlnt/ti... ------ Bought the second edition of this book as a gift, and read a few excerpts with the giftee. If you search the reviews here for "gender" and "sexist," you'll see that there are red flags about one particular section, and I urge readers to talk back to that part of the book in your reviews and in your game design. For future editions, it would be helpful if the section in question was handed over to someone else due to the author's limitations and the lack of needed citations, or else omitted entirely. I'm not sure if that lens permeates the entire book, but I sincerely hope not since this is the go-to book on game design, and otherwise looks to be well received. A simple test readers and writers can use: Try reading the work with race substituted for gender. If you wouldn't say the thing about race -- if it sounds wrong -- don't say it about gender.

  4. 4 out of 5

    George

    My crash course into game design continues. This book is an excellent resource for the whole process of making a game (most of these lessons can also be used for software development in general). It covers everything from the original concept/idea for a game to the end product, with all the hurdles in between (teem communication and organization, testing, balancing, talking to clients...). My only problem is that some of the topics were covered too generally, but I understand that this is the on My crash course into game design continues. This book is an excellent resource for the whole process of making a game (most of these lessons can also be used for software development in general). It covers everything from the original concept/idea for a game to the end product, with all the hurdles in between (teem communication and organization, testing, balancing, talking to clients...). My only problem is that some of the topics were covered too generally, but I understand that this is the only way to do it without making it the size of Encyclopedia Britannica. The four star review is mostly because the writing style didn't sit well with me.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kars

    I have mixed feelings about this book. To start with the good: Schell takes a very holistic approach to game design. He's also plain spoken, demystifying a lot of the work that goes into making games. On the downside: the range of topics Schell covers in his effort to be holistic leads to some shallow treatments. His insistence on accessibility means things are sometimes dumbed down too much, assumptions aren't examined or (in the worst cases) arguments are based on questionable pseudoscience. I I have mixed feelings about this book. To start with the good: Schell takes a very holistic approach to game design. He's also plain spoken, demystifying a lot of the work that goes into making games. On the downside: the range of topics Schell covers in his effort to be holistic leads to some shallow treatments. His insistence on accessibility means things are sometimes dumbed down too much, assumptions aren't examined or (in the worst cases) arguments are based on questionable pseudoscience. I also found the insistence of turning everything into a lens tiresome. I personally find a list of 100 things to keep in mind when designing unwieldy and ultimately unrealistic. An approach that is at odds with the pragmatic tone of the rest of the book. In summary, I can't think of any game design book that covers this much ground, so it makes a great (if hefty) introduction to the field. However, each separate topic discussed herein is served better by other titles.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wise_owl

    I read this book mostly because a friend was reading it and game design is something I'm peripherally interested in. That being said, with a few exceptions, I found the book pretty useful. It covers the full range of decisions that go into game design and has tips, or at the book puts it 'lenses' through which you can examine you game. Who is your game for. What is your games 'world'. How do the players inter-act with that world. What are the spaces of that world. It was effective is getting me I read this book mostly because a friend was reading it and game design is something I'm peripherally interested in. That being said, with a few exceptions, I found the book pretty useful. It covers the full range of decisions that go into game design and has tips, or at the book puts it 'lenses' through which you can examine you game. Who is your game for. What is your games 'world'. How do the players inter-act with that world. What are the spaces of that world. It was effective is getting me to look 'under the hood' as it were, and to recognize some of my own gaming decisions. For example, I realized I tend to be attracted to games with strong 'stories' where the game-play isn't divorced from the story or abstracted. I have a few criticisms. Some of the book does feel like it dwells a little deeply in 'gamer' culture. The section in Gender and Demographics made me bite my tongue for it's predictability. Not that the underlaying message; that when you make a game you have to be conscious of the reality of different interest in different demographics, I just think his assertions regarding what those trends are is myopic and a tad ignorant of the broader social factors at play. Over-all I'd recommend the book to those interested in Game-design. It's a pretty easy read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    Jesse has to be one of the smartest people I know...and this book is proof. This book is not only a great way to learn about designing games, but teaches a lot of good tips for creating anything. I particularly appreciate that the book is not overly technical (its easily accessible to anyone who would pick it up), but it does go into some complex ideas...he hit that perfect balance in creating a book that anyone, regardless of skill or education level, can read and learn from.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Osama Alsalman

    This is a life changing book, not as a game designer only, but as a human. For it contains many valuable lessons on the design of human experiences, I would recommend this book to anyone. The last three chapters were the most effecting for me, for they discussed the effect of games and how they can transform us. Once you finish it, you will get a ring, a secret ring, but I can't tell you more. So, go read it yourself :)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This is a fantastic intro to the field of game design. It chooses to be comprehensive instead of detailed, so towards the end, you get some very breezy chapters about working in a team and with clients, for example, and mentions enough biz talk so that you've at least heard the terminology but don't totally get it. I didn't fault the book for glossing over these topics. I was happy that it mentioned them, in a getting-to-know-the-lay-of-the-land way, and I also appreciated that the author clearl This is a fantastic intro to the field of game design. It chooses to be comprehensive instead of detailed, so towards the end, you get some very breezy chapters about working in a team and with clients, for example, and mentions enough biz talk so that you've at least heard the terminology but don't totally get it. I didn't fault the book for glossing over these topics. I was happy that it mentioned them, in a getting-to-know-the-lay-of-the-land way, and I also appreciated that the author clearly wasn't trying to stretch his own knowledge, or lay down rules that wouldn't work in real life. The book spends the most time on the bare essentials of game design from a mostly theoretical point of view, which felt very helpful. I feel that having read this book, I now have the beginnings of a rigorous way of thinking about games, which is really valuable. The gimmick of the book -- here are a set of 100 lenses you can use to think about game design! -- fell a little flat for me, on the other hand. To me they seemed pretty much the same thing as the usual summary you'd find at the end of a chapter in a textbook, which is fine, but not especially amazing. To close: this book, more than anything I have read so far, made me proud to be exploring this field myself, and that is priceless.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Berg

    I figured it was about time I read this, having heard such great things about it from other game designers, and it is an excellent book. It should have been a standard part of curriculum in college for my Game Art & Design degree. Honestly, anyone interested in going into game design, be it for board games, RPGs, or video games should spend some time reading this book. However, as great as it is, I still disagree with parts of it. And to be fair, Schell does say in the book to question the knowle I figured it was about time I read this, having heard such great things about it from other game designers, and it is an excellent book. It should have been a standard part of curriculum in college for my Game Art & Design degree. Honestly, anyone interested in going into game design, be it for board games, RPGs, or video games should spend some time reading this book. However, as great as it is, I still disagree with parts of it. And to be fair, Schell does say in the book to question the knowledge presented within. The parts that bothered me the most were Chapter 9, which portrays sexist stereotypes as to what games women play and why they play games and Chapter 23 which is unapologetically anti-solitaire gaming. Schell says, "the single-player phenomenon appears to have been a temporary abnormality" - seriously? As an avid solo gamer across all platforms I find this to be a very extroverted way of looking at games. As long as there are introverts in the world, there will be solo games. Not everyone wants to game with friends. As for the rest of the book, it is a veritable wealth of information and would be well worth owning, especially for the lists of further reading material at the end of every chapter.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hung Vu

    Finished this book in under a week. Not a very strong book, but still indeed contains some gems. At times it feels like the book is more aimed towards game enthusiasts rather than game designers. The author often derails too far into the definition territory of things, making it hard to stay on point. When done with definitions, the book goes on about setting the right framework of mind, how to stay on track, overcome psychological pressures, and so on--which apply to many other creative fields Finished this book in under a week. Not a very strong book, but still indeed contains some gems. At times it feels like the book is more aimed towards game enthusiasts rather than game designers. The author often derails too far into the definition territory of things, making it hard to stay on point. When done with definitions, the book goes on about setting the right framework of mind, how to stay on track, overcome psychological pressures, and so on--which apply to many other creative fields too and are not exclusive to game design. I guess that's fine too, but I was expecting something else coming in, so that was rather disappointing. I did find the chapters on game balancing and game production very useful however. If game designers should ask me about this book, I'd recommend those specific chapters. Otherwise, it's probably not worth your time if you're not looking to pursue game studies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yu Chao

    Pros: A thorough and thought-provoking guide to game design, and many of the techniques and knowledge from the book could be applied to general artistic creation as well as performance art. Cons: After reading this book, I often find myself compulsorily analyzing the design when I'm playing a game, or studying carefully the structures of the plot line right in the middle of a movie or novel...which could sometimes be disrupting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Zsolt Varga

    Thorought, interesting, useful. From concept to market release with interesting stories and personal tidbits added to make it more fun to read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in tabletop or computer games.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Steingraber

    You don't really read a book like this cover to cover, but I've been skipping through it for quite some time at sporadic intervals. If you're interested in game design this is one that might help you think about different perspectives: maybe even break you out of some dead ends.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Very robust and covers a lot of useful concepts to consider when developing and designing a game. -1 star for the gender stereotypes that were (in my mind) needlessly included in the book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ignacio

    Great book, very comprehensive. Everything is very well explained and with very good examples that reinforce the points the author makes. If you are getting intro the game design industry, this should be a must read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    About half of this book is truly excellent. Unfortunately I can't say exactly which half, since the good parts and the not-so-good parts are all mixed together. The author himself seems to be of two minds about the importance and role of games in our culture, which causes some inconsistencies throughout the book. For most of the book one gets the sense that game design is a very cold calculating type of business. Schell leaves discussion of the game designer's responsibilities and motivations fo About half of this book is truly excellent. Unfortunately I can't say exactly which half, since the good parts and the not-so-good parts are all mixed together. The author himself seems to be of two minds about the importance and role of games in our culture, which causes some inconsistencies throughout the book. For most of the book one gets the sense that game design is a very cold calculating type of business. Schell leaves discussion of the game designer's responsibilities and motivations for the very end of the book. Those last two chapters feel much more honest, and I believe better reflect the author's actual opinions than the rest of the book. The book would be much stronger if he had maintained that honesty throughout. This book would probably be most helpful for those from a computer science background or those without a traditional art background. It is a good basic overview of the game design process. Just remember not to take every word of it as gospel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    A fantastic book that gave me a lot to think about as I continue to design tabletop games. While it isn't 100% (some concerns with gender, understanding of choice-based narratives, etc), it is overall very useful. I've found ways to apply the contents to my (not game related) day job and other aspects of my life. I definitely recommend reading it, even if you don't agree with everything in it. (I'm not sure how much I'll use the lenses, but the ideas around them are great. And, to echo some of th A fantastic book that gave me a lot to think about as I continue to design tabletop games. While it isn't 100% (some concerns with gender, understanding of choice-based narratives, etc), it is overall very useful. I've found ways to apply the contents to my (not game related) day job and other aspects of my life. I definitely recommend reading it, even if you don't agree with everything in it. (I'm not sure how much I'll use the lenses, but the ideas around them are great. And, to echo some of the reviews, his knowledge at times can feel shallow. As with any textbook--take what is good and explore what seems shallow or unsure).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    This amazing author find connections in the most wonderfully and seemingly unrelated subjects. I learned many invaluable insights about life in general.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vladimir

    I found it very insightful and quite fun. Easy to read through.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    The Art of Game Design is a fabulous, fun book, a must-read, a wonderful amalgam of philosophy, psychology, criticism, and analysis of games as both literary genre and practical design. Let me hyperbolize further. I think this book should be compulsory reading for anyone in the business of communicating with others for a living as the advice and insights here speak not just to game designers, but to museum exhibit designers, web developers, filmmakers, educators, politicians, and public speakers The Art of Game Design is a fabulous, fun book, a must-read, a wonderful amalgam of philosophy, psychology, criticism, and analysis of games as both literary genre and practical design. Let me hyperbolize further. I think this book should be compulsory reading for anyone in the business of communicating with others for a living as the advice and insights here speak not just to game designers, but to museum exhibit designers, web developers, filmmakers, educators, politicians, and public speakers. Why should we care about games? Exc epting possibly anthropologists, child psychologists, and Cold War era economic and military strategists(leaving most everybody), I think there is a tendency to view games as a frivolous way to pass the time instead of as what I think they really are, which is as a realtime, behavioral model of a complex system. Games are immersive teaching enviroments that (if they are any good) encourage learners to repeat their lessons over and over until they achieve mastery. Players will remember more information for a longer period of time through repeated, volitional exposure. Take chess and Go as models of medieval war. Among other lessons, those who play them enough to absorb their built-in patterns are likely to see the interrelationship of offense and defense (in chess) and the impact of position on territorial influence or control (in Go). Wonder whether Liddell Hart, Klausewitz, or Sun Tzu have the upper hand when it comes to battle or negotiating tactics? Watch football and find out which plays leave their opponent flatfooted (game, set, match to the deception and surprise advocated by Liddell Hart and Sun Tzu). Care to study the effects of cooperation and competition in a problem-solving context? Grab a buddy and play a round of Joust. Want to (safely) explore the risks of possible futures with other like-motivated people in the hopes of building a better tomorrow? Watch or participate in Superstruct online. As with everything, there are good and bad games, and as a person who likes to get under the hood and see what drives the success of different experiences, Art of Game Design delivers without didacticism. Neither highbrow nor how-to, Schell’s authorial voice is fun-NY throughout (I found myself intermittently laughing out loud reading it, no doubt to the consternation of those around me). For example, he-e-ere's Jesse at page 391on the necessary agonies of playtesting as a means of eliciting constructive criticism: “Having people hate your work is probably one of the most painful parts of being a game designer. And playtesting is like an engraved invitation that reads: You are cordially invited to tell me why I suck Bring a friend – Refreshments Served” Ba-DUMP-bump! These jokes leaven and underscore the importance of repeated testing of one's assumptions, a point made further by photographic metaphor, a picture of a banana all over whose peel is written the words, “I AM A APPLE!!!” [sic] More than a game designer's or software developer's truism, the value of iteration (what Schell calls "the rule of the loop," my parents call "the bloody forehead school, " and most everyone else calls "trial and error") is a life-lesson in favor of defining reality through empiricism in preference to opinion. In my view, the book has only three weaknesses. First, and despite the fact that internal contents are themselves rigorously, coherently organized, each chapter is preceded by an opaque and superfluous road map (ostensibly a diagram that shows how designers, games, and players – and their constituent components – quasi-relate to one another in the context of the book). Second, the first thirty pages or so – which seek to define, parse, or analyze basic terms and concepts as well as set an unnecessarily folksy voice – may try your patience, unless you think reading the sentence “I am a game designer” repeatedly in boldface with each word italicized in turn makes for a meaningful reading-mantra. Finally, while Schell has something substantive to say about pretty much everything ranging from the influence of audiovisual cues on human behavior to the fine art of pitching a game in a way that prospective funders will be most likely to care about, he nonetheless gives really short shrift to technology. In less than ten pages Schell distinguishes foundational technology (Wiimote, strong) from decorational technology (if I score enough points, I can post my photo to the leaderboard, weak), and balances the risks of premature adoption of the latest, greatest (and untested) thing against premature dismissal of emergent technologies that (upon maturity) could threaten a game with obsolescence. However, Schell deliberately eschews mention, let alone discussion, of the pros, cons, or even bare consequences imposed by the deployment of generic game technologies (e.g., dice, cards, balls, rudimentary physics engines, polygonal rendering algorithms, etc.). So curious geeks and hardcore techies will need to supplement their reading. In all other respects Art of Game Design is comprehensive, including 100 “lenses” through which designers might view their work. Each “lens” (also published separately as a card pack!) is really a series of provocative questions that promote introspection. For example, the lens of flow (#18, p. 122, concluding a synopsis of research findings from studies performed by psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and others) challenges designers to balance a growing level of challenge to a growing level of skill, maximizing the relevance of player actions to intended goals while minimizing distractions (a term explicitly defined and disambiguated). Meanwhile, the lens of status (#80, p. 323) borrows from improvisational theater to promote development of more sophisticated characters and character interactions by assuring that game characters behave in accordance with (and constantly jockey to establish and evolve) their relative, respective social status. This is also a book chock full of fascinating cultural references (including illustrative quotes from Confucius, Plato, Scott McCloud, They Might Be Giants, and the Dalai Lama), anecdotes (How did Michelangelo come into his David commission? Whose gambling problem prompted Pascal and Fermat to develop the laws of probability? How did “Space Invaders” come into being?), and aphorisms (“A game is a problem-solving activity approached with a playful attitude” – p. 37; “A puzzle is a game with a dominant strategy” – p. 209; “Power is the ability to get what you want” – p. 424). For me, introductions to Christopher Alexander’s views on architecture and the concept of “griefers” and “griefing” (i.e., minimizing any game/activity’s potential to be exploited as an expression/outlet of active or passive aggression unrelated and inappropriate to the game) were wholly welcome surprises that have me actively seeking out the former from my library (and casually avoiding the latter, as it would not otherwise have occurred to me that online game players might invest time and effort arranging virtual furniture to spell out obscenities). There's much, much more here that I haven't covered, including analyses of gender, age, Aristotelian interest curves, and the virtue of a good juggling routine. (Among other topics that have bearing on good game design.) But I'm probably already over my GoodReads limit, so you can stop reading my review and start reading this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bogdan Balostin

    The obvious reader who is interested in this book is the guy or the girl interested in game design or gaming in general. But don't be tricked by that. It's more than just a textbook on game design. It's psychology, anthropology, and art, a little bit of everything condensed into this simple word, a game. Like stories, people played games since the dawn of our civilization. It's one of the best ways we learn and communicate and get to know each other. Then it's no surprise that games are so import The obvious reader who is interested in this book is the guy or the girl interested in game design or gaming in general. But don't be tricked by that. It's more than just a textbook on game design. It's psychology, anthropology, and art, a little bit of everything condensed into this simple word, a game. Like stories, people played games since the dawn of our civilization. It's one of the best ways we learn and communicate and get to know each other. Then it's no surprise that games are so important part of our life, especially today when we are deprived of our survival decision skills. While you think this book is about video games and the author knows you already thinking of this kind of game to launch your design career, the best principles to design games are the timeless principles, before the existence of modern technology, when everything could be a game if designed properly. Hence this book is about the experience of a game and why do we play games. And of course how to create the almost perfect game, be it a board game, a social game or a video game. Or if you're curious about how the human mind works (not scientific, but more in the artistic, practical tested ways), this book is also for you. Of course I started reading it because I was interested in game design but the amount of good information and encouraging advice about all topics of life made me decide to reread it again soon.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Florian

    Good inspiration for beginners, but with flaws I am torn about this textbook. There is much to like in The Art of Game Design, and the book is arguably at it's best when Schell relays his extensive personal experiences in the industry. I indeed found some sections to be excellent, for instance the discussions of design principles, of games in education, or or the social responsibilities of designers. I also appreciated the accessible writing style. That said, as a uni instructor looking for a tex Good inspiration for beginners, but with flaws I am torn about this textbook. There is much to like in The Art of Game Design, and the book is arguably at it's best when Schell relays his extensive personal experiences in the industry. I indeed found some sections to be excellent, for instance the discussions of design principles, of games in education, or or the social responsibilities of designers. I also appreciated the accessible writing style. That said, as a uni instructor looking for a textbook for undergrad students in a Games Studies course, the book ultimately missed the mark for me. Aside from its excessive length and over-ambitious scope, I found many of the observations poorly reasoned and often grounded in a cursory understanding of related fields. I was irritated by the frequent generalisations about 'human nature', the uncritical discussion of 'player types' (taking the controversial arguments by Bartle at face value), and the frequent assumptions about gender in gaming ('women like to play nurturing roles', etc.). The book would have benefitted from a more careful consideration of the state of the field in disciplines like psychology, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies. Instead, the author ignores much of the academic literatures, and at one point even derides theoretically-minded work as 'pedantic'. This is a real same, and a missed opportunity. In short, if you are looking for inspiration, there is plenty to be found in these pages, but for a more critical assessment of game design I'd recommend turning elsewhere.

  24. 4 out of 5

    sidedishes

    Wow. Often when I read I pay attention to the nuggets of wisdom inside some larger fabric or narrative. This book is a goldmine of them. To some extent they're the brilliantly crafted lense statements, but also the way each of them is motivated by some humourous enlightening anecdote. After essentially every chapter I wanted to show what I had just read to a friend so we could talk about his points. This book is very broad indeed. Schell doesn't limit himself to games of a particular platform or Wow. Often when I read I pay attention to the nuggets of wisdom inside some larger fabric or narrative. This book is a goldmine of them. To some extent they're the brilliantly crafted lense statements, but also the way each of them is motivated by some humourous enlightening anecdote. After essentially every chapter I wanted to show what I had just read to a friend so we could talk about his points. This book is very broad indeed. Schell doesn't limit himself to games of a particular platform or style, but manages with, and puts to good use, a very general definition of games so as to accommodate the breadth of examples and principles he draws, whether from sports, other entertainment, or adjacent fields like psychology and architecture. He also covers the practice very holistically, from idea conception to prototyping and iteration, to the art of handling a team or a client. [His comments on the business side were valuable and well integrated with his other lessons, but as a hobbyist, I'm personally glad most of it is on design and game elements proper :)]. As others have pointed out, he doesn't get into much depth on any particular aspect, but his level of detail was enough for me as a reader to be aware and start pondering / discussing these concerns afterwards, or else pick up one of the items in his 'further reading' list. I found his style accessible and his tone inviting. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Corthout

    If you're interested in creating experiences for people (with interactive products that people regularly use), this book is a special one. Judging by its cover, it looks like an extremely academic university textbook written by a professor. Well, it is indeed written by a professor. But it doesn't read at all like a university textbook. The book is written in a very accessible way, just as if the author is giving an engaging and well researched talk. It is well structured without being boring, add If you're interested in creating experiences for people (with interactive products that people regularly use), this book is a special one. Judging by its cover, it looks like an extremely academic university textbook written by a professor. Well, it is indeed written by a professor. But it doesn't read at all like a university textbook. The book is written in a very accessible way, just as if the author is giving an engaging and well researched talk. It is well structured without being boring, adding anecdotes and showing parallels along the way. Gaming is a very rich subject. Imagine packing all that in one single book. That's what you'll get. Also clever were the 100 lenses the author offers. I often read books to shed a new light on what I'm working on and in this case it was extremely easy. I was able to apply the majority of these 100 lenses directly on our software, giving me a ton of inspiration on how to improve it, instead of just yielding a few superficial ideas. It took me a while to get through the book and it might not be great bedtime reading, but considering all the above, I'd highly recommend it to anyone who loves building experiences. (And I suppose it's also an awesome read for people in game design itself, but that's harder for me to judge.)

  26. 4 out of 5

    Davy

    This is...well, basically, it's a textbook on game design (focused on video game design but most of it is applicable to other forms of games as well, which is why I read it.) and as you can expect in textbooks, if they're on a subject that you've already given a lot of thought yourself, you will encounter bits that make you go "Well duh, that's self-evident, isn't it?". But, as one can expect from GOOD textbooks, it will take a closer look at these "self-evident" bits and explain why they are the This is...well, basically, it's a textbook on game design (focused on video game design but most of it is applicable to other forms of games as well, which is why I read it.) and as you can expect in textbooks, if they're on a subject that you've already given a lot of thought yourself, you will encounter bits that make you go "Well duh, that's self-evident, isn't it?". But, as one can expect from GOOD textbooks, it will take a closer look at these "self-evident" bits and explain why they are the way they are. As the author has very likely given game design more attention than you or I have (very likely since theoretically Richard Garfield could be reading this), there's bound to be new insights when you're reading this and what's more, there's bound to be new applications of insights you did already have. At no point while reading this book did I have the feeling the author was talking down to me (alas, a not uncommon occurrence in the world of educational books). If you're thinking about designing games or even if you want to know why you like the games you do, this is worth a read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nichi

    I've had an interest in game design for quite awhile but have never read a book on the topic (having misses that they even exist). So this is my first read on the subject, but I think it's a good one. Schell addresses a lot of problems I wouldn't have thought of, at least not without designing many more games. Many or most sections left me with something to think about. While the book presents a stack of a hundred odd lenses, the whole comprises another lens to view everything else through. That I've had an interest in game design for quite awhile but have never read a book on the topic (having misses that they even exist). So this is my first read on the subject, but I think it's a good one. Schell addresses a lot of problems I wouldn't have thought of, at least not without designing many more games. Many or most sections left me with something to think about. While the book presents a stack of a hundred odd lenses, the whole comprises another lens to view everything else through. That is, thinking along with this text has left me with a unique way to think about non-game things. Some other reviews complain about the lack of depth in some areas. At six hundred pages, it seems to have the right feel for an introduction. Every chapter has some suggested further readings, many of which sound interesting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to do Game Design or has started to do Game Design or even who has worked in that field for two or three years to recap and add to what is already known. He gives a good overview over all the tasks a Game Designer has to takle. The lenses with their questions are good guidelines for the design process and the advice he gives is very useful and novel compared to other Game Design books. Practical. The book is already quite long so obviously he could I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to do Game Design or has started to do Game Design or even who has worked in that field for two or three years to recap and add to what is already known. He gives a good overview over all the tasks a Game Designer has to takle. The lenses with their questions are good guidelines for the design process and the advice he gives is very useful and novel compared to other Game Design books. Practical. The book is already quite long so obviously he couldn't go in depth too much (he always notes when there is more to a topic which can be found in books with more specific topics like balancing the economics of a game, game narratives, technology and so on). I studied Game Design and have been designing games for some years now, but still I learned something from reading this. Got some new perspective and techniques. Very good read!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    2.5-3. This is an approachable book on a very complicated topic, but Schell's organization is overly specific and the use of "lenses" gets ridiculous after a while. I think the main value in this book is using it as a reference when making games. Need to check yourself on mechanics? Here's five ways to analyze them. I found myself constantly skimming or skipping paragraphs or chapters because Schell would explain a point in the first three sentences, then beat it into the ground for the next sev 2.5-3. This is an approachable book on a very complicated topic, but Schell's organization is overly specific and the use of "lenses" gets ridiculous after a while. I think the main value in this book is using it as a reference when making games. Need to check yourself on mechanics? Here's five ways to analyze them. I found myself constantly skimming or skipping paragraphs or chapters because Schell would explain a point in the first three sentences, then beat it into the ground for the next several pages. I don't know who needs this much redundant explaining, but I guess this is a book for them. Not bad, not fantastic. A good primer if you can stand the style.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Adam Omgitsreallyhim

    Definitely a must read for a game designer OR a fan of video/board games. While it doesn't go too much into any technicalities, each chapter provides you numerous 'lenses' on how to look at the various aspects of game design, starting with chosing a theme to the business and production side of things. By answering the open ended questions the 'lenses' give you, you will polish your ideas more. It is especially good, if you are stuck for whatever reason and you need inspiration or a methodology, o Definitely a must read for a game designer OR a fan of video/board games. While it doesn't go too much into any technicalities, each chapter provides you numerous 'lenses' on how to look at the various aspects of game design, starting with chosing a theme to the business and production side of things. By answering the open ended questions the 'lenses' give you, you will polish your ideas more. It is especially good, if you are stuck for whatever reason and you need inspiration or a methodology, on how to approach your problem.

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