Reading list for game designers

Posted: January 27, 2009 in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

While there are few texts on game design considered to be canon, there are many books that I would consider to be helpful to the both aspiring and established game designer.  I intend for this list to be living and to update it as I discover new ones.

My choices may not be as direct as other designers, but here’s my reading list:

Bartle – A must for getting started and understanding player desires

Tufte – both of these, for presenting your ideas and building understanding in documentation.




The Illusion of Life – For understanding how something can be given life even when entirely constructed.  This is the thing that I believe in that seems to be hard to explain to people.  Games are as much about emotion and life as any other medium.

The Art of Colour – To understand colour as a visual language and to be able to communicate with artists.  This book is fifty years old so bear with the odd attitude and slight misunderstanding of subtractive colour, they didn’t have awesome ink jet printers with 27 dye carts.

Understanding Comics – For a great discussion on visual art, semiotics and interactive media.  Don’t get turned off by the cover.

Design of Everyday Things – To understand design in general and to see how there is no perfect.

A Theory of Fun – Which starts out typical and ends up much where I’d like it to be.  

The Writer’s Journey – For those interested in story and who are not already awesome writers, which includes me.  Even if you disagree with the process, knowing what this book talks about at least lets you argue with those that are true believers in the Force.

Books I am going to check out:

  1. Luoto says:

    Thanks for The Illusion of Life, I didn’t know about that one. Have to check it out!

    I’ll throw out a couple of my favorites:

    Universal Principles of Design: Not a game design book per se, and ignore the pretentious title. But it’s one of my favorite design books, and I always introduce it when I’m doing an EA University talk. Basically it takes 100 cross-disciplinary good ideas for design and presents each one on a 2-page spread. You’ll be familiar with many of them, but maybe there are some surprises in there for you, too.

    Design for People: From top industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss. Slightly antiquated text, but I think you’ll dig it.

    Rules of Play: Designed as a textbook, so more academic than most books need to be. But it says as much as anyone else would about game design.

    Metaphors We Live By: I only bring it up because you brought up another writing book. This isn’t about story writing, though, it’s actually by cog sci guys from Berkley. Maybe it’s not for the light-of-heart, but I credit it for giving me great insight into language, which I’ve profited from as a writer. I never thought about language the same way after reading this book in the ’80’s. I think it made me a better wordsmith for sure, but also made me think about metaphors generally in ways I never could have imagined. Note: Your mileage may vary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s