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The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition (edition 2014)
by Jesse Schell (Author), Jesse Schell (Author)
The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses by Jesse Schell
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A fantastic text book on designing games. To praise this book properly I would need to sound like an ad. It covers every aspect of game design, from conception to play-testing and revisions, and then goes on to give you pointers on finding an agent, selling and marketing your game. All of it is very involved, and it shows that the author has taught a class in game design over many years. This is basically a textbook for that class, in my mind, and reading this is like going to that class.
I'm trying to learn about game design. But I also like to read books that are about creating things that are not screenplays; often they give me fresher insight than screenwriting books do. (As Ram Dass said, "When you know how to listen, everybody is the guru.")
Jesse Schell's ART OF GAME DESIGN: A BOOK OF LENSES presents a hundred ways to look at game design. It's about your process designing a game, seen from a multiplicity of angles. It's incidentally also about making movies, although it pretends not to be. It is also probably about fashion design, although I know nothing about fashion design.
For example, in dealing with dumb feedback, don't agree to the client's changes, or reject them. Instead, try to figure out what problem the client is trying to solve. Schell had a client ask for more chrome on the racing cars in a game. When Schell asked what problem the client was trying to solve, it turned out that the client thought the cars should go faster, but assumed they were going as fast as the game's computer processor could handle. He thought that more chrome would feel faster. Adding chrome probably wouldn't have fixed the problem. Lowering the virtual camera so it was closer to the ground did fix the problem.
Or, the "three layers of desire." What does the client say she wants? What does she think she wants? What does she really want? Your client may say she wants an educational game. But what she really wants is a space game; but she has money from an educational game publisher, so she has to deliver an educational game. That's why she's so hot on the spaceships in your educational game. What she really wants, though, is to become a game designer herself, a desire you must consider as you work with her.
It is really an extraordinarily smart book.
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Presents over 100 sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game's design. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. New to this edition: many great examples from new VR and AR platforms as well as examples from modern games such as Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us, Free to Play games, hybrid games, transformational games, and more.
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In one of their "mailbag" episodes, in which they answer questions sent in by viewers, they recommended a number of books on game design. Now, I'm not interested in becoming a game designer myself, but I am very interested in the game design process, so I decided to write down their suggestions and add them to my TBR list.
First up was Jesse Schell's guide, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. My library had a digital copy and I forgot to bring a book for my lunch break, so I started reading it almost immediately.
I'm glad that I read The Art of Game Design right after watching so many episodes of Extra Credits, when my enthusiasm was way up. As interesting as I think game design is, this is definitely a book written directly to game designers. Coming at it from a player perspective made the whole thing feel a bit off.
Even so, it was a good read. The whole book is organized well, so the sections that are super back-end, hidden-from-view, gritty details that I didn't care about were easy to skip, and honestly, the "lenses" that Schell highlights throughout the book do a nice job of summarizing each section, making this a book that's easy to come back to for refreshers, or an easy skim if you just want a basic primer on the subject of game design.
If you're interested in game design, The Art of Game Design is well worth your time, even if you only want to flip through and read the summaries of each section. As a player, I learned a lot, and if you're an aspiring or current designer, I'm sure you'll learn even more.
(This review has been cross-posted to my blog.) ( )