The 15 Best Game Design Books We Recommend


Welcome to my 15 best game design books recommendation page. 

Here you’ll find, in my opinion, the best game design books available right now. 

This article is only about game design, it’s not about game narrative, or art, or 3d modeling, this is only about the act of designing a game. 

Every book on this list has the potential to push your design career forward and I wouldn’t have recommended each and every one of them unless I 100% believed that was true. 

Plus, I won’t recommend a book unless I’ve read it myself, or, at a minimum, I’ve had it recommended to me by people in the game industry. 

Most are academic textbooks so they offer very high quality information. 

In each section, I’ll quickly touch on the main focus of each book and explore a few of the features and benefits in bullet point form. 

I’ll quickly introduce the author of each book so you can see why these people are worth listening too, and are worthy of your time. 

Also, there’ll be no star rating as each one of these books is superb in their own way. However, I will provide my own personal verdict on each book. 

Finally, it’s my plan to continually update this article every 6 months with new game design books. So click the little star icon on your browser, wherever it is, and save this page as a bookmark, and check back every so often. 

Ok, enough of me waffling, let’s get into the good stuff. But for those of you in a rush, here’s my Pro tip: Make sure you look at books 1, 2, 12, and 15. These are the books that’ll really make the difference! 

1: Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

First on this list, and rightly so, is Level Up. And it’s the best Game design book I’ve ever read. If you are new to game design, regardless of age or type of game, or platform, Level Up should be the first book you read.

Why?

Because after reading this book, you’ll know if you want to be a game designer. 

It covers all aspects of game design, from initial idea generation all the way to post production and promotion. So you’ll get an idea of what the entire process is like and if it’s for you. 

A lot of information will be thrown at you in this process. But Scott, the author, still manages to write in a way that is accessible and fun. 

Additionally, many textbooks can sometimes be heavy on the theory side of game design. However, early in your design career, you’ll learn more by actually doing, so Level Up offers loads of tasks and challenges for you to complete. 

About The Author 

Scott has worked on many different games, many of which are Triple-A, including Sony Playstation 2’s slash-em-up God Of War, Capcom’s PS2 Platformer Maximo And its sequel, Namco’s Pac-Man World and THQ’s unique stylus driven creative platformer series Drawn To Life. Now, living in Thousands Oaks, California, Scott Rogers was fortunate enough to get his dream job as a lead Imagineer at Walt Disney. And in his spare time Scott writes industry leading books such as this one: Level Up. 

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 513 pages of pure design brilliance 
  • Learn from a real industry veteran 
  • Learn every level of game design from initial idea to production 
  • Helps you design games on Mobile/console/PC
  • Tells you how to communicate ideas to your team and other people
  • Offers a lot of book for your money
  • Great for somebody completely new to game design
  • Touches on every possible topic of game design without overwhelming you with details
  • Genera agnostic 
  • A deep look at the theory of game design without going over the top
  • Easily accessible and action orientated
  • Bibliography is worth the price of entry alone

Verdict

One of the first and best ever game design books I’d ever read – Level up is the first book on this list for a reason! If you’re just starting out on your game design journey, this should really be the first book you buy. Level Up not only covers every aspect of game design, but also runs the reader through the overall process of game design, from idea creation, into production, and then eventually promotion, and post sales development.

Plus, it’s a huge bonus that, even though this is a textbook, Level Up is written with a charming, witty, and often funny style that makes it very accessible and easy to read. 

This makes the book great for kids who have shown an interest in game design. 

Get a copy today and you will not be disappointed! 

Take a look at Level Up! on Amazon here. (Yes, Amazon commissions help us feed the poor hamsters that keep the wheels turning in my 16th century hamster powered servers). 

2: The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Third Edition

If you are new to game design this is one of two books, along with Level Up, that you must absolutely buy. 

This tour-de-force of game design wisdom covers every conceivable area of what it takes to bring a game, of any size and complexity to market. But it does it in a way that is clear and easy to follow with each section clearly breaking up the design process. 

Each section outlines a different part of the overall design workflow, ranging from early brainstorming of ideas, to boxing levels out of basic geometry to test flow and fun. 

Additionally, like Level Up, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses is written in a way to get you looking up away from the pages and working on making actual games as much as possible. The author knows that games are designed by doing, not just by reading. 

This makes the book ideal for people who like to learn by getting their hands dirty and diving straight into the design, instead of just reading about it. 

About The Author 

Jesse Schell is the founder and CEO of Schell Games. The largest game development company in Pennsylvania, Schell Games has produced an amazing array of innovative and award-winning interactive gaming experiences which include the Toy Story Mania TV game, Disney Fairies MMO, and Pixie Hollow. Additionally, Jesse has worked on some of the most renowned interactive theme park experiences in the world. 

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • Huge book that spans 654 pages. 
  • Learn deeply about many aspects of game design, and the philosophy of game design
  • Section 8, “Iteration With The Design,” should be required reading for all artists 
  • Each section is self contained so you can jump around from section to section and learn as and when needed 
  • Simple language makes the book very accessible 
  • The Book uses a lot of modern games including Uncharted 4 and The Last Of Us as examples
  • A lot of book for your money
  • A great book for those new to game design 
  • Touches on every possible topic of game design 
  • Focuses heavily on the adventure game genre 
  • Theory heavy but plenty of exercises to get you working on actual game design
  • Explores each individual topic in great depth

Verdict

Considered by many game designers to be the best game design book ever written, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses is a triumph of knowledge condensed onto paper. 

Despite the tiny font, seriously, I thought I’d need a magnifying glass to read everything, this book still stretches out for over 650 pages. And every single page dripps and oozes game design goodness. 

There’s no other book on the market that offers the breadth and depth that A book of Lenses does. If you’re serious about becoming a games designer, then this book should be on your “Must buy at any cost” list.

Take a look at The Art of Game Design on Amazon here. 

3: Fundamentals of Game Design (3rd Edition)

Written by Electronic Arts veteran Dr. Ernest Adams, Fundamentals of Game Design focuses on, as the name suggests, the fundamentals of game design. 

Ernest goes on to explore many of the basic ideas of design that most new game designers may not even have thought about. For example he spends a section exploring what fun is, and what makes a game a game. 

While touching on these basic ideas, Adams steers clear of the pitfalls of adding too much depth to each section, choosing to lay a foundation of understanding for other books to build upon. 

About The Author

Freelance game designer, writer, and teacher Dr. Ernest Adams came to fame as a game sound designer while working for Electronic Arts on the Madden NFL Games in the 1990s. 

After joining the game industry in 1989, he went on to work for Bullfrog Productions on the Dungeon Keeper series and to write five books that include this one. 

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • Huge book that spans 576 pages
  • Over 18 sections covering all aspects of basic game design 
  • Each section targets a specific area of game design theory such as character design and gameplay
  • Comes with exercises and resources to complete at the end of each section
  • Looks to answer fundamental questions about game design such as ‘why do we play games?’
  • Easy to follow and logical flow to the sections
  • Takes a look at new ways of controlling games such as motion control
  • A lot of book for your money
  • A great next step if you’ve read another game design book already
  • Touches on every possible topic of game design 
  • Based around adventure game design
  • Theory heavy 
  • Easily accessible and sections can be read out of order
  • Explores each topic in great depth

Verdict

Written by a highly acclaimed industry veteran, Fundamentals of Game Design is a well written, if theory-heavy, introduction to game design.

I particularly enjoyed it’s exploration into what makes a game, and why we experience the emotion of fun and what causes it. 

If you are just starting your journey in game design, and you can’t get hold of a copy of Level up or The Art of Game Design, then this is definitely a book you should buy. 

Take a look at the Fundamental of Game Design here.

4: Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design: An Encyclopedia of Mechanisms

Without doubt board game design is one of the most important tools in the Video game designers locker. Now, you’re probably thinking what the heck has board games got to do with video game design?  

Well, board games and pencil and paper RPG games have been used to very quickly test game mechanics for as long as video games have existed. 

I learned an old rule: If it plays well on paper it’ll play even better on screen. 

So nearly all game designers test out every aspect of the game play loop on paper and cardboard first. They’ll design out levels and then navigate around the level just as you would in an old school pen and paper tabletop RPG . 

Every aspect of game play can be tested on paper first. And you need to learn how to do it. 

Fortunately Building block of Tabletop Game Design is the ultimate guide to designing board games. 

About The Author

This book was written by two authors. They were: 

Geoffrey Engelstein, he has designed many tabletop games that include The Ares Project, the Space Cadets series of boardgames, The Dragon & Flagon, The Expanse, and more.

And Isaac Shalev, he is a designer of a number of board games including Seikatsu, Ravenous River, and Show & Tile.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • Over 516 pages long 
  • Covers the nuts and bolts of board game design
  • Serves as a practical guide for designers new to board game design and experienced pros
  • Dissects standalone mechanisms in top board games to explain how they work
  • Uses diagrams throughout the book to explain different board game mechanisms
  • Explains how to design your own mechanisms to represent video game gameplay 
  • Great for professional, classroom, or home use
  • The best book on Board game design money can buy
  • Set out in an easy to follow workflow manner so that you can read the book front to back
  • Explains the math behind board game dice rolls and cards games 
  • Helps explain prototyping 
  • Offer lots of examples for easy explanation
  • Lots of activities to practice on

Verdict

Board game design is a vital component of video game design, Ken Levin of Bioshock fame, always designed the gameplay loop on paper. He then tested entire levels and gameplay elements as board games based on the idea that, if it was fun as a board game, it would be even more fun as a video game. And let’s be honest, his games are amazing, so he must be doing something right. 

With that idea in mind, I’ve added Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design to this list as, quite frankly, it is the best board game design book on the market right now. 

Myself and another contributor to Career Gamers have read many board game books and none come close to how good this book is. 

Take a look Building Blocks of Table top Game Design here.  

5: A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design 1st Edition, Kindle Edition

Recommended to me by a friend doing a game design degree in my native South Wales, A Game Design Vocabulary looks at the importance of communicating your ideas in a way that convinces designers, programmers, creatives, and investors why they should back your game. 

The book also explores why there has been a lack of creativity in the games industry over the past few years, and how poor quality communication, rife within the creative industry, is responsible for that. 

To remedy this situation, the book gives a framework of language and communication techniques for approaching not just game design but other areas of games. By the end of the book, you’ll be better able to communicate the value of your ideas to the people that matter most.  

The book also looks at communication within games and how you the designer can  communicate with the player when they are playing. 

About The Author

This book was written by two Authors. They were: 

Anna Anthropy, who is an artist, author and game creatrix, whatever that means! 

And Naomi Clark, who has been designing and producing games for more than two decades including casual download game, Miss Management, Flash game, LEGO Junkbot, and Facebook games, and Dreamland.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 218 pages long
  • Learn to tell great stories that move beyond cutscenes and text
  • Wield the full power of development, conflict, climax, and resolution
  • Learn to write stories that matter to gamers in a way that work in interactive media
  • Advises you on how to shape scenes, pace scenes, and hot to create interesting player choices in games
  • Deepen context via art, animation, music, and sound
  • Help players discover, understand, engage, and “talk back” to you
  • Learn to use resistance and difficulty effectively 
  • Communicate a design vision everyone can understand
  • Approaches games design from a different new and exciting direction
  • Offers a complete framework for communicating a designer’s intention.

Verdict 

More of a communications book than a design book, Game Design Vocabulary, explores the idea of how a designer goes about communicating their ideas to a team, investors, and the world at large. 

One of the hardest skills in design is to sell the intangible, to paint a picture of an idea so vivid in another person’s mind that they get just as excited as you. 

Unless you are some kind of coding genius that can create games on their own, you’ll need to learn how to sell your vision to build a team. And this is the book to help you learn how too. 

Check out Game Design Vocabulary here. 

6: Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences 1st Edition, Kindle Edition

Designing games, written by Tynan Sylvester of Irrational games, explores game design by performing a number of case studies on some of the biggest gaming hits of recent years.

In his book, Tynan states that games have a duty to provide emotional experiences to the gamer.  

Within the book’s pages, you’lI learn about a number of areas of game design that are key to generating these emotional moments, from simple game mechanics to compelling narrative structures. 

Plus, the book looks at free to play games like Fortnight to answer the question: how do repetitive games keep their audience engaged?  

About The Author

Designing indie games since 2000, Tynan Sylvester worked on Bioshock Infinite for 4 years at Irrational Games. 

He’s worked on the Bioshock games. Need I say more? 

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 416 pages long
  • Create game mechanics to trigger a range of emotions and provide a variety of play styles 
  • Explore several options for combining narrative with interactivity
  • Learn to let multiplayer gamers build their own stories around interacting with other players
  • Motivate players through rewards
  • You’ll learn to plan, test, and analyze your design through iteration
  • Learn how your game’s market positioning will affect your design
  • Explores the emotional side of games design 
  • Takes a more human centric approach to learning game design instead of just throwing theory at you
  • Look at the psychology that motivates players in games

Verdict

One of the most informative game design books I’ve ever read, Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences explores every aspect of video game design and packs a huge amount of content into a comparably small amount of pages. 

From exploring the mathematics surrounding rule creation to the emotional narrative structure, this book is a great all-rounder that would be a good start for anybody new to game design. 

Check out the Designing Games book here.

7: Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation

Steve Swink delves into the “feel” of games and how to design emotional and physical feel with intent in this book. 

The idea, in Steve’s words anyway, is to “develop a language that is comparable to the building blocks of music (time signatures, chord progressions, verse) – no matter the instruments, style or time period – these building blocks come into play.”

This idea has been touched on very little by other designers, nevermind in other design books. Here you’ll learn what is a games equivalent of Chords and Verse and learn to apply them in your own way consistently. 

As a means for mastering the “feel”, the book explores concepts that surround sound, visual and audio metaphor, and perception. 

About The Author

Steve Swink is a game designer at Flashbang Studios.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 376 pages long
  • Covers often untouched emotional aspects of games 
  • Gives you a chance to move ahead of other designers by exploring the “gut feeling” side of game design 
  • Avoids over the top theory and uses more emotive language 
  • Designed to be easy to use for new designers but is written for experienced devs as the book doesn’t cover design basics
  • Has an associated website 
  • Explores the more emotional side of games
  • Looks at establishing a new method of exploring the feel of games that might be beneficial to more advanced game designers. 
  • Offers a look beyond what we’d traditionally think makes a game “good” and looks at the human experience side of gaming too
  • Has a fantastic section at the end that breaks games down based on the author’s theories

Verdict

Touching on, pardon the pun, the more emotional and physical feel that games can evoke in users, Game Feel, is a triumph of how to design games that work every sense and emotion in the human body to give a gamer an even better gaming experience. 

Whether you want to achieve a perfect sensation of an F1 car’s power throbbing through your hands with a game controller, or you want the player to feel the dramatic sense of loss of a loved one, Game Feel, explores all the tools that are currently available to designers to submerge gamers physically and emotionally into their virtual worlds. 

And I’d say Game Feel is a must-read for all intermediate to advanced designers. So check out Game Feel here. 

8: Theory of Fun for Game Design

Raph Koster’s Theory of Fun was written mostly as a study on what makes games fun to play rather than a design book.

The book explores the science behind ‘fun’ so you know the biological physiological and psychological reasons that give rise to fun. The end goal of the book is to teach the reader how to consistently replicate the emotion of ‘fun’ in any game regardless of type. 

The book also spends time looking at elements in modern games that’ll influence your perception of ‘fun’ and how you can leverage those elements consistently. 

Raph then changes gear to explore the idea behind ‘boredom’ and what makes gamers lose engagement with a game. He then ends with an exploration of how ‘fun’ affects the cultural phenomenon that is games. 

About The Author

Raph Koster is a veteran game designer who has been professionally credited in almost every area of the game industry. He’s been the lead designer and director of massive titles such as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 299 pages long 
  • Learn how we naturally enjoy looking for patterns and solving puzzles
  • Most successful games are built upon the same elements
  • Slightly more females than males now play games, and how that affects game design
  • Explores the idea that many games tap into our primitive need to learn survival skills
  • Entertains the idea of why our prehistoric tendencies still largely drive us today 
  • Tries to tie down exactly what makes games ‘fun’
  • Explores how to make games more replayable
  • Gives you methods to determine why your game might be boring
  • Looks at how games can induce a sense of addiction
  • A short read

Verdict

Games are fun, that’s why we play them. But a Theory of Fun, takes a look at the science of why games are so addictive, so fun to play, and so alluring to so many people. 

This book is less a game design book and more a book about the fundamental ideas that all games should include if you want people to keep playing. 

Check the The Theory of Fun out here.

9: The White Box

Ok, I’ll be honest with you. This isn’t just a book. But I had to include it. 

It’s a complete tool kit to get you started in board game design. And if you read about book 4 on this list, you’ll know how important board game design is to video game design.  

The White box is essentially a board game prototyping kit. It comes with a small book that contains 25 essays on board game design. Each of which is worth the price of the box on their own. But the best part of the box is that it comes with a load of components to help you start prototyping your game. 

About The Author

Written and created by board game designer Jeremy Holcomb. He’s designed over 25 board games including The Duke and Timestreams and is known for designing, developing, testing, and fixing board games of all types. 

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • Book containing 25 essays which include creating randomness and play testing
  • Contains multiple counters and counter sheets
  • Multiple wooden blocks
  • Multiple wooden meeples (Little wooden people) can be used as character counters
  • Plastic disks
  • Loads of dice 
  • A short read 
  • Not just a book
  • Unlimited creative potential 
  • Good for group work
  • Lots of things to try and do
  • Tutorials on how to create different mechanics 

Verdict

Board Game design is a fundamental building block of Video game design that should be ignored at your peril. 

Board Game design can open the doors to ultra fast iteration of design that could save you huge amounts of time and money in the long run. And there’s no better way to start learning how to design a board game than by doing board game design. And the White Box delivers that idea in spades. 

Yes, it is not technically a book, even though it does have a short collection of essays inside, but this box still deserves a place on this list, and a place on your game design book shelf. 

Take a look at the White Box here.

10: Games, Design and Play: A detailed approach to iterative game design

Written by John Sharp and Colleen Macklin, Games, Design, and Play offers a play-focused, process-oriented approach for designing games of consistent high quality. 

The book focuses on providing practical details that you can put into practice immediately. Additionally, in keeping with its hand-on approach, the book holds your hand through the entire design process, from prototyping to releasing the design. 

Games, Design, and Play is a comprehensive, almost tutorial-like textbook, which is ideal for those looking for a ready made workflow.

About The Author

Games, Design, and Play is written by two authors. They are: 

John Sharp, who is a game designer first, and a graphic designer, art historian, and curator second. When he’s not making games, he’s teaching game design, researcherching, and writing.

And Colleen Macklin, who is a game designer that creates games for learning and social engagement.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits 

  • 290 pages
  • You’ll learn core aspects of the game loop including: actions, goals, rules, objects, playspace, and players
  • You learn by comparing types of play and player experiences
  • Considering the demands video games make on players
  • Creating design documents
  • How to prototype your games
  • Collaborating in teams on a shared design vision
  • Improving designs through playtesting and iteration
  • Knowing when a design is ready for production
  • Learning the rules so you can break them
  • Outlines the entire design process
  • Hands on and action orientated learning 
  • Complimentary online course materials
  • A great book for new designers looking to get a wide overview of the processes involved 

Verdict 

Games, Design, and Play really hits home, with a rather hefty mental hammer, a simple key idea about games that most of us were never taught in school, college, or university: 

That design is the art and practice of iteration. 

An idea, when first seeded, is imperfect. It will need to undergo multiple evolutionary steps before the idea is anywhere near a finished product. And that many ideas will fail, and that you’ll have to take broken pieces and fit them together in new ways until they fit together and work. 

This is an inescapable truth about, not just in game design, but in any design and art context. 

To many people, this can be jarring as most have lived in a world where failure is not an option. 

But this book is an eye opener that shows, when it comes to game design, failure is often the only option, the only road to take, while on your journey toward success.

Take a look at Games, Design, and Play here.

11: Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games

Game Design Workshop takes a very hands-on approach for a book by throwing exercises and tasks at you on nearly every single page. 

If you prefer a more action orientated learning experience then this is a book I strongly suggest you consider buying. 

The book explores how designers can create games without any technical knowhow. How the games industry in general is moving towards a more “Creative first” workflow where there’s less hard coding and more visual scripting like with Unreal Engine 4’s Blueprint system. 

The book then sprints onwards using examples of different games, from different console eras, to illustrate different design techniques, how they affected games, and how you can put them to work on your own game immediately. 

Once this section is over, you’ll move onto the final section that’ll walk you through all the parts needed to assemble your own computer game. 

About The Author 

Tracy Fullerton is an experimental game designer and associate professor in the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits

  • 535 pages
  • Provides a clear understanding of the theories behind game design 
  • Written to inspire discussion and thinking
  • Practical advice and exercises for all without being too theoretical
  • Written specifically for practical exercise use
  • Learn to ‘stress test’ your design
  • A keystone book for designers
  • Offers hundred of tools and methods to refine your game
  • Provides an extremely solid theory of all aspects of game, gameplay, and fun
  • Covers every aspect of game design up to an intermediate level and beyond in many cases. 

Verdict

The Game Design Workshop is a hands on, action oriented book, and throws aside the idea that game design is actually just another way of saying “game theory”.

This book will have you, almost from page one, designing systems and rules. You’ll then test them out, either quickly with paper and pen, or by mocking ideas together in a game engine. 

If you’re more of the hands-on type, then this is the game design book for you. Check out the Game Design Workshop here.

12: Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals (The MIT Press) Kindle Edition

The ultimate BIBLE for Game designers. Seriously, it’s that good, I could stop there. Just go buy it, or borrow a copy. You won’t need anything else. Not for now anyway. 

The book offers a unified model for looking at all kinds of games, from board games and sports games, to computer and video games, by defining a number of core concepts like “play,” “design,” and “interactivity.”

This book is one of the first ever text books written for aspiring game designers, and it shows. It’s an absolute beast at 689 pages long and seems to cram the entire knowledge of games design into one book.

It touches on everything, and I mean everything you’d ever need to know about game design, swooping between beginner, intermediate, and advanced games design faster than you can say “Blimey! That’s an expensive book!” 

About The Author

Katie Salen Tekinbaş is Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University and Chief Designer and Researcher at Institute of Play.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits

  • 689(!) pages long and packed full of design awesomeness!
  • Provides a very (very!) in depth theory about the design of games
  • Is rule centric and can be applied to any type of game
  • Practical advice and exercises for all without being too theoretical
  • It’s essentially a game design degree in a book. If not more! Seriously, I have a game design degree and this book taught me more than my degree did. By far! 
  • Covers the concept of interactivity in games in great depth so you fully understand the potential of interactive media over traditional media
  • The ultimate Bible for game designers whether video, board, or other type of game
  • Covers the complete design process 
  • An exhaustive account of all aspects of games and how they are made 
  • A deep look at how rules govern how games are played and their massive importance to a game 

Verdict

Ok, it was written in 2003, but so what? Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Diamonds are hundreds of millions of years old and have massive value. 

So why shouldn’t you judge this landmark book by its age. 

Because it is one of the most important books ever written about games, of all types too. It delves deep into the depths of rule creation and formulation in ways that make other game design books look like my one-year-old niece’s Peppa Pig ABCs book. 

A life changer for any aspiring or experienced game designer. 

Seriously, like I said in the bullet points, this one book taught more about game design than my game design degree did. If that doesn’t convince you of the massive value of this book, I don’t know what will. 

Take a at the King of all game design books, The Rules of Play, here.

13: Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design

Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design is probably the most advanced game design book on this list. It skips all the basics and cuts deep down into the meat of gameplay mechanics. 

Why gameplay mechanics? Because without gameplay, you have no game, you just have a non-interactive video. 

The book teaches you how to craft engaging and fun game mechanics that are challenging, enjoyable, and well-balanced. And it does this by diagramming nearly every single game mechanic that has been used in gaming. 

And it’s quite startling to discover that modern games, with all their fancy graphics, bells, and whistles are nearly identical to games we all played 20 years ago (Ok, some of us played. I’m old.). And that great gameplay, like great sport, never goes out of fashion. 

It explores how certain aspects of human nature such as chasing after goals, problem solving, puzzle solving, hunting, gathering, and collecting still drive most gameplay mechanics

You’ll even get to practice what you’ve learned by testing out gameplay loops that you’ve designed on a free downloadable gameplay simulation tool.

About The Author 

Game Mechanics was written by two Authors. They were; 

Ernest Adams, who is a game design consultant, teacher, and the author of the classic Fundamentals of Game Design, Second Edition, the companion volume to this title. He has worked in the game industry for 23 years, eight of them at Electronic Arts.

And Joris Dormans, who is a game design lecturer and researcher based in Amsterdam with eight years of experience in higher education.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits

  • 442 pages 
  • Design and balance game mechanics to create emergent gameplay before you write a single line of code
  • A library of gameplay mechanics you can learn from
  • Visualize the internal game economy so that you can immediately see what goes on in a complex game
  • Use prototyping techniques that let you simulate games
  • Apply design patterns for multitude of game mechanics
  • Explore the delicate balance between game mechanics and level design to create compelling, long-lasting game experiences
  • Replace fixed, scripted events in your game with dynamic progression systems to give your players a new experience every time they play.

Verdict 

No negatives to this book at all. One of the best books on advanced game design that money can buy. Yes, like most textbooks it’s a little expensive. But this book is the final word in advanced game design and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you do not eventually invest in yourself by getting a copy of this book. 

And don’t let the reviews fool you on amazon. I’ve never known an owner of this book to say a single negative thing about this book. 

Take a look at Game Mechanics here.

14: Practical Game Design: Learn the art of game design through applicable skills and cutting-edge insights

Practical game design is exactly what it says on the tin, or the cover in this case: It’s focused on being practical. It throws out the theory and instead shows readers that the best way to learn game design is to grab a pen and paper and actually design some games.

The book starts by showing the reader how to plan every aspect of a game before swiftly moving on to mechanic design. 

Once this is done, the book moves forward into game play loop design, and ensuring the level design and graphics and other art aspects compliment the gameplay. 

About The Author

This book was written by two authors. They are: 

Adam Kramarzewski, who has worked at companies such as Gameloft, Square Enix, and Space Ape Games, and has worked on over 30 game projects including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Transformers.

And Ennio De Nucci, who is a game designer and developer and has worked for companies such as Supermassive Games, and the multinational IGT. He works at Another Place Productions in London, where he’s making mobile RPGs.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits

  • 476 pages long 
  • Define the scope and structure of a game project
  • Conceptualize a game idea and present it to others
  • Design gameplay systems and communicate them clearly and thoroughly
  • Build and validate engaging game mechanics
  • Design successful business models and prepare your games for live operations
  • Master the principles behind level design, worldbuilding, and storytelling
  • Improve the quality of a game by playtesting and polishing it
  • Delves into what Jobs are available in design teams
  • Describes the day in the life of different types of designers 
  • In depth explanation of terms
  • An exploration of the most current up-to-date theory on game design and gameplay 
  • How to develop game play mechanics 

Verdict

A sound introduction to game design that really made a difference to my level of understanding of game design. 

Yes, there are better options for beginners and there are more in-depth advanced books. However, this book is still worth a read if you’ve exhausted some of the other books on this list. 

Check out Practical Game Design here.

15: The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design

Making a game is hard work. There are so many aspects, so many elements that go into making a game, that just pulling together the graphics and assets is a massive challenge. 

And unfortunately, while a team spends time polishing textures, little time is left for improvements of what makes games stand out: The User Experience (UX). 

Games fall on their face because of a poor UX. If a game doesn’t have a good UX strategy then the game is set to fail before it even hits the stores. 

It’s the designer’s job to get inside the gamers head, to see and feel what the gamer perceives. That way the designer can create the user experience the market demands, not what the designer thinks they desire. 

And this is not easy to do. 

Author Celia Hodent has written this masterful book on UX with one key idea in mind: How does the psychology of a gamer affect their perception of the user experience, and how can we manipulate that perception to increase enjoyment and long term engagement with games. 

About The Author

Written by Celia Hodent — a UX expert with a PhD in Psychology who has been working in the entertainment industry for over 10 years, including at prominent companies such as Epic Games (Fortnite), Ubisoft, and LucasArts.

Some Of The Book’s Features And Benefits

  • Describes how UX can guide developers to improve the usability and the level of engagement a game provides
  • Provides an overview of how the brain learns and processes information
  • Includes numerous examples from released games of how scientific knowledge translates into game design
  • Covers design thinking, game user research, game analytics, and UX strategy
  • Provides a practical definition of UX specifically applied to games
  • The ultimate game design book about gamer psychology and how to manipulate it 
  • User experience centric 
  • Extremely well structured
  • All aspects of game design talked about are backed by PHD level psychology 

Verdict 

Simply put: A must read. 

It took me a long time to get hold of a copy of this book as it’s rare and quite expensive. 

But, my goodness does it contain a treasure trove, a Fort Knox, of games design goodies! The psychological side of game design is exceptionally important, and this book delves into all aspects of that side of gaming so well, and so in depth, I’d recommend even non-designers read it. 

Seriously, a must buy book.

Take a look at the land mark game design book, The Gamer’s Brain, here.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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