5 Books for Aspiring Game Developers

With the holiday season in full swing I thought I would offer a few book ideas for the aspiring game designer. Whether for yourself or someone you know looking to get into games, here are a few of my favorites.

1. Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal is the book that inspired me to get into games, seriously. I've played games all of my life, and when I first read this book I was playing way too much World of Warcraft. McGonigal points to eye-opening statistics on how many hours we play as a species and offers ideas on how we might use that time and passion for bigger goals like learning "to design new protein shapes and actively cure disease" through games like Foldit. Read this book to understand how games are fulfilling genuine human needs and how we can make the best of that.

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2. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell

Jesse Schell's tome on game design covers the fundamentals. With 100 lenses, or perspectives to view your game from, Schell helped me understand game design and the designer/player relationship at the most basic level. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Games for Change Festival and enjoy watching Schell Games move the needle in transformational games. Pick up this book if you want to learn how to view your game from many different perspectives. As the book states, "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 videogames."

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3. Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Braithwaite and Ian Schreiber

If the 500 page book by Jesse Schell is intimidating you might want to consider getting hands on with Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Braithwraite and Ian Schreiber. It's one of the staples for teaching game design at the University of Advancing Technology and includes a ton of non-digital exercises for video game designers. If you like to brainstorm, deconstruct games and get a hands-on general overview of game design, this book is for you.

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4. Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation by Steve Swink

Steve Swink is a Phoenix local and a friend and I am embarrassed to say that I am only just now getting into his unique and important book, Game Feel. Game designers are increasingly talking about game feel and juice and yet Steve was already on it in 2009. This book is a must for all game developers that want to connect with their players and design mechanics that give true agency. It's no wonder Scale feels so good to play.

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5. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee

When I first moved to Arizona I had the pleasure to work with a lot of great people at the ASU Center for Games and Impact. Professor James Paul Gee was by far the most famous of them. His work literacy in video games and how to see games as learning tools has forever changed the way I view videogames. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy is one of many of his excellent books and inspired me to write this blog post in 2012 on the 36 Learning Principles of Video Games. If you're exploring how to use videogames in the classroom or to teach, you must have this in your library.

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I could go on about books for aspiring game designers, and next week I will, with another 5 recommendations. For now have a look through these and make sure to come back next week.

If you've got any recommendations for other books, or comments on these, please add them in the comments below.

I love reading books and learning about making games. I also love showing off local talent and talking about making games. Therefore, make sure you come and join us this Friday, December 11th for the UAT Game Studios Greenlight Celebration and next week Friday, December 18th for the Game CoLab Happy Hour!

Also, our friends at IGDA Phoenix are organizing a demo night for local game developers next week Wednesday, the 16th, at The Grid, starting at 7pm.

Cheers! Ben


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