First book on game design. The 10 Best Books on Game Development for Aspiring Game Designers by the Game Development Team

There is a lot of information available on game design, but it can be hard to know where to start or who to trust.

With so much information out there, it can be hard to figure out where to start when you want to learn about game design. You might not even know who to trust.

This book is the perfect place to start. It was written by two experienced game designers with over 10 years of combined industry experience, and it covers everything from the basics of game design theory all the way up to more advanced concepts.

The History of the First book on game design

The Art of Computer Game Design by Chris Crawford is the first book, devoted to the theory of computer and video games. The book attempts to categorize computer games and talks about design precepts that serve as guidelines for game designers. It was originally published in Berkeley, California by McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media in 1984. The original edition is now out-of-print but from 1997 became available as a free download from a site maintained by Washington State UniversityPullman. In 2011 the free download was removed and the text is currently available as a Kindle e-book.

The Top 10 Books for Game Design

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

art of game design

The Art of Game Design is a unique book in that it emphasizes studying game design from several different perspectives.

Calling these perspectives ‘lenses’, the author covers basic game design principles that are useful for games of all genres and platforms.

The reader is then asked to consider challenging design questions (more than 100) that arise from looking at a game through a specific perspective, forcing you to think about how other people would see your game.

The book also leads you through the game design process while analyzing each step a designer must take to build their ideas.

The author, Jesse Schell, is an award-winning designer of Disney online games and once served as the chair of the International Game Developers Association.

In other words, you can rest easy knowing that this book was written by someone who not only has plenty of game design experience but was very good at it as well.

Game Design Workshop

game design workshop

The book also comes with plenty of references to successful games along with useful illustrations that clearly present design methods and techniques.

The author, Tracy Fullerton, is a game designer who leads the Game Innovation Lab at the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design

game writingThe Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design is a must-have for any aspiring game designers who also see themselves deeply involved in the storytelling side of development.

Readers will learn the advanced techniques and knowledge needed for integrating a story into any game to craft a captivating, emotional experience.

Topics covered by the book include writing the story, game script, game bible, design document, and technical content for your game.

The authors are Flint Dille and John Zurr, two experienced game developers who also added samples of their own work for readers to learn from.

Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

level upLevel Up! is perhaps one of the best choices on this list to have as a first game design book.

The author provides plenty of attractive cartoon art that helps present his ideas in a way that’s both approachable and instructive.

Topics such as:

  • mobile and console systems
  • monetization
  • design document creation
  • and more are all covered

While Scott Rogers doesn’t have the same relevant professional experience as authors of other game design books, he nonetheless does an amazing job of taking readers through game development from start to finish.

If you want a game design book that trades lengthy theoretical language for delightful illustrations, look no further.

Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

rules of playIf there’s one book you can expect to be assigned while studying in a college game design program, it’s Rules of Play.

This thick, somewhat intimidating book is one of the best sources of knowledge when it comes to concepts and methodologies for anything from board games and video games to even sports.

Similar to “The Art of Game Design”, readers will look at games through a series of perspectives such as games as a storytelling medium, site of cultural resistance, a system of emergence and information, and more.

The authors, Salen and Zimmerman, are both experienced game developers who have served as professors at top institutions like DePaul, MIT, and Parsons School of Design.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design

theory of funThe complete opposite of our previous entry in terms of size, A Theory of Fun for Game Design is a small but effective game design book that challenges readers to figure out why games appeal to human beings.

Included are colorful full-page illustrations as well as a deep examination of modern video games to figure out why some are boring and others can be enjoyed for years.

Raph Koster, the author of the book, is a veteran game designer who has worked on big hits like Star Wars Galaxies and Ultima Online and served as a creative executive at top companies like Disney Playdom and Sony Online.

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook

gamificationAlthough something of a ‘sequel’ to an earlier book, this Fieldbook is nonetheless an excellent read all on its own.

It offers a step-by-step approach to utilizing the ideas and techniques from the first Gamification book with examples, worksheets, and other tools useful for learning.

The authors of the book are Karl Kapp, a professor of Instructional Technology at Bloomsburg University, Lucas Blair, founder of serious game studio Little Bird games, and Rich Mesch, an expert with 25 years in the field of experiential and contextualized learning.

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

game feelA unique entry on this list, Game Feel attempts to give readers a look at how game designers create “feel”, the meta-sensation of a player’s involvement with a game.

Topics such as human perception, sound, the use of metaphors, and ancillary indicators are covered to help reveal their importance in crafting a captivating digital world.

There’s also a website designed to complement the book by providing playsets with tools that demonstrate the importance of virtual sensation components.

Game Feel also concludes with an interesting take on some of the possible developments of game sensation yet to be utilized by developers.

Game Programming Patterns

game programming patternsGame Programming Patterns is a book we’d obviously only recommend to aspiring game designers who want to break into the industry as a programmer.

This popular book not only motivates readers to actually complete their games but also provides insight on game loops, scripting engines, design patterns, and other technical areas.

This book was written by Robert Nystrom, a programmer with twenty years of experience.

He has shipped titles on major platforms such as DS, Gamecube, PC, Xbox, PS2, and Xbox 360.

Challenges for Game Designers

challenges for game designersThis fantastic book does more than cover game design techniques and methods– it addresses how to actually grow as a game designer and get better with every project.

As the title suggests, readers take on challenges that offer hands-on learning without the need for art or programming skills.

Challenges for Game Designers was written by Brenda Brathwaite, an award-winning game developer with more than 30 years of industry experience, and Ian Schreiber, a game design professor at Ohio University who has also helped program and design several published game titles.


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