Feature: 'Book Review: The Art of Game Design'

What's the big deal with Jesse Schell's new 'Art Of Game Design' book? In this book review feature, writer and designer Daniel Cook takes a look at the Front L
What's the big deal with Jesse Schell's new 'Art Of Game Design' book? In this book review feature, writer and designer Daniel Cook takes a look at the Front Line Award-winning tome to find out. Cook notes that one of several areas where 'Art Of Game Design' is in its game design terminology, providing "crisp definitions of foundational concepts ... written at a level applicable across a vast range of genres and platforms," all compiled into a tidy chart: "For example, he defines a puzzle as a 'game with a dominant strategy' and makes the observation that puzzles aren't so different than games, except for the fact that once you figure out the optimal way of playing a puzzle, they tend to lose all replayability. His descriptions of puzzle design work just as well for the next crossword compilation as they do for an indie title like You Have to Burn the Rope. Clear, practical language is an evergreen addition to our industry's working knowledge. Schell's terminology works for board games, video games and I suspect it will still be useful when we talk about virtual worlds and whatever else games evolve into in the future. In the work place, a lack of shared vocabulary is the bane of rapid problem solving and I would be delighted to see some of the definitions in this book more widely adopted." Another useful portion found in 'Art Of Game Design' is its collection of 100 "lenses," time-tested questions that designers can ask about their game, such as "Am I using my elements elegantly?" and "Could my pacing be made a bit more interesting by using interest curves?" Cook shares an extract of his favorite, Lens #69, The Lens of the Weirdest Thing: 'Having weird things in your story can help give meaning to unusual game mechanics -- it can capture the interest of the player, and it can make your world seem special. Too many things that are too weird, though, will render your story puzzling and inaccessible. To make sure your story is the good kind of weird, ask yourself these questions:
  • What's the weirdest thing in my story?
  • How can I make sure that the weirdest thing doesn't confuse or alienate the player?
  • If there are multiple weird things, should I maybe get rid of, or coalesce some of them?
  • If there is nothing weird in my story, is the story still interesting?'

You can read the full book review feature for 'Art Of Game Design', which further discusses the 100 lenses in detail and also outlines some of the book's failings (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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