The Art of Game Design: A Book of LensesComplications Ensue
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Saturday, January 01, 2011

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.

Relating these ideas to the movie world is left as a fairly simple exercise.

I could go on, but then you might not go and read the book. It is really an extraordinarily smart book.

(Oh, and there's a deck of cards that goes with the book. They are available both physically and digitally.)

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Well, I'm not sure about that. Screenwriting are really helpful. After all, they DO teach aspects of story, no? love your blog.


By Blogger Chi, at 10:42 AM  

It's more than just "complications" - see Kal Bashir's 510+ stage hero's journey at

By Blogger Dave, at 12:31 AM  

I'm very excited by the release of this book. Although game design is increasingly being employed across various media and not just games, the literature on this topic thus far has left much to be desired. I'm looking forward to receiving my copy!

By Blogger Hendricks, at 2:26 PM  

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