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Theory of Fun for Game Design, 2nd Edition


Author: Raph Koster

Publisher: O'Reilly Media


Publish Date: December 2, 2013

ISBN-10: 1449363210

Pages: 300

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Will Wright

The title of this book almost feels wrong to me. As a game designer, seeing the words “theory” and “fun” in such close proximity instinctively makes me a bit uncomfortable. Theories are dry and academic things, found in thick books at the back of the library, whereas fun is light, energetic, playful and…well…fun.

For the first few decades of interactive game design, we were able to blithely ignore many of the larger meta-questions surrounding our craft while we slowly, painfully learned to walk. Now for the first time we are starting to see serious interest in what we do from the academic side. This is forcing those of us in the games industry to stop and consider,

“What is this new medium that we’re working in?”

The academic interest seems twofold: First is the recognition that video games probably represent an emerging new medium, a new design field, and possibly a new art form. All of these are worthy of study. Second, there are an increasing number of motivated students that grew up playing these games and now find themselves inspired to work in the field one day. They want to find schools that will help them understand what games are and how to make them.

One slight problem: there are very few teachers that understand games well enough to teach them, no matter how motivated their students happen to be. Actually it’s worse than that, because there are very few people working in the games industry today (and Raph Koster is definitely one of them) who understand games well enough to even communicate what they know and how they know it.

The bridges between the game industry and the academics that want to study and teach games are slowly beginning to form. A shared language is developing, allowing both sides to speak about games and helping developers to more easily share their experiences with one another. It is in this language that the students of tomorrow will be taught.

Games (both video and traditional) are tricky to study because they are so multidimensional. There are so many different ways you can approach them. The design and production of games involves aspects of cognitive psychology, computer science, environmental design, and storytelling, just to name a few. To really understand what games are, you need to see them from all these points of view.

I always enjoy hearing Raph Koster talk. He’s one of the few people I know in the games industry who seems to investigate new subjects that might be relevant to his work, even if it’s not immediately obvious why. He forages across wide intellectual landscapes and then returns to share what he’s discovered with the rest of us. Not only is he a courageous explorer, he’s a diligent mapmaker as well.

In this book Raph does an excellent job of looking at games from a wide variety of perspectives. With the instincts of a designer working in the field, he has filtered out a treasure trove of useful and relevant nuggets from a career’s worth of his own research in a variety of related subjects. He then manages to present what he’s discovered in a friendly, playful way that makes everything feel like it’s falling right into place; it just seems to make perfect sense.

For such a distilled volume of wisdom…I guess I can live with the title.

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