The best books for game designers

Jesse Schell Author Of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
By Jesse Schell

Who am I?

I have always loved game design – I love doing it, reading about it, thinking about it, and helping others do it. As you can see in the list, I’ve learned that sometimes what helps game designers most is getting inspiration from other fields. I hope these books help you as much as they helped me.

I wrote...

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

By Jesse Schell,

Book cover of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

What is my book about?

The Art of Game Design guides you through the design process step-by-step, helping you to develop new and innovative games that will be played again and again. It explains the fundamental principles of game design and demonstrates how tactics used in classic board, card, and athletic games also work in top-quality video games.

Good game design happens when you view your game from as many perspectives as possible, and I present over 100 sets of questions to ask yourself as you build, play, and change your game until you finalize your design. Whatever your role may be in video game development, an understanding of the principles of game design will make you better at what you do.

The books I picked & why

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A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

By Christopher Alexander,

Book cover of A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

Why this book?

Christopher Alexander was arguably the greatest genius of the twentieth century. This, his most famous book, is a guide to the way the human mind and body relate to the spaces around it. If you are making games that involve rooms, terrain, or locations, this book will provide a wealth of insights, especially if your games are social. Will Wright read this book, and it inspired him to create Sim City. I read it and suddenly understood how to layout Toontown. What will happen when you read it? 

What It Is

By Lynda Barry,

Book cover of What It Is

Why this book?

All game designers struggle with what it means to be creative, and whether they are doing it properly. What It Is and its companion book, Picture This are very personal guides to what it means to be a creative person, and are full of inspirational stories and very practical tips to create your best work and not get in your own way. 

The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

By Mike Selinker, Richard Garfield, Steve Jackson, David Howell, Jeff Tidball, Richard C. Levy, Matt Forbeck, Dale Yu, James Ernest, Rob Daviau

Book cover of The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design

Why this book?

If your goal is to create board games, you really should read this book. If your goal is to create video games, you should also be creating boardgames. You get so much more game design experience creating a board game, because you can iterate so much more. Creating board games is a secret shortcut to becoming an experienced game designer, and this is the best book I know on how to do it well.

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

By Steve Swink,

Book cover of Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation

Why this book?

A tremendous amount of what makes a great videogame happens at the millisecond level. In this realm that is invisible to most, tiny changes make for enormous differences in the way a game feels. If you would master the secret rules that make for a game that people can’t put down because it just feels so good to play, you are wise to read this book. 

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

By Scott McCloud,

Book cover of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Why this book?

I’m going to tell you a secret. The working title for my own book was Understanding Entertainment, because I was so inspired by reading Understanding Comics. This book will help you understand the strange relationship between visual art and storytelling that is central to videogame design. The book hardly mentions video games, but when you read it, the applications to games will be obvious to you. More importantly, this book is one of the best “explainers” you’ll ever encounter. If you can make a game tutorial that is 1/10 as lucid as Understanding Comics, you will have done your game a great service. I’m such a huge fan that I not only got Scott to sign my copy, I persuaded his whole family to sign it, too.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in comics, design, and Japan?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about comics, design, and Japan.

Comics Explore 111 books about comics
Design Explore 35 books about design
Japan Explore 318 books about Japan

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