05. 10. 2006
book review: The Game Design Reader
Katie Salen from the New School and Eric Zimmerman of GameLab have put together the "Game Design Reader" (MIT Press 2006), the first reader specifically about the design of games.
The editors have gathered an impressive collection of seminal essays on games and their design. This diverse set of readings include early academic studies of games and play from the 70s, when very little research was being done in the area. Writings on video game design and game play cover early Atari games to Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) and everything in between. The reader itself opens with a series of short essays written by Salen and Zimmerman, with titles like "Gaming the Game" and "Game Design Models," each referencing relevant content included in the reader, as well as a "further reading" list.
Here are a few highlights of my favorites:
Linda Hughes in "Beyond the Rules of the Game: Why Are Rooie Rules Nice?" (1983) provides an analysis of girls playing four square, from an anthropologist's perspective.
The inventor of the first graphic adventure game, Warren Robinett, recounts the fascinating design process of early video games, when a cartridge could only hold 4K of memory, in "Adventure as a Video Game: Adventure for the Atari 2600" (1983-1984).
In "Frames and Games" (1983), Gary Alan Fine presents an ethnographic study of a Dungeons and Dragons community during their heyday of the late 70s and early 80s.
Half-Life game designer, Ken Birdwell explains inventing a new work process to handle the complex game design that is demanded by today's standards in "The Cabal: Valve's Deign Process for Creating Half-Life" (1999).
In his essay, "Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier" (2001), Edward Castronova documents the blending of real world economics with the virtual economies found in MMORPGs.
A must-read for gamers and game designers alike, the "Game Design Reader" provides insight on how gaming has evolved not only technologically but culturally as well.