Thursday, September 13, 2007

Textbook Review: Game Design, Theory & Practice

This is part of the series on book reviews.

"Game Design, Theory & Practice (2nd Ed.)" (Richard Rouse III)

This relatively well-known book was an early stab at a book about game design for non-designers (by “early” I mean that it’s more than five years old, thus predating many of today’s college curricula and the majority of other textbooks I've reviewed). It includes an eclectic mix of game analysis, best practices, and interviews with influential designers.

Most of the content is at a pretty basic level, making it an easy read. Of course, this also limits its usefulness to more experienced designers. Each chapter is mostly self-contained; this also makes it easy to read (one chapter at a time, and if you put it down for a few months you don't have to repeat old sections that you'd forgotten) but also makes the book feel a bit disjointed.

Students: This book is a great place to start for self-study if you know you want to design games but you don't know where to begin. It will help you understand the field, by showing you how some designers approach their craft, and you will come away with a variety of new perspectives on how to make games.

Instructors: It’s probably my own inexperience as a teacher, but I haven’t figured out how to include this book in a class (much as I’d like to). The topics don’t flow well, every chapter seems disconnected from the others, and there are no exercises or questions at the end of any chapter, so using this book would require a lot of extra prep work on the part of the instructor. This is perhaps not so surprising; it was never written for the express purpose of being used as a classroom text, after all.

Professionals: If you’ve already got a couple of shipped titles under your belt, most of the practical advice in this book will be nothing new to you. You may still find it entertaining, but it will probably not be of great help in honing your craft.

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