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Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3d Technology) Paperback – August 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1558609211 ISBN-10: 1558609210

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Product Details

  • Series: The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive 3d Technology
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: CRC Press (August 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558609210
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558609211
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,239,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"If the characters in a game have depth, complexity, consistency, mystery, humanity, and charm, then they are going to feel real to the player, and that helps the whole game world feel real, and allows the player to suspend his or her disbelief and get lost in the world. Everything the player does will be more exciting if they're doing it for someone, or with someone, or in opposition to someone who feels real. Simply put, good character design helps the player to have what we all know can be an amazing, unforgettable experience. This book is not just about making great characters, but also about making great games.”
- from the foreword by Tim Schafer, Double Fine Productions

"Katherine Isbister skillfully draws upon various psychological constructs elevating game development to a more comprehensive level. Taking a Psych 100 class? This book transforms the sometimes stuffy theories of Freud, Skinner, Rogers and Maslow into fresh and entertaining relevancy as the author weaves these ideas into game content. The next time you play a favorite video game, read this book-that game will take on a whole new light and who knows you may be able to ace that psychology final.”
- Pauline Pedersen, Course Director, Full Sail Real World Education

"The notion of using psychological principles in games continues to be of great interest to the games industry, but few researchers have been able to discuss in depth how psychological research can actually be applied to game design. Katherine Isbister's book not only makes complex psychological concepts accessible to the games community, but also demonstrates its application in current games through the use of concrete examples (on retail products), and possible design tips and recommendations.”
- Randy Pagulayan, PhD, User Research Lead, Microsoft Game Studios

"Katherine Isbister has crafted a text that covers a far greater scope of psychological concerns than I would've previously thought possible, and each area of psychology she covers has the potential to bring games to higher level. For any individual studying, teaching, or working in Game Design this is a must-have text.”
- Robin Koman, Associate Course Director, Full Sail Real World Education

"A valuable tool for applying effective principles of psychology to create readable, entertaining and high-impact game characters-a must-have for today's game developer.”
- Andrew Stern, co-creator of the interactive drama Facade and the virtual pets Dogz and Catz

"Well researched and perceptive, this book offers new insights on creating more emotionally engaging game characters. If you have ever been curious about the psychology behind better character design, this book is a must read!”
- Nicole Lazzaro, President, XEODesign, Inc.

"Isbister has delivered an impressive package that will leave you wondering about Sonic the Hedgehog's need for speed and Lara Croft's potential trust issues long after the button-mashing session has ended.”
- Animation, September 2006

Book Description

How to use the principles of psychology to make memorable characters

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Adam Coate on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
The author does a good job of applying well-known and not so well-known psychological principles to game character development. I was surprised to find that the book is mostly substance and doesn't have a lot of fluff. There are interviews from game industry veterans at the end of each chapter which helps to provide more viewpoints on the information. I found the interview with the two japanese designers to be the most interesting.

I think the overall point of the book is to take more into account when designing characters. There are reasons behind every decision you make in anything you do. This book helps to uncover some of the psychology behind characters and their interactions.

With all of this in mind, I would have to say that I don't feel this book's $50 pricetag is completely justified by what I got out of it. The information for me wasn't completely eye-opening; and there's nothing that specifically sticks to mind after having read it that would change my approach to characters a whole lot(other than perhaps their interactions).

The dvd included with the book adds very little to the subject matter; it is nothing but a bunch of low-quality cutscenes from video games. I expected the dvd to have interviews, supplemental reading material, or at least the author commenting on the cutscenes chosen. Unfortunately none of that is included.

The quality of the book physically is very high; it is printed on extremely high quality paper(thermal paper I'm guessing) which seems like it would be very resistant to stains or water damage.

Overall this book is a worthy read. If the price was closer to the $25 mark or the dvd included more worthwhile material I would definitely rate it a lot higher.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Dugan on July 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
As game budgets get fatter and the profile of the medium gets bigger, a whole new audience will exist with a demand for games that involve meaningful social play and interesting characters. While the techniques and concepts laid out in Dr. Isbister's book are useful for improving the fiction of games, in the form of writing, audio and character art, an experimental designer can infer some groundbreaking mechanics from this text. I'm personally working on an experimental indie game that hinges on inter-character drama, and Dr. Isbister's ideas have served as one of my primary sources of inspiration.
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. F. Lynch on March 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Last review wasn't quite fair. I know the author, and I can tell you that the delays in shipping are entirely due to the publisher and are not the fault of either Amazon or Katherine Isbister.

My prediction is that this text will greatly add to what game developers need to know to incorporate better social intelligence into the NPCs of the next generation of games. In my view, this knowledge is urgently needed in this industry!
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