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The Art of Interactive Design: A Euphonious and Illuminating Guide to Building Successful Software Paperback – December, 2002

ISBN-13: 068-9145118407 ISBN-10: 1886411840 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (December 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886411840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886411845
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Chris Crawford's 'The Art of Interactive Design' rewards extended exploration...its worth your time to read this book. -- Marc Garrett,, June 24, 2003

"Crawford is a fine writer with an engaging style that never glosses over the tough points, never slows you down." -- Dr. Dobb's Programmer's Bookshelf Newsletter, August 5, 2004

"Crawford's breezy, conversational style makes it easy to grasp the fundamentals and the theoretical underpinnings of interactivity..." -- The Columbus Dispatch (Jan. 2003)

About the Author

Chris Crawford is the "grand old man" of computing game design. He sold his first computer game in 1978, joined Atari in 1979, and led Games Research there. During his time at Atari, he wrote the first edition of "The Art of Computer Game Design" (Osborne, 1984), which has now become a classic in the field. After Atari collapsed in 1984, Chris became a freelance computer game designer. All in all, Chris has 14 published computer games to his credit--all of which he designed and programmed himself. He founded, edited, and wrote most of "The Journal of Computer Game Design," the first periodical devoted to game design. He founded and led the Computer Game Developers' Conference (now the Game Developers' Conference) in its early years. Chris has lectured on game design at conferences and universities all over the world. For the last ten years, he has been developing technology for interactive storytelling.

More About the Author

Chris Crawford earned a Master of Science degree in Physics from the University of Missouri in 1975. After teaching physics for several years, he joined Atari as a game designer in 1979. There he created a number of games: Energy Czar, an educational simulation about the energy crisis, Scram, a nuclear power plant simulation, Eastern Front (1941), a wargame, Gossip, a social interaction game, and Excalibur, an Arthurian game.
Following the collapse of Atari in 1984, Crawford took up the Macintosh. He created Balance of Power, a game about diplomacy, Patton Versus Rommel, a wargame, Trust & Betrayal, a social interaction game, Balance of the Planet, an environmental simulation game, and Patton Strikes Back, a wargame. In 1992, Crawford decided to leave game design and concentrate his energies on interactive storytelling, a field that he believed would become important. He created a major technology for interactive storytelling systems, patenting it in 1997. He is now commercializing his technology at his company website at
Crawford has written five published books: The Art of Computer Game Design, now recognized as a classic in the field, in 1982; Balance of Power (the book) in 1986; The Art of Interactive Design in 2002; Chris Crawford on Game Design in 2003; and Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling in 2004.
He created the first periodical on game design, the Journal of Computer Game Design, in 1987. He founded and served as Chairman of the Computer Game Developers' Conference, now known as the Game Developers' Conference.
Crawford has given hundreds of lectures at conferences and universities around the world, and published dozens of magazine articles and academic papers.
Crawford served as computer system designer and observer for the 1999 and 2002 NASA Leonid MAC airborne missions; he also has done some analysis of the resulting data. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife, 3 dogs, 7 cats, 2 ducks, and 3 burros.
His current work is in interactive storytelling. After seventeen years of work, Crawford's company, Storytron, is releasing its technology to the public at

Customer Reviews

This book is very far from an intellectual "do it yourself" kit, though it does have many useful practical suggestions.
Jonathan Beyrak Lev
This book should be required reading for anyone who wants to be considered a software developer or who is interested in really making software that users love.
K. Marshall
Just bear that in mind and factor some of the language and tone out, because if you do, I think you can get a lot from this book.
Patrick Thompson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By paul catanese on January 22, 2003
Format: Paperback
Crawford is one of those intellectual gems who is often overlooked by the swirling tumult of art-star-authors and lexicon-twisting new media theorists. His work is outstanding; and this book is no exception. I originally bought this book when it was marketed as "Understanding Interactivity" - the facelift is quite nice, but the invaluable information is still, well, invaluable.
This book has the unique capability of crystalizing the key elements of interactivity (from a real-world standpoint) so that first year students are able to understand the overarching concepts (I use the book in my Interactive Multimedia classes). But, like any great book, it accomodates and grows along with the experience and knowledge of the reader. There is much to gain from Crawford's lucid, intriguing and well thought out text - and I recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the creation of artwork that incorporates or addresses interactivity.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a book with over-abstracted filler written by an author with ulterior agendas and a need to use his thesaurus and high school history books to prove his intellectual capacity, this is the book for you. If you're looking for a book that can be more readily applied to interactive design, look elsewhere.
Granted, a few of the chapters provide insight into smart design principles and distilling down what is essential to pleasing the end users, but books comprised of a few chapters don't sell very well in today's market of thicker-is-better tech books. Another annoying deception is the copyright date which shows 2003, yet the book is chock full of obviously outdated references such as the lack of web users with broadband and being able to watch full-motion video on your home computer "in the near future".
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Thompson on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Ah the philosophical musings of Chris Crawford...

If you're looking for a Interaction cookbook- see Alan Cooper's about face 2.0 (isbn 0764526413), because this isn't that. Far from it. This is a book that seeks to stick an idea in your face and then get you to think about it rather than just spoon feeding you, like a good little pleb. Sure there's lashings of righteous indignation and condemnation aplenty (and given the state of some software it's not undeserved!) Again, provocation to think and construct mental arguments (or vocal if you're that way inclined) is not a bad thing. It's a very good thing: active learning is far more rewarding than passive acceptance.

So Chris Crawford relates his thoughts, ideas, feelings, hates and a thousand other things in a rather amorphous form in this book. While it is not tightly structured (very waffling in parts), I don't think that is suffers too much from that- indeed the lack of totally rigid form often enhances rather than debilitates (flexibility!). Though he can struggle to fully chase the tail of an idea: perhaps that is deliberate, leaving it up to us to do that. And sometimes his thoughts seem misguided, incomplete or just plain wrong or couched in language that makes it largely inaccessible to some (odd coming from somebody trying to engage reader that they would choose such a tactic that prevents engagement). And yes, at times, you do get the impression that you are being ranted at or this guy is trying to talk down to you (a thesaurus doesn't make you literate- the ability to 'speak' to your audience and have them understand is far more of a yardstick (oops, I should say 'metric' to be up on the vernacular) in that regard).

Content wise: there is a lot here that is of considerable importance.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on December 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book definitely has a drum to beat, and it's around the value of interactivity over just pure featuritis. However, it goes on and on, littered with what feel like pseudo-scientific statements. It would've been nice to see a few studies of real people, research citations, or even just opinions of somebody other than the author. It felt like he was rewriting the evolution of software over time from his own frame of reference, and then extrapolating about where he thought it was going.
Still, there was at least one point I agreed with; interactivity (and, in general, providing value to the user) is more important than additional hanger-on features.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Obrien on July 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Having just finished Jef Raskin's disappointing "The Humane Interface", I looked forward to reading this one. After all, Chris Crawford is a legendary game designer, whose Balance Of Power I played to death in the Eighties. Here was someone who should be able to (a) engage me and (b) show me some novel ways to think about software design in general and interactivity in particular.

Sad to say, I was wrong. The book starts promisingly with CC talking about interactivity as conversation (listen, think, speak), but from there he meanders off on a host of barely related topics, talking at length about each one while rarely giving concrete examples (problems, solutions, issues, etc.). I know it's not supposed to be a cookbook of UI methods, but there has to be *something* to grab onto once in a while.

It's all hand waving, and it gets old fast. I forced myself to read to the end, to see if it improved, but it didn't. The only thing he's terse about is his own work (software for interactive storytelling), a potentially fascinating topic that he glosses over in 2 pages.

I read UI books with a highlighter, marking key ideas or examples that I want to return to later and think about. Usually this means a highlight every 10 pages or so. This book ended up with 3 marks in the first 50 pages, and nothing after that.

For me, at least, 99% of this book was a waste of time.
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