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A Theory of Fun for Game Design Paperback – November 6, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Does for games what Understanding Comics did for sequential art. You'll never look at fun the same way again." -- Cory Doctorow, Author of Eastern Standard Tribe and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom; co-editor of Boing Boing

"I expect this book to become an instant classic, fascinating to anyone who has ever made or played a game." -- Noah Falstein, Freelance Game Designer/Writer/Producer

"Raph Koster offers a road map for how to make games an even more expressive medium." -- Henry Jenkins, Director, MIT's Comparative Media Studies Program.

"Raph's focus on finding new ways to communicate complex design issues has been an incredible benefit to game developers" -- David Perry, President Shiny Entertainment (Atari, Inc.)

"You've written a wonderful starting point for research and many future dinner conversations!" -- Cory Ondrejka, VP, Linden Lab

A book about fun which is actually fun to read. It reminds me of Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. -- Henry Jenkins, Director, MIT's Comparative Media Studies Program

A thoughtful take on how and why games are fun (and important)... chock full of insights, jokes and asides. -- Robin Hunicke, Northwestern University

Does for games what Understanding Comics did for sequential art. -- Cory Doctorow, Author of Eastern Standard Tribe and Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, co-editor of Boing Boing

Everyone from professional game developers to those who want to understand why we play games will enjoy this book. -- Cory Ondrejka, Vice President, Linden Lab

From the Publisher

A Theory of Fun for Game Design is not your typical how-to book. It features a novel way of teaching interactive designers how to create and improve their designs to incorporate the highest degree of fun. As the book shows, designing for fun is all about making interactive products like games highly entertaining, engaging, and addictive. The book’s unique approach of providing a highly visual storyboard approach combined with a narrative on the art and practice of designing for fun is sure to be a hit with game and interactive designers, At first glance A Theory of Fun for Game Design is a book that will truly inspire and challenge game designers to think in new was; however, its universal message will influence designers from all walks of life. This book captures the real essence of what drives us to seek out products and experiences that are truly fun and entertaining. The author masterfully presents his engaging theory by showing readers how often designs are! lacking because they are predictable and not engaging enough. He then explains how great designers use different types of elements in new ways to make designs more fun and compelling. Anyone who is interested in design will enjoy how the book works on two levels--as a quick inspiration guide to game design or as an informative discussion that details the insightful thinking from a great mind in the game industry.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Paraglyph Press; 1 edition (November 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932111972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932111972
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.5 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Raph Koster's _A Theory of Fun for Game Design_ is certainly a book worthy of a place on any game designer's shelf. For those who attended the original lecture that spawned the book, there isn't a whole lot that is new, but it's great to have it in book form. For those who did not, the book can be quite revealing, particularly for those who have struggled to adequately define just what games and game design is all about.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is that Raph has written a light, frequently humorous, and sometimes touching book that should make a great gift to those of us who have parents or spouses who DON'T understand why we're wasting all of our time with games. Rather than try to explain it to them, you can simply hand them this book, and they can come to appreciate the scope and depth of the subject without being overwhelmed.

And at times the book is quite poignant on a human level. You can see Raph's genuine pride and love for his children nearly pour off the page when he talks about them, and his mention of his grandfather passing away while he was at GDC is particularly touching to me since my own father died while I was at GDC in 2000.

The book can essentially be read in two ways. The first, simply by reading all the illustrations in sequence, is great fun all by itself. Nearly every drawing does its job in illustrating the point it tries to make, and quite a few have charming little extra details that a gamer will readily appreciate.

The second, and perhaps more proper way, is to read the text and the illustrations together. (I suppose one could also read the text by itself, but where's the fun in that?) To summarize very crudely, the book makes the following assertions:

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Format: Paperback
While there is plenty of valuable content to be found in this book, the title is a bit misleading as it relates to the nature of the content.

Early on, the adjective "fun" is defined to basically mean "educational". This definition makes sense in the context in which it's presented, but it vastly changes the meaning of the title of the book. The reader who takes the title to mean "theory regarding the design of games to be generally more entertaining" will most likely be disappointed to find that the author's apparent intended meaning was, "theory regarding the basic cultural value of games and their potential for greater social/educational achievement".

The primary focus of the book is on examining and understanding the social and cultural role that games play, and the intrinsic value that they hold in that role. There is also commentary on the nature of art (in the sense of "high art" or "fine art"), and how games could be refined to further ascend to the levels of sophistication found in other media.

All of the material is very insightful, uniquely assembled, and both fun and informative to read. Unfortunately, in all the theory it covers, it doesn't touch on the topic of actually designing games that are fun to play in the traditional sense of the word "fun".

Ostensibly, the concept behind this is that understanding the underlying social and educational aspects of games will lead to the creation of games that are fun in the more traditional sense of the word (based on the notion that the two definitions are just different descriptions of the same idea). Regardless of its worth, the approach is significantly different from what one might expect from reading the title and the back of the book.
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Format: Paperback
I purchased the book mainly as a learning tool for designing boardgames.

The author's journey starts by trying to convince his get-a-real-job grandfather (and perhaps himself) that a career in game design is of significance. In doing so the author winds down a *philosophical* road describing how game design can mature into an artform just as other mediums have. His arguments are well thought, intriguing, and convincing. Raph will enlighten novice game designers and deeply plant some ideas that will surely influence the growing field of game design.

Among his most influential ideas, the author suggests that games should seek to allow people to explore game mechanics that reflect tiny aspects life as to allow real-world lessons to be learned. He suggests that game designs should *not* have preconceived destinations aimed at supporting the designer's personal truths, but that the game should allow its participants to openly experiment and discover their own truths. Very powerful stuff!

My harshest criticism is that the book seemed "puffed up" like a term paper where a procrastinator (in attempt to fill the required number of pages) quadrupled the line spacing, fatten the margins, and increased the fonts. The author provided hand-drawn pictures on every odd-numbered page. Some pictures were useful, but many seem forced and in trying to properly pair the text with the related pictures, lots of content pages are predominantly white space.

My preference would have been to reduce the size of the book by favoring the content much more heavily than the pictures and by doing away with the excessive white space; the book could easily have been half its size.

Despite the criticism the book offered good insight and was a fair value having purchased it on modest discount.
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