- Paperback: 300 pages
- Publisher: O'Reilly Media; Second edition (December 2, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1449363210
- ISBN-13: 978-1449363215
- Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Theory of Fun for Game Design Paperback – December 2, 2013
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About the Author
Raph Koster is a veteran game designer who has been professionally credited in almost every area of the game industry. He's been the lead designer and director of massive titles such as Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies; and he's contributed writing, art, soundtrack music, and programming to many more titles ranging from Facebook games to single-player titles for handheld consoles. He has worked as a creative executive at Sony Online and Disney Playdom, and in 2012 was honored as an Online Game Legend at the Game Developers Conference Online.
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I think some of that has happened as a result of reading this, but it seems like most of it was almost more because of what can be read between the lines than it was because of anything the author actually intended to say.
Some of what he talks about is observed phenomenon, which he has been in a position to become aware of as a result of working as a game designer on small and large projects that enjoyed varying degrees of success over a period of quite a few years. That part of what he says is very informative and helpful. But to get those little nuggets out of the book, you have to kind of wade/sift through all his personal opinions about what he thinks is driving those phenomena, and his interpretations of what they mean, and his exhortations of designers toward ideals that he personally would like to see promoted and pursued and all that.
One of the assertions he made was that people prefer activities that challenge them at the limit of their ability. This is an interpretation of some observed data. There may be other plausible interpretations of the same data. But that interpretation rings at least partially or even largely true to me, and it is clarifying and interesting and worth noting, to me. That's one of those sort of basic and obvious things that you might not really have clearly at the forefront of your conscious awareness, until someone points it out.
He further notes that there is this process of learning that goes on in games; people get better at them. When they stop getting better, they stop playing. (Or at least that seems to be the case.) So his assertion is that a good game teaches a given player everything it has to teach before that player stops playing it; in other words, if a significant percentage of players don't end up getting exposed to / roped into trying all the things in a game that they could pick up and get better at, a lot of the effort in creating the game is wasted, and it's potential traction in the marketplace of games is reduced compared with what it could be. (That's what I understood him to more-or-less intend to say; although I had to sort of read between the lines a little to arrive at that summation.) Which certainly makes some sense to me, and that idea has some value to me, but - I'm pretty sure that there are abilities I've already gained, things I've already learned how to do about as well as I'm ever going to, that I still enjoy and will enjoy forever.
Take sex for example. I'm not that interested in trying to learn how to do it any better than I do, at this point in my life. But I'll always be interested in doing it, anyway. And if she changes the way she looks, and it's a new variety of hotness, then that can revitalize what is essentially a timelessly old flame.
Take 2D shooters. I love them, I always have and always will, I'm sure, even if I never get any better at them. Change the look and feel a little, change some of the sounds, add some twists, and you'll have me hooked. Some of this guy's suggestions about possible future game designs could involve, on the other hand, to me sound hopelessly and completely without any appeal at all.
So the idea that our basic urges are a result of evolution, and therefore we should be able to predict and perhaps even steer where evolution will take us next, seems like a bit of a far reaching stretch to me, and is really entirely aside from anything I care about. And a fair amount of what he talks about is based on that general premise.
I rather suspect that our basic urges are a little more hard wired and less malleable than all that. I think sex has been around forever and will be around forever (for example) and things that tap into that urge will always sell well. People say that what physical shapes inspire lust has changed over the centuries and across cultures. But that is an interpretation of observed data. There may be other plausible interpretations of the same data. I personally kind of suspect that at least one of the other plausible interpretations is more accurate than that one. I kind of suspect that at a basic level, there is some fundamental shape or set of shapes, buried deep in the human psyche, and whatever cultural shifting has gone on is more kind of a process of honing and refining our awareness of it than it is changing it. Here I'm not speaking of any individual, more about.. for example the phenomena of lusty image ratings. If you took 100 pictures, and exposed them to millions of men between the ages of about 13 and about, oh, 90, all over the world and from all times down through history, you might get different orderings of that list in different parts of the world or at different times in history at first, but if you exposed those same groups of people to the same or a similar list of images many times over a period of time, I think all of those disparate groups would sort of gradually gravitate toward the same order. Because the process of exposing them to the list would gradually make most of them more aware of what shapes actually hold more basic sex appeal to most male humans on a fundamental level.