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Theory of Fun for Game Design Paperback – November 6, 2004
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"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 books 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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It's good that he uses such a narrow definition, since the book is slim and quick to read: without narrowing down the field, he'd have been able to give only the most cursory of overviews of any aspect of fun. The first chapter or so of the book is merely a justification for this definition, but is delightfully written and amusing nontheless!
But the remainder of the book, where he explores this one facet of fun, and things like its relationship to game stickiness, and game balance, is why this book has become a classic among game designers. Because learning and mastery ARE aspects that should be given a lot of attention in the area of game design.
But beware of believing from this book that mastery is the only type of fun to be had! The book is a fun read, and not only because it is pedagogical, but because it is well written, makes interesting points in a humorous way, and is supported by amusing and relevant illustrations throughout.
This book handles a tough topic and does it well. Whether you are a game designer or just someone who realizes that people enjoy playing games, this book is for you.
It studies the nature of fun. The book does an excellent job of differentiating between appreciation that the book views as an end and fleeting (e.g., yum! a cookie!, or wow! what a beautiful sunset!, or *blush* thank you for such a nice compliment!) and fun that the books views as a process and something that can be extended for quite a while under the right circumstances.
While the book focuses on fun as problem solving and learning, the book also mentions other psychological aspects to fun and why computer games have tended to focus on territorial, conflict, and piece fitting games.
The writing style is deceptively easy to understand given the complexity of the topic, and I found myself going back and re-reading several of the sections days later after some reflection.
The book is loaded with insightful and humorous illustrations.
All in all, an excellent product!
I highly recommend it!
The author talks a lot about things like trying to nail down what this "fun" sensation actually is, and why we find certain things either fun and other things not so fun. He breaks down what sorts of attributes a game should have in order for it to at least have a chance of being found fun. He also touches on some related topics briefly like gender and age differences, and the sustainability of games. Then there is a small discussion about ethics and some random ideas about the future of gaming.
The book is definitely brief, weighing in at underr 250 pages. The pages have fairly large print and every other page is filled with a full-page illustration. But at this price, it is still a fairly good value. The illustrations are generally quite good and add a lot to the enjoyment of reading this book.
I really enjoyed this book. It got me thinking about my gaming projects in a bit of a different way, and I've now got a bunch of new ideas floating around inside my head that hopefully will find there way into some interesting, and yes, "fun", games. I definitely recommend this book for game developers that strive to do more than make rehashes of yesterdays games.
I didn't feel Koster made the case for games' potential all that well though - I actually left the book feeling a little unsure of whether games *do* have a higher potential. He didn't give any examples (that I recall) of games that succeed at it, or even any clear idea of what such a game might look like. And most of this discussion (in the latter part of the book) was tinged with a hint of defensiveness and anger, perhaps from years of people telling him his career wasn't worthy or important, that I felt weakened the message a bit - that it was more about personal grievances for him than any concrete vision of where games can go.
The style grated on me after a while too - it's in the form of short gnomic aphorisms, that at a certain point felt a little self-indulgent and devoid of much substance, repeating the same points many times.
Anyway I did gain some valuable insight from parts of the book, and because of it's terse style and cartoon drawings on alternate pages, it's a quick read, so I'd still recommend it to any aspiring game developers. There are things I'll probably check back on for inspiration from time to time.