Recently I was sent a review copy of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Third Edition by Tracy Fullerton. Fullerton is the Chair of the Interactive Media & Games Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and won the IndieCade 2013 Trailblazer award, which is an award given annually “to a working game creator who has both made great contributions to the field of games and captures the independent spirit.”
I’ll have a review of the book itself published at a later time, but I’ll quickly highlight the vitals.
The book is split into three parts. The first part is all about game design basics. Terminology is defined, and games are broken down into formal elements, dramatic elements, and system dynamics.
The second part is about taking what you learned in the first part and putting it into practice. You’ll learn how to generate ideas, prototype them, conduct playtests, and refine the design until it is functional, complete, and balanced.
The third part focuses on working as a game designer in the industry, both in terms of job descriptions as well as what life is like working on a team. I note that going independent was given roughly a page in a 10-page chapter on getting you and your ideas into the industry.
I think the book overall covers a lot of ground, provides lessons as well as examples, and even features the wisdom and advice of many prominent game designers such as Richard Garfield, Josh Holmes, Jenova Chen, and Will Wright. I think this book is a great addition to my game design library.
Of course, merely reading a game design book won’t teach you game design anymore than reading an art book will teach you to be a painter.
You need to DO game design to become a game designer.
This book has plenty of exercises throughout its chapters to guide you through creating your own playable game designs. As Fullerton says in the introduction, “If you think of this book as a tool to lead you through the process of design, and not just a text to read, you’ll find the experience much more valuable.”
On that note, I’d like to introduce Game Design Workshop Wednesdays. Each Wednesday, I’ll take an exercise from the book and go through it myself, sharing what I’m doing. If you’d like to follow along at home, you can click on the link above to get your own copy through Amazon.
So join me next week as we learn and create games together. I’d love it if you left comments to share how you did on your exercises as well. Alternatively, if you would like to write your own blog posts, or tweet or otherwise participate on your own, use the hashtag #GDWW so we can all keep in touch.
UPDATE: Here are the links to exercises completed so far.
- Exercise 1.1: I pretended to be a game tester
- Exercise 1.2: I critically analyzed a game that was “dead on arrival”
- Exercise 1.3: I listed and described areas of my life that could be games
- Exercise 1.4: I kept a game journal
- Exercise 1.5: I listed and briefly described 10 games I played as a child
- Exercise 2.1: I compare two seemingly different games to each other
- Exercise 2.2: I describe how players join two very different games
- Exercise 2.3: I describe the objectives of five games
- Exercise 2.4: I try to think of a game with no rules
- Exercise 2.5: I compare the conflict in American football and poker
- Exercise 2.6: I list three games and describe how they are challenging
- Exercise 2.7: I identify the premise of a few games
- Exercise 2.8: I explain why some games have moved me emotionally
- Exercise 2.9: I identify major elements of a simple game