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The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses Paperback – 12 Sep 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: CRC Press (12 Sept. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0123694965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0123694966
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 18.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 115,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Winner of a 2008 Game Developer Front Line Award
"This book was clearly designed, not just written, and is an entire course in how to be a game designer. … The book is also intensely practical, giving some of the best advice on how to harness your own subconscious I’ve ever read, as well as short and useful descriptions of probability theory for non-mathematicians, how to diagram interest curves, working with a team, and dozens of other topics. It is simply the best text I’ve seen that really addresses what a designer should know, and then actually gives practical advice about how to gain that knowledge through life experience. It’s a marvelous tour de force and an essential part of anyone’s game design library."
—Noah Falstein, from Game Developer Magazine

"If you're nineteen and have no idea why you adore videogames—you’re just enchanted by them, you can’t help yourself—dude, is this ever the book for you. You are the core demographic for this particular textual experience. Put down the hand-controller, read the book right now. I can promise you that you will grow in moral and intellectual stature. Instead of remaining a twitchy, closeted, joystick geek, like you are now, you will emerge from this patient master-class as a surprisingly broadminded adult who quotes Herman Hesse and appreciates improvisational theater and Impressionist painting. You will no longer kill off parties with your Warcraft fixation. Instead, other people your age will find themselves mysteriously drawn to you —to your air of quiet sympathy, your contemplative depth. Wise beyond your years, you will look beyond the surface details of shrieking monsters and into the deeper roots of human experience. Schell’s creative approach is full of autarchic frontier self-reliance. Out there on Tomorrowland’s Gameification Frontier, a theorist intellectual has to slaughter his own hogs and parse Aristotle’s Poetics on the back of a shovel. But boy, it sure is roomy over there. It’s a large, free, democratic book. It’s Emersonian in its cheery disorganization. The book's like a barbaric yawp from the top of a Nintendo console.. I'd read it now, before things get out of hand."
—Bruce Sterling, "Beyond the Beyond" blog,

"… a good book that teaches the craft of game design in an accessible manner. … The text goes just deep enough to give you practical insight into how the key concepts might be useful without becoming wordy. … If you are looking for a competent introduction to game design, this book is a good place to start."
—Daniel Cook,, February 2009

"As indicated by its title, Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses uses many different perspectives (the titular lenses), which each prompt their own important questions, ranging from ‘What problems does my game ask the players to solve?’ to ‘What does beauty mean within the context of my game?’ These distinct points are interwoven throughout a step-by-step analysis of the design process that begins with the designer and his or her basic idea, and builds successfully from there. As with Rules of Play, the wealth of information presented by The Art of Game Design may seem daunting at first, but Schell’s agreeable voice eases the reader into a series of invaluable angles we can (and should) use to evaluate what we play."

"Easily the most comprehensive, practical book I’ve ever seen on game design."
—Will Wright, Designer of The Sims, SimCity, and Spore

"Jesse has lovingly crafted a great resource for both aspiring developers as well as seasoned gaming industry veterans. I highly recommend this book."
—Cliff "CliffyB" Bleszinski, CEO Boss Key and Former Design Director for Epic Games

"Inspiring and practical for both veterans and beginners."
—Bob Bates, Game Designer and Co-Founder of Legend Entertainment

"Jesse Schell’s new book, The Art of Game Design, is a marvelous introduction to game design by a true master of the form. Schell is the rarest of creatures: a gifted teacher who is also a talented and successful current game designer. This book reflects Jesse’s skill at presenting information clearly and coherently, and the knowledge he has acquired as a master game designer.
I have already referenced this book while preparing lectures and classes in the U.S., Germany, and New Zealand, and recommend it as an invaluable aid for anyone interested in game design. The Art of Game Design is a pitch-perfect blend of valuable knowledge and insights with an informal and compelling presentation.
The sections on harnessing the creative power of the subconscious mind are particularly insightful and delightfully written. It is immediately clear that Jesse Schell not only knows the theory behind what he writes about; he has also put it to use many times and honed his techniques to perfection. A must-read for anyone interested in interactive design, and even the creative process in general."
—Noah Falstein, Chief Game Designer, Google

"The Art of Game Design describes precisely how to build a game the world will love and elegantly crank it through the realities of clients and publishers. It draws wisdom from Disneyland to Michelangelo, gradually assembling a supply of concrete game design rules and subtle psychological tricks that actually work in surprising ways. It is fertilizer for the subconscious: keep a stack of post-it notes nearby to record all the game ideas that will sprout out of your own head while reading."
—Kyle Gabler, Game Designer and Founder of 2D Boy, Makers of World of Goo

"He embodies a tradition of reconciling diverse disciplines, extending the possibilities of each and creating new theories and opportunities for both industry and academia. Jesse is like the Einstein of Entertainment."
—Mk Haley, Walt Disney Research

"Packed with Jesse’s real-world experience and humorous insight, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses is a tool chest crossed with a kaleidoscope. Both fantastical and practical, methodical and wonder-full, this book and deck will have you looking at and dreaming up games with a fresh vision. Like a chemistry set for making mental explosions, it’s an idea(l) book guiding the design process for both new and seasoned game designers. In short, using Jesse’s book is FUN."
—Heather Kelley, Artist and Game Designer

"The Art of Game Design is one of a handful of books I continuously reference during production. Whether you’re just starting out or looking for ways to approach your design from a fresh perspective, this book is a must for your library."
—Neil Druckmann, Creative Director on The Last of Us at Naughty Dog

"On games industry desks, books tend to come and go, but they all seem to go on top of Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design because that’s the one book that seems to stick around."
—Jason VandenBerghe, Creative Director, Ubisoft

"Ken Rolston, internationally celebrated game designer, recommends Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design both for smart people and for people who are learning how to be smart."
—Ken Rolston, Director of Design, Turbine

About the Author

Jesse Schell is professor of entertainment technology for Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), a joint master's program between Carnegie Mellon's College of Fine Arts and School of Computer Science, where he teaches game design and leads several research projects. Formerly he was creative director of the Walt Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio. Schell worked as a designer, programmer, and manager on several projects for Disney theme parks and DisneyQuest. Schell received his undergraduate degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master's degree in information networking from Carnegie Mellon. He is also CEO of Schell Games, LLC, an independent game studio in Pittsburgh, and chairman of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). In 2004 he was named as one of the World's 100 Top Young Innovators by MIT's Technology Review.

Inside This Book

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By theflyingbag on 1 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
The most helpful part of this book is actually the beginning, where the author encourages you to just go and start making a game. "Game design is not a set of principles, it is an activity." A few pages after, the author defines "listening" as the most important quality of a game designer. Being a professional game designer myself, I can't agree more. The author didn't help me to sharpen one particular skill, but he changed my perspective and I found it greatly helpful for my career.

However, with more and more lenses being revealed, I found the content broad but shallow. You can easily find examples like this one: "The Lens of Balance" - Does my game feel right? Why or why not? "The Lens of Story" - How can my story be better? It's not constructive or helpful. It's just like you are having your game design reviewed by your lead, and the only feedback you got is "make it better".

The more I read the book, the more I feel the author tries very hard to find enough different principles to fill the 100 lenses. Naming them lenses also doesn't change the fact they are the principles that the author mentioned in the very beginning.

The best thing about this book is it teaches you to have a wide view of your game design, to see it from as many different angles as possible. But also, it fails to reflect the harsh reality of making a video game, and almost every time you have to make the hard decision to ignore most lenses and only focus on the core experience you would like to deliver.

One last thing worth mentioning is the book uses the game ICO as an example in explaining the indirect control. Although it doesn't change the point the author tries to make, but he made a mistake here. The game doesn't have a clever timer mechanic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gareth on 16 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a little cross and disappointed when I first opened this book which I want to say up-front was my fault, not the book's. I'm more used to reading technical books, of the how-to and reference variety, and I was time-pressed, looking for an impossible quick fix. This book is a verbose, meandering philosophical exploration of game design and everything that touches. I quickly realised this is perfectly evident in the title: "The art of", not the science or technology of. Once I'd readjusted my expectations, I settled down and started reading the book as it was intended to be read. I'm only half-way through (it's a big book) but I'm so won over I feel it merited a review. Schell has written a book that will make you a better games designer if you're willing to invest the time it takes to understand what games are and are not and what being a games designer means. Highly recommended.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Edouard Imbert on 15 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design is a great book. With a variety of anecdotes and definitions it gives really useful - and relevant - explanations about what a game designer's objectives are. Although Schell writes that game design isn't an exact science, the book breaks down games into small elements in order to show what they are really made of - spaces, structures, mechanics etc, and describes them one by one in a very comprehensive fashion. He also writes a lot about entertainment in general, allowing the reader to get valuable clues about why a movie, book or game meets success, and why some other does not.

We, game designers (especially students), often find it difficult to put into words what really defines our profession, and it all can get a bit blurry when you don't know how to call this or that. What's so great about Art of Game Design is that it helps you put words on things. Througout the book I kept having this pleasant feeling of, "heeey, I knew that, so it's how you actually call it?"

Also, one of the most interesting parts of the book are the "lenses". Through these, Schell shows ways to identify problematics in the building of your game by looking at it from certain perspectives; then, using the lenses, it becomes easy to see what's wrong and should be changed / corrected, or what works well and should be made more visible.

With helpful - and often funny - considerations about narration, target demographics, creative thinking, architecture and design in general, Art of Game Design will teach you many, many things if you're a student, and will provide useful tools if you're a professional. In either case, you will keep the book on your desk after reading it and you'll come back to it very, very often.

So again, a great book!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alex P on 18 May 2011
Format: Paperback
I am not a professional game designer but I am trying to get there as a hobbyist. I can do programming well, I have ideas but I needed to find a way to transform them into something that would be fun for me to do and for the user to experience. I have tried a couple of game design books but I must say this is the best one and is very inspiring. It tries to explain what the process of designing a game means while looking at games from all different point of views: game theory, psychology, entertainment, social interaction, technology, etc...
Definitely a must for any (professional/amateur/wannabe/anything else) game designer out there.
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