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The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses [Paperback]

Jesse Schell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Sep 2008 0123694965 978-0123694966
Anyone can master the fundamentals of game design - no technological expertise is necessary. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses shows that the same basic principles of psychology that work for board games, card games and athletic games also are the keys to making top-quality videogames. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, or lenses. While touring through the unusual territory that is game design, this book gives the reader one hundred of these lenses - one hundred sets of insightful questions to ask yourself that will help make your game better. These lenses are gathered from fields as diverse as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, writing, puzzle design, and anthropology. Anyone who reads this book will be inspired to become a better game designer - and will understand how to do it.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: CRC Press (12 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0123694965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0123694966
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 18.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"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 on's "Beyond the Beyond" blog

"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."

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.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Many Lenses 1 Nov 2012
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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic for Students 8 Nov 2011
By Ashley
I was quite skeptical as to how muh this book would be of use when my tutor recommended it for my course in computer game design. But it has been a massive influence on how I now create games, be it on a computer or the board game that I made for an assignment.
Provides strong philosophical, anthropological and psychological insights into many matters of game design, and encourages many different methods and use of view points of games and their inner workings.
I'm always carrying thus book in my bag and will often refer back to the lenses in times of doubt and unclear paths forward.
Absolutely fantastic.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book is hard to beat 18 May 2011
By Alex P
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A book of subtle gems 16 Mar 2014
By Gareth
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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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book! 15 Dec 2009
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It is a great book
This is a great book on game design. Jesse Schell knows what makes a good game - and why. It motivated me to start designing social games.
Published 4 months ago by Kristian Olsen
1.0 out of 5 stars Price Hike
From reading the other reviews this looked like a good buy, however a recent hike of the price by over 12 (it used to be 25) is a little unnerving. Read more
Published 11 months ago by J. Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Really helpful book with many interesting points. Definitely should be read by any game designer. I used it a lot and the paper quality is good.
Published 12 months ago by George Kalmpourtzis
1.0 out of 5 stars Do Not Buy Kindle Edition
The Kindle edition seems to be a PDF file. It doesn't open in the Kindle application but the PDF reader. Unacceptable and instantly returned.
Published 15 months ago by RWilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Must buy!
This book is fantastic. It took me a while to get into it near the first chapter or two however later on it gets much more technical and brilliant. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Michael Richards
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book For Any Designer.
This book by Jesse Schell is a godsend for anyone that is planning on becoming, is currently studying, or even has studied and is working with the field of design. Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2010 by JP Kooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I bought this book for my son who is 14 years old and he found it truly inspirational (and asked me to write this review). Read more
Published on 17 Sep 2010 by Anthony Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book about design I ever read
As a professional game designer myself, i heard a lot about Jesse Schell, so i decided to pick this book. Simply amazing! Read more
Published on 3 April 2010 by Greverie Nicolas
5.0 out of 5 stars Game design teaching brilliance!
I just humbly want to join the masses already praising Jesse Schell's book on games design. It deserves every bit of the praise and accolade heaped upon it. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2010 by Marque Pierre Sondergaard
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