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Theory of Fun for Game Design [Paperback]

Raph Koster
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Nov 2004 One Off

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 book's 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 many 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (16 Nov 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932111972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932111972
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1.3 x 12 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 221,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Raph Koster (San Diego, CA) is the Chief Creative Officer for Sony Online Entertainment and author of the bestselling book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design. For many years he has served as a lead designer for teams building online virtual worlds. His first job was as a designer working on persistent worlds at Origin Systems. His last project there was working on Ultima Online, opening the online persistent world market to the general gaming public.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars thoughtful and inspiring 18 Nov 2005
A concise and persuasive philosophical discourse on games. Koster uses clear and readable prose in combination with cartoons to get his points across in a very accessible way. He has clearly thought a lot on the subject and wants to prove to others (and himself to a degree) that games have value - that they can 'contribute to society', and does so with insight and passion.
What does he say? Well -games are fun, and fun is learning,but gamers would rather win than learn. Games are a medium, any medium can be used to create 'Art' - but only if you try. And by the end of the book, you'll want to go out and design games that will change the world :)
If you've ever thought seriously about games (and I don't just means computer games) and then this book will strike a chord. Both a deconstruction and a call to arms, I loved this book, and am going to try and persuade my friends in the games industry, or want to be in the industry to read it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun for All the Family 16 Oct 2005
This is an extraordinarily accessible book from one of the few game designers who not only thinks deeply about the design process but is able to articulate it in a form that both enlightens and humbles the reader.
The first thing you notice when you pick up A Theory of Fun is that there is a sharp division to it: the left-hand pages are text and the right-hand pages are pictures, with very little overlap. You are going to prefer one of these to the other - I guarantee it. What's more, in reading the book you'll get an inkling of why; it operates at many more levels than its cheerful veneer would suggest.
The basic premise is that games are important. They're important because the brain is a highly efficient machine for recognising patterns, delivering pleasure when you learn new patterns. Games provide a context for recognising patterns where there is no external pressure to do so; this is what people call "fun".
The argument develops that games are also an art form. If people are learning things from playing them, then those who create games in some way determine what is learned. However, although many game designers do have an implicit understanding of what they're designing, few (if any) have an explicit enough understanding to reason about the design process itself. To be able to discuss what is in effect an internalised process, they need a theory of game design; that is what this book aims to deliver.
It actually does reasonably well in this regard. The test of a theory is its ability to be used predictively, and although A Theory of Fun doesn't come up with a bounded set of rules that can be applied to determine whether any given game will be fun, it does have a non-exhaustive set that can be applied to determine if a game isn't fun.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book, but too much of a gospel 21 May 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book succeeds in so many ways, and fails in others.
The book essentially uses all its pages to explain that fun arises out of a player "grokking" (i.e. understanding) a pattern. When they know the pattern too well, they become bored. When they can't get the pattern at all, they become frustrated. The challenge in game design is to continually provide new patterns to learn, and ones that aren't too hard. If you provide easy patterns, you should move on to a new pattern quickly.
The book itself is an easy, and fun, read and does well on the coffee table despite the soft cover binding, but it fails to deliver any specific knowledge on how to progress from "make patterns the player can learn" to "this is how you do it in a game".
Instead it becomes somewhat preachy and argues that game designers ought to design the next "Mona Lisa" game or the next "Lolita" game ... which I suppose should be taken to mean a game that challenges and grows the player instead of just running the same old "open door, kill enemy" pattern. True as this might be, the blame for bland game designs ought to be put at the door of risk-averse publishers, not designers lack of imagination.
In conclusion, the book offers some insight, but it is in no way a cookbook on how to design fun and it fails to deliver anything to the almost academic debate on what "fun" is. The reader, then, should decide if that should be considered a plus or negative.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Cerys
This book promises to help you understand the major cultural force that are games and to inspire you to do better than current game designers. The books highlights `fun' and how this concept relates to games both digital and traditional games. Unfortunately I have to admit to not finding the book much fun to read. It's problem is not that it is a stale treatise on game design, rather the opposite that it is a rambling essay on the author's thoughts about game design and the human condition. I initially found the book interesting, but soon got frustrated with the lack of discussion about the implications of the theories being discussed for game design and the lack of examples to back up the opinions. The book has it's thought provoking moments, but this are often reactionary to the strong personal opinions being put forward or through reading a lot between the lines. There are points made about what the future of game design ought to being doing, how current games designers are doing it wrong, but there is a lack of discussion of examples good and bad, or how these different future games might look or work.

If you are looking for ideas about why games look and behave the way they do now, why many are repetitive, derivative and fairly stagnant at this point in time, and want an opinion about they could evolve in the future then this book will be of interest to you. If you're interested in games design and why people want to play games, then you will probably find this interesting and easier to read than a formal book on game design theory. If you want a book that will give you ideas for the an entirely revolutionary game, it might give you that so long as you can read between the lines and make the leap on your own.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Great book, fantastic insight, would really recommend and also nice to receive something I've paid for on Amazon for a change as I've been ripped off on my last two transactions :(
Published 11 months ago by Wendy.A.Gorman
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
So easy to read and full of gems for the game designer, be they into serious games or ones for pure entertainment. Buy it
Published 11 months ago by Graham Longley-Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible theories on fun, playing and games!
I found this to be a really useful deconstruction of what game design is and how we might go about doing it. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Greg
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, great subject matter.
This book while clearly taking a less formal approach to traditional academic books was fantastic. It touched on many subjects which I feel really changed my thinking, particularly... Read more
Published on 19 Jun 2012 by Michael Chambers
3.0 out of 5 stars More a treatise on what games are and should be than a theory of fun
What this book delivers well is a treatise on what games are and should be. The author's erudition and practical experience across a wide range of disciplines is a particular... Read more
Published on 24 May 2012 by Khaled McGonnell
4.0 out of 5 stars A great little book
This is a great little book. It's short, to-the-point, and exactly what the games industry needs. It gets lost somewhere near the end and seems to ramble repetitively, but by that... Read more
Published on 3 April 2012 by A. Nichol
5.0 out of 5 stars Content over Style.
I was bought this as a biirthday present, & when I opened the wrapping I must admit I felt a bit of a lull in my enthusiasm, not at all what I expected. Read more
Published on 28 Sep 2011 by Jimbo Jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Very inspiring but presentation could be better
This is a very interesting book. It is my first read in this topic and I guess it was a good choice for an introduction as it is very thought provoking and inspiring. Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by London
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun book to read
I am interested in game design, and this was the very first book I read. It is a very good book, not with detailed instructions on how to get rich with games, but instead provides... Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by N. Goncalves
5.0 out of 5 stars For designers of all games, not just computer games
I recommend this book to game makers and artists. Games can and should be a valid medium for art.
Published on 17 Aug 2009 by J. Sloan
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