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The Many Lenses
on 1 November 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. The evil spirits' appearance is entirely scripted. If you are in a safe place, they wouldn't appear no matter how long you stay. It's a minor point, but to me it seems important when an author tries to explain game mechanics when he fails to understand it fully, and starts to use it as an example in his book.
It is certainly not a bad book. If you are new to game design, the book is a great introduction, but as broad as it is, it lacks depth and practicality.