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Characteristics of Games

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  174 ratings  ·  20 reviews
"Characteristics of Games" offers a new way to understand games: by focusing on certain traits--including number of players, rules, degrees of luck and skill needed, and reward/effort ratio--and using these characteristics as basic points of comparison and analysis. These issues are often discussed by game players and designers but seldom written about in any formal way. T ...more
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published September 7th 2012 by MIT Press (first published August 17th 2012)
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Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Sometimes, non-fiction works are more descriptive than exploratory. I think that’s what George Skaff Elias (known in Wizards of the Coast circles for Skaff’s Law, a layman’s reinterpretation of the economic consequences of innovation initially penned by E. F. Schumacher) and Richard Garfield (for some reason known in Wizards of the Coast circles for Robo Rally, Magic: The Gathering, and Filthy Rich—I wonder why—just kidding) were trying to do with Characteristics of Games. It was intended to gro ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This incredibly readable textbook is a great attempt at categorizing and naming the key elements that form games. This should be essential reading for content creators if only to codify terminology and give everyone (consumers and creators alike) a common foundation from which we could build our understanding of board/video games and language. Wonderful ideas with solid questions that could easily be explored no matter how much into gaming (of any sort) you are.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The authors break out various facets of games, giving us a terminology to describe them thoroughly. These facets are examined in detail, and one can see how this was a textbook for a course. Could have used a bit more about classification of the game players, connecting them to to the characteristics that they enjoy.
Borbíró Andris
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A book that tries to make order in how we think about different board games. Maybe it can be a bit dry for some, but I enjoyed it a lot.
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: gaming, non-fiction
This is not a text on designing games, rather it's one on understanding them. It goes about this by establishing a common framework for discussing games, and examining the different characteristics that games can have.

Overall, I found it very interesting, and as a result of reading it some characteristics of games that I formerly considered to be either "good" or "bad" I now recognize as having both benefits and drawbacks. That alone was worth the read.

It is a textbook, but it's a fairly well wr
Sep 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book made games fun for me again.

A second edition would likely tighten the prose, and most of the pictures are meaningless fluff so the book can clock in at 300 pages before the index.

This book systematically looks at differences between games and introduces concepts and vocabulary crucial to discussions about the merits of one game vs. another, or which tradeoffs occur due to various design choices. This is excellent reading for anybody who likes games and required reading for anyone who d
Serge Pierro
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: games, non-fiction
I’ve read many books and articles on Game Design and Game Theory and have found most of them to be fascinating. However, there is a somewhat familiar thread that weaves through all of them, as they are all approaching the subject from somewhat of the same angle. Therefore, a book like “Characteristics of Games” really stands out from the others, as it approaches the aforementioned subjects in a somewhat different way - it is not about Game Design or Game Theory specifically, but about the actua ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Characteristics of Games by George Skaff Ellias, Richard Garfield and K. Robert Gutschera (all of the Magic: the Gathering fame) is a book on game design and analysis based on their series of lectures given at MIT.

The book isn't a design manual, or a How-To book on game tactics. Instead the author focus on providing a powerful framework to systematically break down any game (or game-like endeavor).

The main premise of the book is that games (computer games, board games, sports) can be decomposed
Alexander Vanhulsel
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Garfield is a brilliant man
Miquel Garcia
May 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaming-books
El libro ofrece una mirada académica a las distintas características que definen un juego, entendiendo "juego" en su sentido más general: juegos de mesa, videojuegos, deportes... Se discuten aspectos como la dualidad entre el azar y la habilidad, las actividades asociadas entorno a los juegos ("metajuego") o el uso de la ley económica de las recompensas decrecientes en los juegos. También menciona cuales son algunos de los problemas típicos en el diseño de juegos como los mecanismos de alcance o ...more
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Will had a good point that a lot of the discussions in here are rather obvious, but I like that sometimes, at least, I like it in this case since it's a topic where I haven't seen some of these discussions made explicit anywhere else.
Some of their examples went entirely over my head since I don't play computer games or role-playing games. I feel like a more useful Appendix C would have given a little more background (say a page) on each of a half-dozen different genres rather than giving a sent
Sep 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've had this book on my "Currently Reading" shelf for a year but I've probably read it two and a half times over by now. It does a great job of breaking down different game mechanics and identifying the benefits, drawbacks, and trade-offs of those mechanics. Some of the observations seem kind of obvious but I don't really mind the discussions of the explicit since it's not at the expense of discussing the (more interesting) implicit implications of various mechanics. Most importantly, it codifi ...more
Tony Ødegaard
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A kind of enclyopedia which tries to define terms to the inner mechanics and workings of game design. Filled to the brink with detailed and in-depth information, and the terms that the book defines and explains to you will help you immensly in recognising and breaking down how games works and are designed. My only gripe with it is that it would have been improved with better illustrations. For a foreign-language reader some of the language could also be a little heavy, but do not quote me on tha ...more
Manny Tingplants
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: games
I've played Magic the Gathering on-and-off for about 13 years. Recently I started working on a computer game myself, and on a whim checked Richard Garfield's Wikipedia page, just to see if he maybe had (co)written a manifesto about what a game design grand-wizard thinks about. He had.
Touko Tahkokallio
Apr 01, 2013 rated it liked it
A nice book with many interesting points. Overall an example of a clear thought. The book tries to be very general and wide in its scope, which sometimes can lead to a bit too abstract tone, making it challenging to use its wisdom in practice.
David Hunter
Nov 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: game-design
The name says it all: this is just a list and brief discussion of some fundamental and not so fundamental characteristics of games. This exercises feel tacked on and are poorly integrated into the text. Not recommended, but might be worth a look if you have finished other game design books.
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
as the title implies, the book breaks down game mechanics systematically into categories. this is great for people like me who want to think about game design in a more organized way. it does this without getting too academic or dense.
highly recommended for pro or casual game developers.
Oct 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
What a terrible, useless book. A complete waste of my time. I didn't bother finishing. Not only was it terribly written, but there are numerous blatant errors.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Perfect read for people interested in how games work. Lots of food for thought, but keep in mind that this is akin to a college text.
Apr 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: design, games
A good reference book for the basic structures and concepts behind games. Written in a dry but understandable and concise manner.
Nazmul Ahmed Noyon
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May 27, 2019
Elizabeth Ginsberg
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Sep 18, 2014
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Dec 12, 2012
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Sep 19, 2013
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May 03, 2015
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