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The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,592 ratings  ·  179 reviews
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 video games. Good game design happens when you view your game from many different perspectives, ...more
Paperback, 489 pages
Published August 4th 2008 by CRC Press
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: games, 2011
On one level, this is a textbook about how to design a game. On another level, this a work of love by someone who clearly understands why games are fun, and how to manage the tricky business of coordinating all the people required to build one. Jesse Schell breaks games down into their individual components, and explains how those can work together to reinforce an experience of fun. The book is full of practical, folksy wisdom on managing artists, programmers, playtesters, and clients. A charmin ...more
Graham Herrli
This book contains some thought-provoking suggestions about game design, but it also contains enough empty truisms to become annoying. For example: "there were many decisions the designer made to lay it out, and these decisions made a significant impact upon the game experience" (p. 237). The final paragraph of each chapter and subchapter could probably be omitted without removing any information from the book.

And the number of typos was astounding. (I sent Jesse Schell a list of nearly twenty t
Jessica Mae Stover
Update: My giftee has read deeper into this book and shared some parts with me that I hadn't yet seen. This book is sexist and misogynistic.

I'll update with more details as soon as I have time (I want to look into who else is responsible for publishing this material in support of the author), but, wow: those parts are terrible, poorly cited, and contain glaring problems such as "people are saying" weasel words.

I'm going to go ahead and say most reviewers here likely would not have given this boo
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
My crash course into game design continues. This book is an excellent resource for the whole process of making a game (most of these lessons can also be used for software development in general). It covers everything from the original concept/idea for a game to the end product, with all the hurdles in between (teem communication and organization, testing, balancing, talking to clients...). My only problem is that some of the topics were covered too generally, but I understand that this is the on ...more
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book. To start with the good: Schell takes a very holistic approach to game design. He's also plain spoken, demystifying a lot of the work that goes into making games. On the downside: the range of topics Schell covers in his effort to be holistic leads to some shallow treatments. His insistence on accessibility means things are sometimes dumbed down too much, assumptions aren't examined or (in the worst cases) arguments are based on questionable pseudoscience. I ...more
Mar 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book mostly because a friend was reading it and game design is something I'm peripherally interested in. That being said, with a few exceptions, I found the book pretty useful. It covers the full range of decisions that go into game design and has tips, or at the book puts it 'lenses' through which you can examine you game. Who is your game for. What is your games 'world'. How do the players inter-act with that world. What are the spaces of that world. It was effective is getting me ...more
Caroline Berg
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I figured it was about time I read this, having heard such great things about it from other game designers, and it is an excellent book. It should have been a standard part of curriculum in college for my Game Art & Design degree. Honestly, anyone interested in going into game design, be it for board games, RPGs, or video games should spend some time reading this book.

However, as great as it is, I still disagree with parts of it. And to be fair, Schell does say in the book to question the knowle
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Jesse has to be one of the smartest people I know...and this book is proof.

This book is not only a great way to learn about designing games, but teaches a lot of good tips for creating anything. I particularly appreciate that the book is not overly technical (its easily accessible to anyone who would pick it up), but it does go into some complex ideas...he hit that perfect balance in creating a book that anyone, regardless of skill or education level, can read and learn from.
Osama Alsalman
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a life changing book, not as a game designer only, but as a human. For it contains many valuable lessons on the design of human experiences, I would recommend this book to anyone.

The last three chapters were the most effecting for me, for they discussed the effect of games and how they can transform us.

Once you finish it, you will get a ring, a secret ring, but I can't tell you more. So, go read it yourself :)
Sep 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic intro to the field of game design. It chooses to be comprehensive instead of detailed, so towards the end, you get some very breezy chapters about working in a team and with clients, for example, and mentions enough biz talk so that you've at least heard the terminology but don't totally get it. I didn't fault the book for glossing over these topics. I was happy that it mentioned them, in a getting-to-know-the-lay-of-the-land way, and I also appreciated that the author clearl ...more
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book that gave me a lot to think about as I continue to design tabletop games. While it isn't 100% (some concerns with gender, understanding of choice-based narratives, etc), it is overall very useful. I've found ways to apply the contents to my (not game related) day job and other aspects of my life. I definitely recommend reading it, even if you don't agree with everything in it.

(I'm not sure how much I'll use the lenses, but the ideas around them are great. And, to echo some of th
Hung Vu
Apr 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Finished this book in under a week. Not a very strong book, but still indeed contains some gems. At times it feels like the book is more aimed towards game enthusiasts rather than game designers. The author often derails too far into the definition territory of things, making it hard to stay on point. When done with definitions, the book goes on about setting the right framework of mind, how to stay on track, overcome psychological pressures, and so on--which apply to many other creative fields ...more
Yu Chao
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pros: A thorough and thought-provoking guide to game design, and many of the techniques and knowledge from the book could be applied to general artistic creation as well as performance art.

Cons: After reading this book, I often find myself compulsorily analyzing the design when I'm playing a game, or studying carefully the structures of the plot line right in the middle of a movie or novel...which could sometimes be disrupting.
Zsolt Varga
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thorought, interesting, useful. From concept to market release with interesting stories and personal tidbits added to make it more fun to read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in tabletop or computer games.
Jeremy Steingraber
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
You don't really read a book like this cover to cover, but I've been skipping through it for quite some time at sporadic intervals. If you're interested in game design this is one that might help you think about different perspectives: maybe even break you out of some dead ends. ...more
Brian Gee
Dec 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
So far the most helpful book I've read on game design. Most of the advice is very practical, but the writing style can also being somewhat philosophical (in a good way). It looks at the psychological roots of our appreciation of gaming, and how that connects to game design. ...more
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gaming
Very robust and covers a lot of useful concepts to consider when developing and designing a game. -1 star for the gender stereotypes that were (in my mind) needlessly included in the book.
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: game-dev
first book I read about game development and still one of the best. Highly recommended for beginners.
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book, very comprehensive. Everything is very well explained and with very good examples that reinforce the points the author makes. If you are getting intro the game design industry, this should be a must read.
Good inspiration for beginners, but with flaws

I am torn about this textbook. There is much to like in The Art of Game Design, and the book is arguably at it's best when Schell relays his extensive personal experiences in the industry. I indeed found some sections to be excellent, for instance the discussions of design principles, of games in education, or or the social responsibilities of designers. I also appreciated the accessible writing style.

That said, as a uni instructor looking for a tex
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
About half of this book is truly excellent. Unfortunately I can't say exactly which half, since the good parts and the not-so-good parts are all mixed together.

The author himself seems to be of two minds about the importance and role of games in our culture, which causes some inconsistencies throughout the book. For most of the book one gets the sense that game design is a very cold calculating type of business. Schell leaves discussion of the game designer's responsibilities and motivations fo
Jan 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This amazing author find connections in the most wonderfully and seemingly unrelated subjects. I learned many invaluable insights about life in general.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found it very insightful and quite fun. Easy to read through.
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every mouth-breather on the planet, even ostrich
The Art of Game Design is a fabulous, fun book, a must-read, a wonderful amalgam of philosophy, psychology, criticism, and analysis of games as both literary genre and practical design. Let me hyperbolize further. I think this book should be compulsory reading for anyone in the business of communicating with others for a living as the advice and insights here speak not just to game designers, but to museum exhibit designers, web developers, filmmakers, educators, politicians, and public speakers ...more
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Often when I read I pay attention to the nuggets of wisdom inside some larger fabric or narrative. This book is a goldmine of them. To some extent they're the brilliantly crafted lense statements, but also the way each of them is motivated by some humourous enlightening anecdote. After essentially every chapter I wanted to show what I had just read to a friend so we could talk about his points.

This book is very broad indeed. Schell doesn't limit himself to games of a particular platform or
Lex Toumbourou
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: game-design
As a person who's recently found themselves for the first time on a team building a game, this book was a godsend. In 34 chapters, Jesse Schell covers everything one should know about building a game. It balances nicely between theory (insofar as there is academic literature about game design) and practical advice. Each chapter is interspersed with practical "lens", which are effectively questions game designers can ask themselves to guide their design process.

The book covers all the high-levels
Jeroen Corthout
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you're interested in creating experiences for people (with interactive products that people regularly use), this book is a special one.

Judging by its cover, it looks like an extremely academic university textbook written by a professor. Well, it is indeed written by a professor. But it doesn't read at all like a university textbook.

The book is written in a very accessible way, just as if the author is giving an engaging and well researched talk. It is well structured without being boring, add
Apr 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is...well, basically, it's a textbook on game design (focused on video game design but most of it is applicable to other forms of games as well, which is why I read it.) and as you can expect in textbooks, if they're on a subject that you've already given a lot of thought yourself, you will encounter bits that make you go "Well duh, that's self-evident, isn't it?".
But, as one can expect from GOOD textbooks, it will take a closer look at these "self-evident" bits and explain why they are the
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've had an interest in game design for quite awhile but have never read a book on the topic (having misses that they even exist). So this is my first read on the subject, but I think it's a good one. Schell addresses a lot of problems I wouldn't have thought of, at least not without designing many more games.

Many or most sections left me with something to think about. While the book presents a stack of a hundred odd lenses, the whole comprises another lens to view everything else through. That
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to do Game Design or has started to do Game Design or even who has worked in that field for two or three years to recap and add to what is already known.
He gives a good overview over all the tasks a Game Designer has to takle. The lenses with their questions are good guidelines for the design process and the advice he gives is very useful and novel compared to other Game Design books. Practical.
The book is already quite long so obviously he could
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