10 Best Video Game Design Books to Read in 2022

By | January 7, 2022

Video game design is a process that is a part of the pre-production phase of video game development. It refers to creating content and rules of video games and designing gameplay, characters, storyline, and environment. Therefore, a video game designer is very much like a director of a film since he controls the technical and artistic elements of a video game.

Developing a video game requires various skills, such as cinematic storytelling, level design, game engine design, interaction, etc. The most fundamental way to develop these skills is to read top video game design books.

If you want to build a promising career in video game designing and looking for top-rated video game design books, you are at the right place. This article will introduce you to the best video game design books that can help you develop and enhance your video game design expertise.

Best Video Game Design Books

Here’s a list of the top 10 video game design books for beginners, intermediate-level, and advanced-level video game developers.

1. Games, Design, and Play: A Detailed Approach to Iterative Game Design

Colleen Macklin and John Sharp are the authors of this book. Through the book, they have talked about a play-focused and process-oriented approach to creating great and appealing game designs. Also, they have revealed how game designers think and work through great full-color examples.

Vamware

This book covers all the essential aspects of game design that include coming up with a design idea, building a prototype, and fully realizing a game design. Moreover, it walks you through creating a video game’s inner workings, such as its play experience, core actions, themes, etc.

With this book’s step-by-step approach, it becomes easier for you to assemble every component of your video game.

Vamware

This book helps you in:

  • Understanding core elements of game design, such as objects, rules, actions, goals, players, and playspace.
  • Creating design documents, schematics, and tracking spreadsheets.
  • Utilizing prototypes to realize and playtest game designs.
  • Improving designs by making the most of playtesting feedback.
  • Knowing when the design is ready for production.

About Authors

Colleen Macklin is a game designer and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. She has been teaching interaction and design for more than 20 years. She is also a founder of PETLab (Prototyping Education and Technology Lab). PETLab is a lab that develops games for social engagement and experimental learning.

John Sharp is a designer, curator, educator, and art historian having over 25 years of experience in the creation and study of art and design. He is also an Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. With Colleen Macklin, John co-directs PETLab.

Publisher‏: ‎Addison-Wesley

Paperback: ‎288 pages

Pricing

Kindle: $28.79

Paperback: $36.50

You can buy this book from here.

2. Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation (Morgan Kaufmann Game Design Books)

Steve Swink is the author of Game Feel: A Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation. This book, ‘Game Feel’, reveals ‘feel’ as a hidden language of game design. Also, it emphasizes that the feel and sensation are the building blocks of game design.

In this book, the author has covered topics like the role of sound, the importance of metaphor, ancillary indicators, how people perceive things, and a succinct history of feel in games.

This book covers:

  • The game feel model of interactivity.
  • Mechanism of game feel.
  • Metrics for game feel, including input metrics, response metrics, polish metrics, rules metrics, context metrics, and metaphor metrics.
  • Principles of the game feel.
  • Future of game feel.

About Author

Steve Swink is an author, independent game developer, and lecturer in Tempe, Arizona. He is also the partner at Flashbang Studios and has contributed to games like Splume, Minotaur China Shop, Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, and Jetpack Brontosaurus.

Publisher: CRC Press

Paperback: 376 pages

Price

Kindle: $14.78 – $46.85

Paperback: $44.00

Hardcover: $233.35 – $238.11

You can buy this book from here.

3. Fundamentals of Game Design (3rd Edition)

Ernest Adams is the author of the Fundamentals of Game Design book. It is a classic book that teaches game design in an easy way. The author has completely revised the third edition of this book to include the state-of-the-art developments in the game industry.

This book will walk you through various game design concepts, including core mechanics, gameplay design, balancing, storytelling, user interfaces, and game concept development.

Moreover, you can learn to design gameplay for mobile devices, touch screens, and Kinect motion-capture. Each chapter has an exercise at the end to help you test your knowledge. Also, this book covers design worksheets and case studies.

Fundamentals of Game Design explains the complete process of designing a game right from the initial stage to final tuning.

About Author

Ernest Adams is a freelance game designer, author, and teacher. He has been in the game industry for more than 22 years and has penned five different books. He is the chairman and founder of the International Game Developers’ Association.

Publisher: New Riders

Paperback: 576 pages

Price

Paperback: $47.69 – $54.31

You can buy this book from here.

4. Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design

Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans are the authors of Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design. This book is an in-depth resource for crafting mechanics that produce well-balanced and enjoyable gameplay.

Through this book, you can learn how to prototype, test, and apply mechanics in games. Also, it will make you familiar with methods to visualize and simulate game mechanics to generate better game designs.

The authors have included exercises in the book for you to practice what you have learned. You can practice these exercises using a freely downloadable simulation tool developed by Joris Dormans.

This book will help you learn how to:

  • Create emergent gameplay by designing and balancing game mechanics.
  • Utilize novel prototyping techniques to simulate games and collect massive amounts of gameplay data on the first day of development.
  • Apply design patterns for game mechanics to enhance your game designs.
  • Create compelling and long-lasting game experiences.

About Authors

Ernest Adams is a game design consultant and teacher with more than 23 years of experience in the video game industry. He is the first chairman and founder of the International Game Developers’ Association.

Joris Dormans is a game design lecturer and researcher in Amsterdam. He has been researching formal tools and methods to improve game design mechanics for the last four years. He is an independent and freelance game designer and contributed his game expertise to several video games and board games.

Publisher: New Riders

Paperback: 442 pages

Price

Kindle: $44.99

You can buy this book from here.

5. Foundations of Game Design Development, Volume 1: Mathematics

Eric Lengyel is the author of Foundations of Game Design Development. This book provides a detailed introduction to the mathematics used by modern game engine developers. It covers the essentials of game engine development in the areas of mathematics, physics, rendering, and models & materials.

This book walks you through various concepts of mathematics, including linear algebra, transforms, and geometry. Also, it introduces you to Grassmann algebra and geometric algebra. The author has categorized entire mathematical concepts into four sections, as listed below:

  • Vectors and Matrices
  • Transforms
  • Geometry
  • Advanced Algebra

About Author

Eric Lengyel is a computer scientist specializing in game engine development, geometric algebra, and computer graphics. He is an expert in font rendering technology for 3D applications. In addition, he is the inventor of the Slug front rendering algorithm and the Transvoxel algorithm.

Publisher: Terathon Software LLC

Paperback: 200 pages

Price

Kindle: $39.95

Paperback: $49.95

Hardcover: $41.95 – $42.70

You can buy this book from here.

6. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

Jesse Schell is the author of Fundamentals of Game Design. He followed a step-by-step approach in this book to make you aware of the design process and help you to develop new and creative game designs.

This book will walk you through the basic game design principles, like fidelity, constraints, objectives, success criteria, rewards, play, and competition. Also, you will learn how various tactics used in classic board, card, and athletic games work.

The latest edition of Fundamentals of Game Design includes examples from Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) platforms and modern games, such as transformational games, hybrid games, Free to Play Games, and Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us.

About Author

Jesse Schell is a professor of entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC). He teaches game design and leads various research projects. In addition, he is the CEO of Schell Games, LLC, which is an independent game studio in Pittsburgh.

Formerly, he was a director of Walt Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio and chairman of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). He also worked as a manager, programmer, and designer on various projects for DisneyQuest and Disney theme park.

Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press

Paperback: 654 pages

Price

Kindle: $20.69 – $52.49

Paperback: $29.84

Hardcover: $63.76 – $127.50

You can buy this book from here.

7. Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

Scott Rogers is the author of Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design. This book is ideal for those who want to design and develop cutting-edge video games. With years of professional experience, Scott Rogers has provided well-thought-out and clear game design examples in this book that can be understood easily.

Through this book, you can learn:

  • To develop game designs from an initial stage to production.
  • How to design the most precise controls, exciting levels, and the fiercest foes that keep players engaged.
  • To create games for mobile and console systems.
  • To write professional design documents.

About Author

Scott Rogers is a Principal Imagineer at Walt Disney. He has created game designs for several games, including Capcom’s MAXIMO: GHOSTS TO GLORY, MAXIMO VS. ARMY OF ZIN, Sony’s GOD OF WAR, THQ’s DRAWN TO LIFE series, and Namco’s PAC-MAN WORLD.

Publisher: Wiley

Paperback: 560 pages

Price

Kindle: $27.00

Paperback: $22.50 – $26.99

You can buy this book from here.

8. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games

Tracy Fullerton is the author of the Game Design Workshop. In this book, she explained a non-technical approach to game design. Therefore, you can create digital games without requiring the need for programming and artistic experience.

The author has provided clear and accessible guidance on the format and dramatic systems of game design. In addition, she has included examples of popular games, illustrations of game design techniques, and multiple exercises to boost your understanding of how game systems function.

In a nutshell, this book can help you learn to prototype, playtest, and revise your games with time-tested techniques and tools.

About Author

Tracy Fullerton is an award-winning game designer and educator with more than 20 years of experience in the video game industry. She has won the “Games for Change Game of the Year Award” for a game named Walden. She is a professor of Interactive Media & Games at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Also, she is the director of the USC Games Program.

Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press

Paperback: 556 pages

Price

Kindle: $22.17 – $59.96

Paperback: $32.92 – $59.82

Hardcover: $139.77 – $154.12

You can buy this book from here.

9. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

Katie Salen Tekinbas and Eric Zimmerman are the authors of Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. This book is a clear, exhaustive, and complete resource for understanding games and game design. It acts as a motivation for innovation since it is filled with new concepts, techniques, and strategies for creating and understanding games.

In this book, authors have defined core concepts of the game, i.e., “play”, “design”, and “interactivity”. The book starts discussing the Core concepts in the initial sections and later discusses Rules, Play, and Culture in detail.

Rules of Play serves as the best theoretical guide and a reference book for game developers, interactive designers, and game scholars.

About Authors

Katie Salen Tekinbas is a game designer, educator, and animator. She is a professor at the University of California, Irvine. Formerly, she was a professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University, Parsons The New School for Design, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer and game design theorist. Also, he is a co-founder and CEO of gameLab. He was a professor at various universities, including the School of Visual Arts, the University of Texas, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, and MIT.

Publisher: The MIT Press

Paperback: 688 pages

Price

Kindle: $52.05

Hardcover: $48.47

You can buy this book from here.

10. A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Raph Koster is the author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design. This book primarily concentrates on modern video games and examines the elements they share with traditional games. It is an ideal book for interactive designers that teaches the ways to create and improve game designs and incorporate the highest degree of fun.

This book uncovers various important facts related to game development, including:

  • Most successful games are developed using the same elements.
  • Fictional dressing for modern games is more developed than the conceptual elements.
  • Creative designers seldom use other games for inspiration.
  • Many games still teach primitive survival skills.

About Author

Raph Koster is a professional designer and has been credited in almost every area of the game industry. He is well-known for his work as a lead designer of Ultima Online and the director of Star Wars Galaxies. Also, he worked as a creative executive at Sony Online and Disney Playdom. He was honored as an Online Game Legend at the Game Developers Conference Online in 2012.

Publisher: O′Reilly

Paperback: 304 pages

Price

Kindle: $10.09 – $25.17

Paperback: $19.50

You can buy this book from here.

Conclusion

Here we came to an end of the top 10 video game design books for all levels of game designers. Books, such as Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design, Fundamentals of Game Design, and Game Design Workshop are ideal for those who wish to start their careers in video game designing.

For intermediate-level game designers, Games, Design, and Play, The Art of Game Design, Foundations of Game Design Development, and Game Feel, are the perfect choices. Similarly, Rules of Play, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, and Game Mechanics are best suitable for advanced-level game designers.

All the above-mentioned books will help you to develop the skills required to become a video game designer. We recommend you to choose a book according to your experience level. since some are ideal for beginners, whereas others are geared for intermediate and advanced-level video game designers.

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