Thoughts on game design and development.
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Game Design Reading List

Andy Van Zandt
United States
South Ogden
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Microbadge: Tasty Minstrel Games Giveaway Contest participantMicrobadge: board game developer - I help designers make their games betterMicrobadge: Protospiel AlumniMicrobadge: SpielbanyMicrobadge: Board Game Designers Forum
This is a game design reading list that used to be housed on my website. Some of the links need to be updated, and a few books/articles need to be added, which I'll do at a later date.

Things marked with a star are what I'd recommend as a "core", and then branching out from there. Most books are either focused on getting games published (the industry), or on designing; but industry books will almost always still talk about design a little bit, and vice versa. Some people will say "you don't learn game design from a book, you learn it from designing games"- which is true to some extent, however books and articles can provide you with new tools or ways to look at what you're doing which are well worth the time invested in having read them. They can make you better and faster at distilling the valuable parts in games to something worthwhile.

Elementary books (primers)

Paid to Play by Keith Meyers
(Focus: Industry and Design) It takes a very American-centric stance when it discusses the industry, but is one of the few lighter reads that deals with design and prototyping. (also has a surprising amount of typos)
The Game Inventor's Guidebook by Brian Tinsman
(Focus: Industry) Again, mostly focused on the American industry, though covers it in a broad spectrum. Well structured and an enjoyable read.
The Toy and Game Inventor's Handbook by Richard Levy and Ronald Weingartner
(Focus: Industry) Heavy American industry focus, and is almost purely fluff and trivia. The amount of useful pages is less than the other two (much thinner) books in this category. Not recommended.

Standard books (mid-weight)

The Game Inventor's Handbook by Stephen Peek
(Focus: Industry) This book is horribly out of date, and the section on computer games is laughable, and you will still get more out of it page-for-page than any other book I've read on the industry end. Practical and usable advice on production and marketing (when read with the understanding that it is somewhat dated).
Challenges for Game Designers by Ian Schreiber and Brenda Braithwaite
(Focus: Design) An enjoyable read, covering a broad range of topics (including theme, mechanics, prototyping, educational uses, controversy, etc.) intelligently and more succinctly than anything except maybe "Rules of Play". While it is "aimed" at video game designers, it is still talking about non-digital designing, so the advice (for the most part) is field-neutral. Highly recommended.
Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton
(Focus: Design) With a focus on playtesting and the iterative process, this is another one that is aimed at video game designers- but in this one it is more evident, unfortunately. Most examples and quotes reference digital designing/designers/designs. The advice and points are still useful to all, so it's not bad by any means, but the layout and concept progression feel much less intuitive than books about non-digital designs.

Advanced books

Rules of Play by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
(Focus: Design) This is a textbook, and it reads like one (meaning it is intentionally dense, both in content and language). However, it has a logical progression and is absurdly thorough. It provides a critical vocabulary for the field, and touches on a ton of important concepts (flow, the magic circle, etc.) as well as giving lots of references to other useful literature. Recommended.
The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play anthology by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
(Focus: Design) This is a supplement to Rules of Play.
A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster
(Focus: Design) This book is much lighter, and could have been included in the "primer" section, but I feel that what it presents is very focused and is best digested after you've got at least one of the mid-weight books under your belt. It is primarily concerned with how people respond and interact with games and each other, and what makes those things enjoyable. Pattern recognition and accomplishing challenging things (flow) are covered more in-depth. Enjoyable and informative, Highly recommended.

Peripheral books (not specific to the game trade)

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman
A book on usability. Key concepts: make an object's use intuitive. If you don't want them to be able to do something, don't make that an option. If you do want them to be able to do something, make that goal as easily reachable as possible, and let them know what the results of their actions are immediately. An influential book, but somewhat tangential to game design itself. The real value it brings relates to graphic design - making this a good read for improving your prototyping.
Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
Speaking of prototyping, this book explores lots of concepts that are applicable to usability design, and while not "specific" to game design, almost the entire thing can be applied in a useful way to it.
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Useful for understanding theme application and using the consumer's mind to build your story for you. A very interesting book, but only small parts are applicable to board game design.
Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
Not exactly about design, and not exactly about the industry, but a little bit about both and a lot about mindset, motivation, and innovation.
Things I haven't read yet but should:
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
Kobold Guide to Board Game Design
Players Making Decisions
Characteristics of Games
Uncertainty in Games

Recommended Online Learning:


BoardGameGeek - (Focus: Everything)
Board Game Designer's Forum - (Focus: Design)
Boardgame Info - (Focus: Everything)
Gamasutra - (Focus: Video Game Industry and Design) (though there are some good general-use design articles hidden throughout.)

Online Articles

I Have No Words and I Must Design
(Focus: Design) Mandatory reading. This essay shows why Rules of Play is such a good book.
The Games Journal
(Focus: Design) Several years old, but still useful. Articles range from good (Degann's "Game Theory 101" series, Wolfgang Kramer's articles) to painfully uninformed/opinionated (I'll refrain from bashing specific ones).
(Focus: Design) "MDA (Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics): A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research" by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, Robert Zubek
Tom Jolly's design page
(Focus: Industry) Tom Jolly (Wiz-War, Drakon, Cave Troll, Diskwar) talks about motivation, manufacturing, and protection for designers.
William Maclean's advice
(Focus: Industry) "So you've invented a boardgame" - some good general advice on the subject, though somewhat mass-market oriented.
Bruno Faidutti's advice
(Focus: Design and Industry) Bruno Faidutti (Citadels, Ad Astra) weighs in with his advice on the subject.
The Making of "Viktory II"
(Focus: Industry and Design) The designer of Viktory II details the journey of self-publishing his game. Better than average for perspective.
Game Design Concepts
(Focus: Design) Online game design course, by the writer of (and designed to go along with) the "challenges for Game Designers" book.
Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players who Suit MUDs
(Focus: Design) Richard Bartle classifies players of multiplayer online games into 4 categories. Despite the video game topic, it's still often applicable to board gamers.
Geeklist of sales figures for games
One of few resources that will give you an idea of sales figures. However, note that most figures stated were only stated because the game was successful enough for the company to brag about it.
(Focus: Design) Formal Abstract Design Tools by Doug Church.
Discover Games
(Focus: Industry and Design) Scroll down. Lots of articles on the industry and a good amount on design as well.
Spotlight on Games
(Focus: Industry and Design) Resource links for self publishing, as well as links to various design articles.
Game Theory
Game theory is more generally a field of mathematics than what it sounds like. Therefore, when you get deeper into it, it loses a lot of practical use for designing. It IS useful up until that point, so read these until you feel you're not getting anything more from them, and then stop.

Podcasts and Blogs
(Focus: Design) Geoff Engelstein and Mike Fitzgerald and various guests talk about mechanics and designing games.
Paper Money
(Focus: Industry) Ben Clark and Rett Kipp discuss industry news and manufacturing pitfalls.
Three Donkeys
(Focus: Design) Richard Garfield, Skaff Elias, and Tyler Bielman talk about Design's influence on the industry, and vice versa.
Michael Mindes/Tasty Minstrel
(Focus: Industry) Michael Mindes covers his concepts and goals for Tasty Minstrel Games.
(Focus: Design) The developer from Tasty Minstrel Games goes over his designs with a fine-toothed comb.
Jackson Pope/Reiver Games
(Focus: Industry) Jackson Pope talks about the trials and tribulations of starting up Reiver Games.
Journal of Boardgame Design
(Focus: Design) Jonathan Degann's (seemingly discontinued) blog. Lots of analysis of existing games.
Boardgame Babylon
(Focus: Industry) Boardgame Babylon, a podcast that ranges from session reports to interviews. This link is to a specific interview with Jay Tummelson (of Rio Grande Games) though there are several other good design/industry related ones scattered throughout.
Invisible City
(Focus: Design) Jonathan Leistiko's blog, including a view from his game development job at Steve Jackson Games.
Pulp Gamer
Lots of different podcasts for board games and rpgs. Most notable: Gen Con Seminars, Gama Trade Show Seminars, PSI Point Blank.
Inspiration to Publication
(Focus: Industry) Sen-Foong Lim and Jay Cormier talk about their games and methods of getting them to publication.


Designing to Promote Intentionality
Again, aimed at video game designers, useful for everyone. It's a Zip file, with videos, slides, and the talk inside.
Neoncon GamesU
Neoncon's GamesU talks on the industry, designing, and pitching games.
Cooperation and Engagement: What can board games teach us?
Matt Leacock talks about the design process and intentions of Pandemic.
Board Game, Tigris and Euphrates w/ Reiner Knizia
Just what it sounds like, an interview with Reiner Knizia about designing Tigris and Euphrates.
Boardgame Design
Peter struijf talks about designing and self-publishing Krakow 1325.
Scott Nicholson on Board Game Publishing
Scott (of "Board Games with Scott" fame) gives you an overview of the history and current publishing environment of game publishing as a guest speaker for a board game design class.

Magic: The Gathering articles
(even if you don't play, if you know how to play you should read these. If you don't know how to play Magic, you should learn, and THEN read these. The depth, breadth, and longevity of Magic means that not only is the analysis of it worthwhile, it is also abundant.)

Elements of Tempo by Ian Lippert
Systemic Thought by Zvi Mowshowitz
Tempo and Card Advantage by Eric "Danger" Taylor
Tempo and You by Scott Wills
The Art of the Block by Ted Knutson
Everything is a Timewalk by Scott Keller
The Philosophy of Fire by Mike Flores
Who's the Beatdown? by Mike Flores
Mark Rosewater articles Insight into WotC design.
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