Some of you, maybe at least one of you, might have noticed that I didn’t post yesterday as scheduled. The reasons for this are twofold. First, I was busy playtesting games with a friend of mine, one of his and one of mine. This took up the majority of my high functioning time. Second, when I started to write the article it felt scripted.
It’s easy to fall into routines and for work to become rote. This isn’t what I want and I’m sure it’s not what you want either. I don’t want the stories I tell to ever feel scripted. I want them to feel organic and full of human frailty. If I can’t tell you about Game Design #6: Shogun Must Die! in the way it should be told then I’m not going to tell you at all.
That being said, I did want to keep up the tradition of a weekly reading recommendation, which for some reason has traditionally fallen at the end of the week. Today’s reading is Characteristics of Games by George Skaff Elias, Richard Mu’Frakking Garfield, and K. Robert Gutschera.
This is one of the recent additions to my design library and I feel very fortunate to have discovered it. It isn’t, strictly speaking, a design book. More, it is a guide to what games look like and how they relate to those who play them.
This isn’t light reading but it’s not entirely academic either. It has as much for the advanced game player or game critic as it does for the game designer. Discussions range from king-making and game politics to sub games and game as systems. It’s a very rich text which is leant a great deal of credence by the one very well known game designer who’s appears in the author’s credits.
Everytime I picked up the book I felt that I was refining my understanding of some topic. That’s rare to find in a book. All too often we find the same content rehashed and retold over and again until we’re convinced that there’s nothing new under the sun.
One thing that’s really nice about Characteristics of Games is that the Appendix gives a brief overview of some game theory games—in general less fun than most regular games—and goes on to give references to other great texts. It also has a comprehensive list of the games mentioned throughout the text with abstracts for each game. This gives the explorative game designer hundreds of branches which to climb.
In short you should read this.
Thanks for reading and, as long as I have something to say, I’ll see you next week.