Outstanding Academic Title
Many existing books on game design are very difficult for undergraduate and even graduate students to read. Sometimes when this reviewer asks his students what they have learned from a certain chapter or how this material is applicable to game design, they have difficulties with an answer. The Art of Game Design is a step toward making game design an interesting field with direct applications to real projects. The reader familiar with other works will find this one a valuable resource that discusses all stages of game development, the role of game content, and game play strategies. Additionally, Schell (entertainment technology, Carnegie Mellon Univ.) provides valuable insight into game design from the point of view of software engineering--an aspect that is often overlooked in other sources. Perhaps the key advantage of this book over other sources is the presentation of material. The well-organized text will be an enjoyable, effective read for students at all levels. The diagrams support the key points of the book. As opposed to choices made by many other authors, the images and graphics are very relevant to the text and quite informative. Generally speaking, this is one of the best game design course resources currently on the market. Summing Up: Essential. All collections. This review refers to an earlier edition.
This book's first edition, originally titled The Psychology of Everyday Things (1988), integrated understanding human interactions with shaping better interactions through human-centered design. Norman (cofounder, Nielsen Norman Group; emer., Northwestern Univ.) covered a remarkable amount of psychology, and compellingly demonstrated how understanding people can/should guide design decisions, changing the vernacular of design to include visual affordances, feedback, mappings and mental models, stages of action, and slips and mistakes. Celebrated by students and professionals in many disciplines, it is a classic. The revised edition updates examples; the original work preceded the Web and mobile devices. It also expands and refines the treatment of psychology, analyzing how affordances are signified to people, how emotion impacts everything people do and experience, and how culture can modulate what is "natural" in design. Most notably, the revised edition articulates a broader view of design's goals and constraints. While the first edition focused on designing for ease of learning and interaction, the revised edition also emphasizes designing for experiences such as pleasure and enjoyment. Further, the first edition characterized technical trade-offs in design decisions, while the revised edition also considers budgets and schedules, and the pressures of competition and innovation. Even classics can be updated and improved. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.
Dunniway (video game designer/director/producer) and Novak (editor, "Game Development Essentials" series, consultant/instructor) provide an in-depth discussion of the mechanics of games in this valuable addition to the literature. The work's major strength is the comprehensive list of features which go beyond the list of design characteristics present in other books. Such topics as static enemies and enemy variety are hard to find in other volumes. However, the complexity of even the simplest games is such that text-based design documents are not adequate. There is a need to merge the text with visualization of the environments, buildings, interiors, etc. Techniques that include storyboards, diagrams, or other visualization methods are essential. This is a key issue for students who implement games. Without adequate knowledge about effective ways to document their designs, students are tempted to design through writing code--an extremely inefficient, frustrating practice. A separate chapter on building game designs through prototyping, collecting reference materials, building storyboards, game diagrams, and the like would have been helpful. The authors attempted to show some ways to organize complex design characteristics, (e.g., the beat chart), but there are many missed opportunities in other sections. The images presented are spectacular, but have limited educational value. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty; technical program students.
Outstanding Academic Title
Without a doubt this is the largest and heaviest book this reviewer has ever reviewed, weighing in at 7.5 pounds. Coordinating and editing the contributions of more than 140 authors, Jacko (Univ. of Minnesota) has done an amazing job in creating a well-organized, uniform reference to the state of the art in human-computer interaction (HCI). Despite its size, the book is an excellent, easy-to-use reference. After reading the foreword by Ben Shneiderman (Univ. of Maryland) and the preface by Jacko, all readers must take the time to read the introduction by Jonathan Grudin (Microsoft Research); it is great history. This third edition (2nd ed., 2008; 1st ed., CH, Apr'03, 40-4648) is composed of 62 chapters organized into seven parts. The 29 chapters comprising the first three parts lay the foundation of HCI. Parts 4 and 5 elaborate on design issues. Part 6, "The Development Process," is so large that it is further divided into three subsections: "Requirements Specification," "Design and Development," and "Testing, Evaluation, and Technology Transfer." Each chapter contains its own set of references, and the book has separate author and subject indexes, both of which are quite large. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.