A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design / Edition 1

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Master the Principles and Vocabulary of Game Design

Why aren’t videogames getting better? Why does it feel like we’re playing the same games, over and over again? Why aren’t games helping us transform our lives, like great music, books, and movies do?

The problem is language. We still don’t know how to talk about game design. We can’t share our visions. We forget what works (and doesn’t). We don’t learn from history. It’s too hard to improve.

The breakthrough starts here. A Game Design Vocabulary gives us the complete game design framework we desperately need—whether we create games, study them, review them, or build businesses on them.

Craft amazing experiences. Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark share foundational principles, examples, and exercises that help you create great player experiences…complement intuition with design discipline…and craft games that succeed brilliantly on every level.

  • Liberate yourself from stale clichés and genres
  • Tell great stories: go way beyond cutscenes and text dumps
  • Control the crucial relationships between game “verbs” and “objects”
  • Wield the full power of development, conflict, climax, and resolution
  • Shape scenes, pacing, and player choices
  • Deepen context via art, animation, music, and sound
  • Help players discover, understand, engage, and “talk back” to you
  • Effectively use resistance and difficulty: the “push and pull” of games
  • Design holistically: integrate visuals, audio, and controls
  • Communicate a design vision everyone can understand
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A Game Design Vocabulary succeeds where many have failed–to provide a broad-strokes overview of videogame design. Utilizing analytic smarts, an encyclopedic knowledge of games, and subcultural attitude, Naomi Clark and Anna Anthropy get to the heart of how games work.

“Why is this book important? Videogames are the defining mass medium of our time, yet even those who make games lack a clear language for understanding their fundamental mechanics. A Game Design Vocabulary is essential reading for game creators, students, critics, scholars, and fans who crave insight into how game play becomes meaningful.”

Eric Zimmerman, Independent Game Designer and Arts Professor, NYU Game Center

A Game Design Vocabulary marks an important step forward for our discipline. Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark’s extraordinarily lucid explanatio ns give us new ways to unpick the complexities of digital game design. Grounded in practical examples and bursting with original thinking, you need this book in your game design library.”

Richard Lemarchand, Associate Professor, USC, Lead Designer, Uncharted

“Anthropy and Clark have done it! Created an intuitive vocabulary and introduction to game design in a concise, clear, and fun-to-read package. The exercises alone are a great set of limbering-up tools for those new to making games and seasoned designers, both.”

Colleen Macklin, Game Designer and Professor, Parsons The New School for Design

“Two of my favorite game design minds sharing a powerful set of tools for designing meaningful games? I’m so excited for this book. A Game Design Vocabulary may very well be the best thing to happen to game design education in more than a decade. I can’t wait to put this book in the hands of my students and dev friends alike.”

John Sharp, Associate Professor of Games and Learning, Parsons The New School for Design

“Some of the greatest challenges to the intelligent advancement of game-making can be found in the ways we conceptualize and discuss them. This simple yet profound new vocabulary is long-overdue and accessible enough to help new creators work within a meaningful framework for games.”

Leigh Alexander, Game Journalist and Critic

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321886927
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 3/12/2014
  • Series: Game Design/Usability Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 489,405
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Anthropy is an artist, author and game creatrix working in the East Bay area. As an ambassador for game creation, she works to empower marginalized voices to gain access to game creation. Her first book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, is an autobiography / manifesto / DIY guide. She's radical.

Naomi Clark has been designing and producing games for more than two decades, ever since she started creating text-based virtual worlds as a teenager. She’s worked on multiplayer web games (Sissyfight 2000), casual downloadable games (Miss Management), Flash games for kids (LEGO Junkbot). and Facebook games (Dreamland) while working with companies like Gamelab, LEGO, Rebel Monkey, and Fresh Planet. Naomi has also taught classes and workshops at Parsons School of Design, the NYU Game Center, and the New York Film Academy, and written game analysis and feminist critique for Feministe. She is currently developing an independent game with the Brooklyn Game Ensemble.

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Table of Contents

Part I Elements of Vocabulary 1
By Anna Anthropy

1 Language 3
Signs Versus Design 4
Failures of Language 7
A Voice Needs Words 9
A Beginning 10
2 Verbs and Objects 13
Rules 14
Creating Choices 16
Explaining with Context 21
Objects 22
The Physical Layer 25
Character Development 30
Elegance 32
Real Talk 34
Review 36
Discussion Activities 37
Group Activity 38
3 Scenes 39
Rules in Scenes 40
Shaping and Pacing 50
Layering Objects 56
Moments of Inversion 60
Chance 61
Real Talk 64
Review 71
Discussion Activities 71
Group Activity 73
4 Context 77
First Impressions 78
Recurring Motifs 82
Character Design 83
Animation 86
Scene Composition 89
Camera 94
Sound 96
Real Talk 99
Review 103
Discussion Activities 104
Group Activity 104

Part II Conversations 107
By Naomi Clark

5 Creating Dialogue 109
Players 110
Creating Conversation 111
Iterating to Fun and Beyond 113
Your Conversation 115
6 Resistance 117
Push and Pull 118
Flow 119
Alternatives to Flow 129
Opening Up Space 132
Opening Up Purpose 134
The Pull of Rewards 137
Time and Punishment 141
Scoring and Reflection 147
Review 150
Discussion Activities 152
Group Activity 153
7 Storytelling 155
Pattern Recognition 156
Authored Stories 159
Interpreted Stories 172
Open Stories 181
Review 187
Discussion Activities 188
Group Activity 189

A Further Playing 191
Achievement Unlocked (John Cooney, 2008) 192
American Dream (Stephen Lavelle, Terry Cavanagh, Tom Morgan-Jones, and Jasper Byrne, 2011) 192
Analogue: A Hate Story (Christine Love, 2012) 193
The Banner Saga (Stoic, 2014) 193
Candy Box (aniwey, 2013) 194
Consensual Torture Simulator (Merritt Kopas, 2013) 194
Corrypt (Michael Brough, 2012) 195
Crypt of the Necrodancer (Ryan Clark, 2013) 196
Dwarf Fortress (Tarn Adams, 2006) 196
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle, 2011) 197
Even Cowgirls Bleed (Christine Love, 2013) 197
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013) 198
Mighty Jill Off (Anna Anthropy, 2008) 198
NetHack (NetHack Dev Team, 1987) 199
Papers, Please (Lucas Pope, 2013) 199
Persist (AdventureIslands, 2013) 200
QWOP (Bennett Foddy, 2008) and GIRP (Bennett Foddy, 2011) 201
Spelunky (Derek Yu, 2008) 201
Triple Town (Spry Fox, 2011) 202

Index 203

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