The Rules We Break: Lessons in Play, Thinking, and Design

The Rules We Break: Lessons in Play, Thinking, and Design

by Eric Zimmerman
The Rules We Break: Lessons in Play, Thinking, and Design

The Rules We Break: Lessons in Play, Thinking, and Design

by Eric Zimmerman


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Whether you're a game player, a designer of any kind, or someone who wants to know more about design, The Rules We Break will open your mind to creative and thought-provoking approaches to design. Play through more than 20 hands-on, real-world games and exercises to explore how people think, how games and systems work, and how to move through a creative process.
Everyone can learn from game design: interaction designers and software developers, graphic designers and urban planners, kids in after-school programs and university students studying design. This collection of interactive games and exercises is designed to help you consider new ways of approaching productive collaboration, creative problem solving, analysis of systems, and how to communicate ideas, providing skills you can use in any discipline or situation.
These real-world exercises are designed to be played on tabletops, as playground-style physical games, and via social interactions with others in person or online. A wide range of entertaining, thought-provoking games, exercises, and short essays grow in complexity over the course of the book, from 20 minutes of play to design projects that last for days or weeks. Award-winning game designer Eric Zimmerman invites you to play your way through it all, learning about play, systems, and design along the way.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781648960673
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication date: 11/22/2022
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 478,242
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer and professor of game design at the NYU Game Center, a program he helped design at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Play with This Book 8


A few ways to think about play

Playing with Something 20

Against the Rules 21

Free Movement 22

Something to Do 23

Being Someone Else 24

Collaborative Conflict 25

A Social Contract 26

Second-Order Surprises 27

Games of Desire 28

Unwritten Rules 29

Insightful Transgressions 30

Exercises when you have 20-30 minutes to play

Social Play

Five Fingers 32

Zen Counting 36

Wolves and Sheep 39

Physical Play

Eclipse 43

Rock Paper Scissors 46

Ninja 51

Play with Meaning

The Language Game 55

Surrealist Games 59


A few ways to think about Systems

Connecting Interconnections 68

Dynamic Behaviors 69

Artificial Languages 70

Actions and Outcomes 71

The Paradox of Uncertainty 72

Systemic Storytelling 73

Stylized Simulations 74

Goals within Goals 75

Willing Submission 76

Against Gamification 77

The Structure of Problems 78

Exercises when you have a couple of hours to tinker with a system

System Dynamics

Modding Tic-Tac-Toe 80

Die vs. Die 84

Get Out 90

Balancing Systems

Utopia 2099 98

Trouble in Dodge City 104

BOLF 110

Narrative Systems

Deck of Stories 117

Zombie Town 121


A few ways to think about Design

More Than One Answer 132

A Process of Solving Problems 133

Shared Authorship 134

Embrace Playtesting 135

Creativity=Literacy + Freedom 136

A Culture of Critique 137

Educating an Audience 138

Communicating Is Designing 139

Disobey the Rules 140

Learn to Listen 141

Passing It On 142

Exercises when you have a day or more to design a game

Design Projects

Found Objects Game 144

Modding a Broken Game 149

Design from Constraints 156

Design Ideation

Passion Deck Brainstorming 163

Invent-Your-Own Brainstorm 168

Elevator Pitches 173

Design Collaboration

A Good Collaborator 177

Keyword Vision Statement 180

Game Sheets 184

Afterword 206

Acknowledgments 207

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