10 Great Books for Game Designers

10 Great Books for Game Designers

Today we’ve gathered a list of the best literature for the game designers. Check them out and let us know which books you find most useful and interesting.

Here’s a list of some of the best books for game designers, which we gathered thanks to the wonderful people at Reddit, Facebook, Discord, and other communities!

We’re starting with a list of the best books for the game designers. IT includes wonderful works by Raph Koster, Jane McGonigal, Jesse Schell and others. Check them out and let us know which books you find most useful and interesting. We wish you enjoyable studies! 

Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun for Game Design

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Are there any common elements shared by both modern shooters and checkers or tic tac toe? Why do some games become boring quickly, while others remain fun for years? Ralph Koster looks deep into the influences that underlie video game and expands on the concept of fun as the most vital element in any game. You will find interesting discoveries, such as the fact that many games still teach primitive survival skills, and learn basic ideas necessary for a successful game development. 

Raphael (Raph) Koster is an American entrepreneur and veteran game designer who is widely known as the lead designer of Ultima Online and the creative director behind Star Wars Galaxies. He is also the founder of Metaplace, a software platform intended to democratize the development of virtual worlds that was used for producing Facebook games. The book A Theory of Fun for Game Design has been published more than 13 years ago and is still considered classic literature in the games field. It was translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Russian and Taiwan languages. 

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Viewing your work from as many angles as possible may help to improve the results immensely. It’s relevant to anything: a paperwork, a public speech preparation, car repairs, and definitely game design. Jesse Schell gives a large number of tools or lenses for viewing a game’s design from the perspectives of such fields as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, mathematics, puzzle design, anthropology and more, plus talks on how to make better game designs faster.

Jesse Schell is an American video game designer, professor and the founder & CEO of Schell Games. Started in 2002, the company under Jesse’s leadership has grown into the largest game development company in Pennsylvania and produced such entertainment experiences, as Pixie Hollow (the Disney Fairies MMO), and Toy Story Mania TV Game.  Jesse was also the Creative Director of the Disney Imagineering Virtual Reality Studio, where he worked as a designer, programmer, and project manager. One of his most recognized Disney achievements is the design of Disney’s Toontown Online that won kids’ affection and several awards.

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Tracy Fullerton offers an exercise-driven, non-technical approach to game design without the need for programming or artistic expertise. She uses examples of popular games, illustrations, and exercises to demonstrate how game systems function and what is needed to create an engaging game. The book covers game theory, concepts, prototyping, and testing along the way with the means to land a job for a professional game designer.

Tracy Fullerton is a game designer and associate professor in the USC Interactive Media & Games Division, where she directs the Game Innovation Lab. USC Cinematic Arts has produced several influential indie projects such as flOw, Darfur is Dying, and The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. Prior to joining USC, Tracy was the founder & president of the interactive television game developer Spiderdance and Creative Director at the interactive film studio Interfilm. She won an Emmy nomination for interactive television and Time Magazine’s Best of the Web and was named the holder of the EA Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment in 2008.

You may be also interested in:

Brenda Brathwaite & Ian Schreiber, Challenges for Game Designers

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This book is going to challenge you with interesting exercises and sharpen your game design skills, and you don’t need any programming skills or even a computer to cope with the tasks. It focuses on what is invaluable yet sometimes missed in the process of constant development: practice. More than that, it has a convenient structure: the material is divided into topics that have brief overviews, several challenges to apply the knowledge, and additional information for eager learners. The topics are all devoted to turning you into a better game designer, however, there is no strict sequence, and if you skip a chapter or two to go for the one that interests you the most – that’ll be totally fine!

Brenda Brathwaite is an American game designer and developer, best known for her work on the Wizardry series and, more recently, the non-digital series The Mechanic is the Message. For Wizardry, Romero was responsible for game, level and system designs, writing and scripting, and also provided manuals and documentation for some products in the series. Previously she was the lead designer for Playboy: The Mansion and Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes. Brenda has worked in game development since 1981 and was included into the Top 10 Most Influential Women in Game Development by PC Magazine.

Ian Schreiber has been in the industry since 2000, first as a programmer and then as a game designer. He has worked on such game titles as Playboy: the Mansion and the Nintendo DS version of Marvel Trading Card Game, developed training/simulation games for two Fortune 500 companies and co-founded Global Game Jam. Ian has taught game design and development courses at several schools, and is currently an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2009 he led an online course  Game Design Concepts which is still available and free.

You may be also interested in:

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Nowadays some people tend to think that gaming can lead to nothing but escapism, addiction, and psychological disorders. However, is this really true? Jane McGonigal examines video games as powerful means of improving society and solving such problems as depression, obesity, poverty, flaws in education and more. Cutting-edge games are already making a contribution and changing the world for the better. This book is aimed to celebrate gamer generations, extend the boundaries and show that the future is in the games and game designers.

Jane McGonigal PhD is a world-renowned designer of AR games, Director of Games Research & Development at the Institute for the Future, the founder of Gameful and one of the directors at Games for Change. She believes game designers are on a humanitarian mission, and her biggest goal in life is to see a game developer win a Nobel Peace Prize. Jane is the inventor & co-founder of SuperBetter, a game that has helped nearly half a million players tackle real-life health challenges such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain. Her other best-known works includes EVOKE, Superstruct, World Without Oil, Cruel 2 B Kind, Find the Future, and The Lost Ring. 

Other works by Jane McGonigal:

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Scott Rogers shares first-hand knowledge of the game design process from start to end: a marketable idea development, pitfalls, design documents, game monetization, a creation of the games for mobile and console systems and much more. Yet it’s not a step-by-step guide, but a look at what makes video games successful and a huge source of inspiration. What’s more, the readers pointed out that the book is both highly informative and fun to read at the same time – and that’s not easy to achieve.

Scott Rogers is a leading video game expert and designer of Pac-Man World, Darksiders, God of War, Warhammer 40K, the Maximo and Drawn to Life. A former Disney Imagineer, Scott now teaches video game and tabletop game design at the University of Southern California’s prestigious school of interactive media and at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. 

You may be also interested in another Roger’s book:

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Just like Jesse Schell, Steve Swink offers to look at game design from a perspective that hasn’t been fully articulated yet. A fully designed game that lacks a good feel can never be successful as this is what brings all the elements together and involves the gamers in it. Just like a song made out of chords according to the rigid music theory rules will not necessarily be pleasing to the ear if it doesn’t feel right. The book helps to understand how to create this essential component and includes a few ready-made tools to design certain sensations in games. 

Steve Swink is the Creative Director of CubeHeart, a small independent game studio which is currently working on SCALE, a first-person reality manipulation game that reimagines exploration with a unique resizing mechanic. Before that, he was a game designer at Flashbang studios and a designer on Tony Hawk Underground. Steve also helps out as a co-coordinator of the Independent Game Festival and the Independent Game Summit, and teaches game design and level design at the Art Institute of Phoenix.

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Our favorite games can inspire, scare, amuse, surprise and captivate us, make us laugh and cry, give goosebumps and happiness. It’s truly astonishing what power lies beneath the video game industry. Katherine Isbister gives a clear picture of how to design influential and vivid projects and bring your players strong positive emotions.  She counters arguments that games are creating a generation of isolated, emotionally numb, antisocial loners and as well as Jane McGonigal insists on their huge beneficial influence. 

Katherine Isbister is a Human Computer Interaction & Games researcher and designer, currently a professor in computational media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has innovated in the areas of character/avatar/agent design and in researching and evaluating the user experience. In 1999, she was selected as one of MIT Technology Review‘s Innovators under 35.  Until June 2015, Katherine was an associate professor jointly appointed between the Computer Science department at New York University’s School of Engineering in Brooklyn, and the NYU Game Center, and the founding Research Director of the Game Innovation Lab at NYU’s School of Engineering.

Here are some of her other works:


The book is focused on the technical side of the game design and its architecture which is no less important than the emotional one.  Lacking the knowledge of certain tools and techniques, you will never reach the current level of the video game industry. Chris Crawford uses his 25-years experience in game design to explain the fundamental concepts and inspire readers with personal achievements and mistakes. As he says, …one thing I’m sure of: 25 years from now, people will still be laughing over some of the crazy design misadventures I lived to tell about.

Chris Crawford is a computer game designer, writer and the founder of Game Developers Conference (GDC), one of the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers. He designed and programmed several popular computer games in the 1980s, including Eastern Front (1941) for Atari and Balance of Power. Chris also became known for his passionate advocacy of game design as an art form. In 1992, Crawford left game design and focused on interactive storytelling. At present, his company Storytron is releasing next nex generation technology to the public. 

Other books by Chris Crawford:

Lewis Pulsipher shares his knowledge on how the games are being created. Game Design takes a lot of knowledge, time, skill and effort, however sometimes it’s overlooked and successful ideas turn into failure. The book supplies practical instruction and tips in the art of video and tabletop game design.

Lewis Pulsipher is an experienced game designer, longtime teacher, and the author of half a dozen commercially published board games including a widely recognized game Britannia. He has more than 150 articles about games and over 20 years of teaching experience in the field of game design & production. He has his own Game Design blog and an expert blog on Gamasutra.


That’s it for now! We truly hope you will find some of these books interesting and informative in terms of game design theory and practice. Make sure to give us your feedback in the comments and mention any books you’d like to add to the list. Cheers!

Join discussion

Comments 2

  • Kirill Tokarev

    Come back later this week. Well have more interesting pieces coming.


    Kirill Tokarev

    ·3 years ago·
  • Monica

    Read all of these, looks like my game design professor was smart.



    ·3 years ago·

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