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It was originally for board games, but the textbook Rules of Play is so foundational to the creation of the language used to talk about games I can't justify not having it on a designer's shelf
That's the attitude! You'll get far with it.
Check out this book if you want to get into more design oriented stuff. Feel free to PM me in the future if you have any questions!
Game design hobbyist here, I think some perspective is needed. If you want to start designing games I suggest you begin with something smaller. Table top RPGs are a complex interconnected web of rules and stats and one of the hardest types of games to design well. The only other type of physical game that is equal in difficulty is a deck building card game (which is what I assume you meant as 'card game'). If this is a hobby you wish to pursue I suggest reading a few books on game theory, flow, and statistics. This textbook can serve as a good introduction to all of these: Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. After that, write a master design document that explains everything you want to accomplish with the game. Next, get some index cards and start play-testing ideas. . . .
Learn as much as you can about the design of games. Here's a list of youtubers I found helpful.
Game Dev Underground
and this playlist by Matthew Palaje
I also highly recommend perusing the GDC Vault. There's a massive library of lectures specifically made for people working in the video game industry.
A great book on game design you should check out is Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Another incredibly helpful book that I personally found incredible was The Art of Game Design.
I'd also hound you to watch / read lots of game reviews and long-form video essays on video games. This way you can determine what works and what doesn't in many different genres of games.
Now for some of my advice: Be curious. Be curious about things that have nothing to do with game design, and be interested in a wide variety of topics. This gives you a greater pool of inspiration to draw from later on. It also just makes you a more well-rounded person.
I would also advise against jumping into prototyping too early before you know where your project is going. Figure out what your game is, hone into what makes it special, where it fits in, what it is, and then start making it. Otherwise you're just wasting time and working hard to nowhere fast.
Play on your strengths. If you're good at art or writing, focus on that. If you're good at programming and design, focus on that. Don't beat yourself up for not being a natural at everything.
In addition to the MIT class, there are a number of quality books on board game design.
The book I spent the most time with was Rules of Play, which was put out by MIT press. It doesn't exactly teach you "how" to design games (not the way that, say, a math class teaches you how to solve math problems). Instead, it teaches a few methods for thinking about games and how people interact with games. For me personally, this did help me understand how to craft the player experience more effectively.
But there are a number of decent books. Two others I have seen recommended before are Building Blocks of Tabletop Game Design and Kobols Guide to Board Game Design.
If you just want free coursework, Ian Schreiber's Game Design Concepts course from 2009 is good.
However, in my personal opinion the best way to improve at game design is just to design a lot of games. With that in mind, here is a link to Cardboard Edison's list of ongoing contests. Cardboard Edison is a game design collective focused on helping new board game designers, and they keep the list fairly up to date. Similar to a game jam for videogames, these contests are a good way to stretch your creative muscles and the structure of the judging means you will probably get a few decent blind playtests out of it.
There probably are but I would probably just stick to this book:
It's considered the bible for game design.
also, geek nights has a whole lot of youtube videos about game design and they're awesome https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPU\_yi9Nv3M&list=PL3eVql0CPrVhG2AeVE1l8hcNPSNmoeagK
If you're looking for a book, you might check out Rules of Play, although it's a bit more centered around general game design theory, it's a pretty good read.
It's a muscle and you have to work it. Since you are in a masters program you are probably going to do be doing that alot. Some ones I've found that were really useful
1. Fixing a broken game. Find a game like tic tac toe that's broken in some way, and fix it, practice your iterative loops.
get some friends, break into two teams, each builds a game on a tight deadline, swap the games and try to fix them.
find people who will brainstorm ideas and not dismiss ideas and get a little weird. A good book for this is Six THinking hats. https://www.groupmap.com/portfolio/six-thinking-hats
Play other games, if you play great games be really critical of them, look at what they are doing and how they accomplish it and what ways it could be better. Look at bad games, look at what they do well.
5,. Learn the basics and language of game design. Getting comfortable with the basics can free up mental space to get weird. rules of play is a good place for this https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Play-Design-Fundamentals-Press/dp/0262240459
Here are two of the books I used when I studied it in college:
Fundamentals of Game Design: Goes into theory and elements of design. Beware this is the first edition, and that there are newer editions now.
Challenges for Game Designers: Contains plenty of non-digital exercises to flew your design muscles.
Rules of Play: Takes another approach to game design and its elements.
They're pretty informative, and I do recommend them. I'll leave which one to get for your brother. Maybe the Challenges book, since that will help him actually start to design, even if it is just tabletop stuff. It's a smaller book, and it might help him decide if he wants to pursue it into the digital medium, and keep reading up with other books.
Also, the links to the stores were just to demonstrate the books. I'm not saying you should buy the book from that site. Shop around and find the best offer for you.
Anyways, hope this helps! There are other books, but I haven't read them yet, so this is all I can recommend at this time. Best of luck to the both of you!!
Pretty much a standard college text at this point.
Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
Much better book imo
Look outside traditional games for general or product design methods:
Okay, here are 4 suggestions about theory. There are plenty more, but these are a few of my favourites.
Characteristics of Games
Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design
Theory of Fun for Game Design
Good luck and happy reading.
Take a look at this book: https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Play-Design-Fundamentals-Press/dp/0262240459
It will provide some pretty good insight, I think.
In terms of game design, it's hard to go past Salen and Zimmerman's Rules of Play. Although it's ostensibly a textbook, it manages to pull together in the most engaging way all the various elements that come together to create what we call games.
There's a companion book, The Game Design Reader, which is a series of writings on games stretching back to Huizinga and Caillois - there's a lot of great stuff in there.
In terms of tabletop games, there isn't too much that's been written on design that I'd recommend (note that I'm not a designer), but Gary Fine's Shared Fantasy is still a great read about the culture of RPGs and I really enjoyed Gaming as Culture in terms of how it looks at elements like metagaming and table talk (probably not that useful in terms of design per se though).
Finally, for a philosophical take on games (and why we play them) I'd highly recommend Bernard Suits' The Grasshopper - Games Life and Utopia
"A Book of Lenses" is a great book.
I'd also suggest checking out Rules of Play and maybe even Game Programming Patterns if you want something a bit more practical (sort of combines design+code).
I can vouch for #2. It is a really well designed game. The production values of the board and pieces are quite high as well. Overall a very impressive package.
The fact that the players cooperate to defeat Sauron, instead of competing with each other, leads to some very fun dynamics. I've seen a player sacrifice themselves to Sauron to avoid consequences for the ring bearer - something you aren't normally called upon to do in direct-competition games.
One final note: an extended essay by the game designer himself appears in this excellent book on game design.
Fair point regarding the sourcing.
Bernard Suits, published in <em>Philosophy of Science</em>:
>...to play a game is to engage in activity directed toward bringing about a speciﬁc state of affairs, using only means permitted by speciﬁc rules, where the means permitted by the rules are more limited in scope than they would be in the absence of the rules, and where the sole reason for accepting such limitation is to make possible such activity.
Katie S. Tekinbas and Eric Zimmerman, in their book <em>Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals</em>:
>A game is a system in which players engage in an artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome.
Elliot M. Avedon and Brian Sutton-Smith, in their book <em>The Study of Games</em>:
>At its most elementary level then we can define game as an exercise of voluntary control systems in which there is an opposition between forces, confined by a procedure and rules in order to produce a disequilibrial outcome.
Emphases are mine.
My writing is quite clear. You leaped for the dictionary immediately. Rookie mistake, quite frankly, although again you made a fair point regarding my lack of prior sourcing (your skepticism was perfectly warranted). Some dictionaries reflect current usage (Oxford does this, if memory serves), while some dictionaries are more stringent and curate the language for "proper" usage. Neither form of dictionary is actually academic, though -- and a game of Scrabble is hardly comparable to the categorization of software.
Also, please think for a moment about what Oxford defines as "game". If it really is just "an activity that one engages in for amusement", watching a movie qualifies as a "game".
Cop and Robbers isn't a game, it's just playing, hide and seek however is a game. A game, by most definitions from both designers, ludologists and general public requires rules, varying outcome and a goal.
Edit: http://www.jesperjuul.net/ludologist/ and http://www.amazon.com/Rules-Play-Game-Design-Fundamentals/dp/0262240459 are two sources that mention rules, challenges and goals as part of what games are.