Suggested Reading

Books are the most rich source of information and inspiration that game players don’t use. If you’re looking for some new resources, you may be interested in a short list that I’ve compiled. Each one is worth its own review and maybe someday I’ll do just that.

These books are guaranteed to give players a greater appreciation of their games and help developers make better ones.

Animals In Translation by Temple Grandin

Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin: A look at animal behavior, psychology, and emotion. Taking apart the fundamentals of animals indirectly reveals the hardwired and conditioned qualities of humans. Games prey on the subconscious levels of the human mind which are in many ways identical to their equivalents in less intelligent animals. Grandin’s language and presentation is simple enough that anyone can understand it and in depth enough that she leaves few questions unanswered. Temple Grandin is widely known in the areas of animal psychology (especially cattle and other herd animals) and autism (as a diagnosed autistic herself).

_

_

_

_

_

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

The Art of War by Sun Tzu: A classic for warriors and wanna-be warriors alike, it presents warfare as a game of adaptation and design. It’s about understanding your resources, your environment, and your opponent and exploiting them to your end. This relationship exists between a game designer and a player. Each one attempts exactly that kind of exploitation. Don’t assume it to be a book about killing. In war, as in anything else, there is an unlimited variety to objectives, many of which cannot be satisfied with brute force. As a result, it is very pragmatic and generally adheres to peaceful means.

_

_

_

_

_

Film Form by Sergei EisensteinFilm Form by Sergei Eisenstein: Eisenstein is among the most important film theorists of all time and a favorite of mine. He treats art and science as one in the same and eloquently draws relationships between artistic mediums that would otherwise appear extraordinarily distant. His teachings are still the best foundation for artistic theory in the 20th century, and if you tend toward formalism you’ll love him. His most famous work is in regards to the concept of “montage” (often translated as “editing”). Eisenstein defines montage as the colliding of ideas (via images, words, etc), their destruction and the subsequent generation of new ideas. He applies it to film, literature, music and pretty much everything else. It’s just too bad he couldn’t live to see games.

_

_

_

_

Ender\'s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: A pivotal sci-fi novel centered around the military training of a boy named Ender. His story is a series of war games which serve as an excellent introduction to the kind of analytical mindset required for playing and designing (I hear it’s recommended reading for Naval officers for the same reason). Besides its relevance to game design, it’s just a good book too (and I’m sure the movie will be much worse).

_

_

_

_

_

_

_

_

Gamesmanship by Stephen Potter

The Theory and Practice of Gamesmanship or The Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating by Stephen Potter: Gamesmanship is a kind of meta-gaming. Gamesmen don’t bother to get good at the games they play, but they dedicate hours of practice and preparation to a psychological assault meant to undo the opponent’s advantages. This book is not nearly as meaningful as the others, but it still represents something to me. It was published in 1947 as a compilation of slimy gaming tactics developed by a clique of British aristocrats. What makes it special is its recognition of the powerful subtleties in a game; the impact of social forces, confidence, and rhythm. It also has what I consider to be a more “real” approach to games. Gamesmen exploit the “unspoken rules” of a game, separating themselves from sportsman which aim to follow those rules. In a remarkably ironic demonstration of British manners, Potter also introduces some of his own rules to discourage what is “bad gamesmanship” or simply not in good taste. Those tips defy the book’s apparent embrace of a game’s actual nature, but also reveal how difficult it is for a mind, no matter how unscrupulous to accept a world without rules and fair play. Gamesmanship very much reminded me of fighting player exploits in Battledawn.

_

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: This is widely recognized as one of the best American novels ever written and it is definitely one of my favorite books. Catch-22 may only relate to games in its philosophical content, in that it questions the rules of society, the military and human logic as a whole. In fact, it utterly humiliates them and does so hilariously. However, the recent argument over the importance of writing in games and the differing natures of the two mediums convinced me to suggest this book. It proves the power of writing and its versatility (most importantly, that it can be very non-linear) and with a humor and language that many can appreciate. By the way, the movie is good, but not half as good as the book.

_

_

_

_

_

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any books about games. You don’t need to read any.

-Christopher J. Rock

About the author:
Christopher J. Rock (http://)
Film student at California State, Long Beach. I want to make the gaming world a better place.
  • Pingback: blog.sokay.net - flash game development discussion » Blog Archive » The Submariner Trailer()

  • This post had inspired me to pick up a copy of The Art of War. I got the Denma translation that’s accompanied with an audio book version of it.

    It’s an interesting philosophy to apply to making games as well as living life.

    “One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful.

    Subduing the other’s military without battle is the most skillful.”

  • Awesome. I get tons of games-related inspiration from non-fiction books. I’m definitely looking forward to starting on these books (though I’ve already read Ender’s Game, of course).

    If I could add one book to this list, it would be A Story as Sharp as a Knife, by Robert Bringhurst. Based on your description, A Story as Sharp as a Knife is like Film Form, except with a focus on oral narrative poetry, or myth. It’s very good. I’ve written a review of it on my blog. Click my name for the link.