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Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals Hardcover – Sep 25 2003

3.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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  • Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (Sept. 25 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262240459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262240451
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 3 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #124,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


Rules of Play is an exhaustive, clear, cogent, and complete resource for understanding games and game design. Salen and Zimmerman describe an encyclopedia of game design issues, techniques, and attributes. In particular, they analyze the elements that can make a game experience richer, more interesting, more emotional, more meaningful, and, ultimately, more successful. It should be the first stop you make when learning about game design.

(Nathan Shedroff, author of Experience Design)

Rules of Play makes a monumental contribution to the development of game theory, criticism, and design. It will instantly become a standard textbook in the field on the basis of its rigor and scope -- yet it is written in such an engaging style that many will read it for pleasure. Salen and Zimmerman do for games what Sergei Eisenstein did for cinema -- offer an expert practitioner's perspective on central aspects of the aesthetics and cultural importance of an emerging medium.

(Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies, MIT)

This is the most impressive book on game design I've ever seen. Broad in scope yet rich in detail, Rules of Play sets a new standard for game analysis.

(Will Wright, Game Designer of Sim City and The Sims)

About the Author

Katie Salen Tekinbaş is Professor in the School of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University and Chief Designer and Researcher at Institute of Play.

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer, game design theorist, and co-founder and CEO of gameLab. He has taught at universities including MIT, the University of Texas, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I received a copy of this book I didn't have any solid expectations. I had never heard of Zimmerman or Salen before and so I wasn't overly surprised when the text turned to disappoint. If you look into the authors credentials you'll find that neither have any experience in game design beyond a beginner/hobbyist level. I felt mislead by the bravado the authors put forth in assuming authority on a subject they are blatantly unqualified to comment on. Overall the book delves into game design on only a very shallow level.
On the brighter side, if you're a game player with a passing interest in old school design, or just want to know the opinions of some retro-gamers, you might care to check this book out. For anyone else, I'd suggest alternatives: "Game Design: Theory and Practice" and especially "Chris Crawford on Game Design". Both contain intelligent analysis from truly experienced designers with much more relevance to modern game design.
The bottom line is that there are just too many good alternatives to be interested in this instantly forgettable material.
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Format: Hardcover
Managed to finally get through this wordy behemoth. Now that I have, I'm not sure that it was worth the battle. The historic/cultural analysis is quite one sided, leaving the most controversial topics entirely untouched. The text reads like a "retro-gamers guide to the universe", and fails to offer any meaningful examination of game design topics. Certainly not enough to warrant calling it a "textbook" or "reference book" (as the books description claims).
If you are interested in game design, skip this one and look to others like Chris Crawford for intellectual stimulation.
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By A Customer on Dec 18 2003
Format: Hardcover
Reading a book about the theory of games is like reading a book about the theory of humor: nowhere near as interesting or as satisfying you'd imagine it to be.
This book is not a cookbook for designing games, although it does offer lots of useful advice and numerous examples of game design. According to the authors, it's an attempt at creating a "critical vocabulary" for game design.
Early on, they say that we shouldn't take their definitions seriously, and that they know they are incomplete and leave out examples. But, they say, new ideas come when you start to think about and argue definitions. Thus, definitions are just a rhetorical device, and not meant to be taken in the same way as definitions in, say, science. This is an interesting tactic that drives people in science nuts: in science, definitions are fundamental tools for building theories and making explanations. To a scientist, it appears that the authors want it both ways: the apparent rigor of a definitional approach, but without the committment. (In science, *stories* and analogies are more likely to be used as rhetorical devices.)
Like most academic writing of this sort, the writing itself comes in various shades of purple, but it is generally clear and direct.
One interesting feature of the book is the 4 new games that were commissioned just for the book; the designers were asked to keep logs during the design, and these are re-printed in the book. It's interesting to read the thought processes of the designers --- more interesting than the main text, most of the time!
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Format: Hardcover
I've seen some people review negatively this book, but I think it is because they expected something else, a book on how to create a game.
This book doesn't deal on how to build / make a game but how to break down any game out there into the underlying structures that form the game at hand, allowing you as a designer to take those underlying structures and create a new game. This book is about creating a common language between game designers to be able to analyze, classify and talk about games.

This book doesn't require any Computer knowledge at all in order to read and understand it.
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Format: Hardcover
(NOTE: This is the final review of the book. I wrote preliminary reviews which have since been cleaned up by Amazon; unfortunately it looks like they left my negative review that was submitted to balance my multiple positive reviews.)
The Summary
This is the BEST BOOK ON BOARD GAME DESIGN that I have read and I have read many! The book is well written, it is thorough in its analysis, has references and bibliographies that allow you to explore the authors' research yourself. I had high expectations for this book and that normally leads to being a little disappointed, but this book not only met my high expectations but actually exceeded them! This book isn't for the impatient programmer who just wants to know how to write the next First Person Shooter, or the person who wants to be told some quick methods to come up with new ideas for games. This is for the serious student who wants to really understand game design and what it truly means to design immersive, balanced and compelling game play.
I have been reading and researching game design for over 10 years now. I have been writing computer games for over 20 years. Over the last 4 years I have been researching board games, since discovering the European board games that have been doing so well across the pond, I got hooked and realized that these games were the embodiment of great game design. I decided that to become better at designing computer games I should learn what makes games like Settler's of Catan and Carcassonne so compelling. So for the last few years I have been exploring the theory of game design. Since there wasn't much out on board game design specifically, I read newsgroups, web site articles and the plethora of books coming out on computer game design.
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