The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

By Jesse Schell

This is a collection of frameworks and analytical tools for game design. I love the ”lens” device, the implication of various perspectives and approaches for understanding and creating games.

Schell is both a “gifted teacher” and a noted game designer; I believe this is one of the bibles of the field. He encourages learning about game design by actually designing games first and foremost — and he says we can think of the book as a map to that process.

This book covers a wealth of topics: experience design, the iteration process, the player’s mind and motivation, game mechanics, balance, puzzles, interfaces, story worlds, aesthetics, communities, documentation, playtesting, business considerations, and much more, 34 chapters in total.

Its 112 lenses span “diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, puzzle design, and anthropology”. Many have clever aphoristic names like “The Lens of Resonance”, “The Lens of Flow”, “The Lens of Triangularity”, and “The Lens of the Raven”.

The lenses themselves are short and simple, and seem easily generalizable. Part of why I find this book interesting is that so many of the topics — and the whole “lens” premise itself — seem like fertile ground for creators of all stripes.

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