So much has changed in the game industry since I wrote the first edition of this book almost fifteen years ago. There has been an explosion in new platforms of play and an emergence of exciting new markets and genres of games. Today, it seems that everyone plays games, everywhere. The one constant I see in this world of change is the need for innovative game designers to realize the potential for play in all of these new platforms and places.
And so I offer this updated edition, with its strong focus still on learning the playcentric process of design and iteration, but enhanced with updated techniques and ideas that have sprung from today’s industry, and filled with the perspectives of new designers who are on the front lines of facing today’s design challenges and opportunities—designers such as Jane McGonigal, Ian Dallas, Dan Cook, Robin Hunicke, Randy Smith, Michael John, Elan Lee, Anna Anthropy, Christina Norman, and more. This edition includes sidebars on building inclusive teams, on emerging opportunities in independent design and publishing of games, on emotion-driven game design, on mobile games and virtual reality systems, on art games and social games, and on techniques for tuning games and using metrics to get the best player experience.
Back when I wrote the first version of this book, there was a sense in the field that game design was not something that could be taught. You either had a “knack” for games or you didn’t. Needless to say, I didn’t agree. Fast-forward fifteen years and the sense is completely different. Now, game design programs, such as the one that I direct at USC, are seen as incubators for innovative ideas and people. The training that students get in such programs is coalescing into a set of best practices that turn out creative people who are able to work well on diverse teams, and who have strong design skills and understanding of how to create interesting game mechanics. Some of these programs have arisen in technical schools, some in art schools, and others in a staggering variety of disciplines that cross the humanities, arts, and sciences. Game design is everywhere.
Not only is everyone learning game design, but everyone is doing it. Today’s schoolchildren are using construction games like Minecraft or SimCity to learn history and environmental awareness. Their love of games is leading them to learn critical skills like systems thinking and procedurality. They are modding and making and playing and learning and the boundaries between these things are no longer clear or important. What will the world look like in another fifteen years, when the children who grew up learning from and thinking in game systems become adults? What games will they want to play then? What systems will they engage with to learn more about the world? I can hardly wait to see.
The students who studied game design with me while I wrote the first three editions of this book have completely stunned me with their talent and vision. They have set new levels of aesthetic expectations for the field as a whole and are deeply embedded in the changes that will define the next generation of play. The games that I see coming out of the industry today, especially in the world of experimental and independent designs, make me believe that this is only the beginning of the evolution of play that we will see, culturally, creatively, and commercially.
I am so thrilled to be part of this change, and to know that this book has inspired so many to follow the path of innovative game design. I can only hope that the students and designers who read this new edition will do so with the same passion and commitment as those who have done in the past fifteen years.