These are the volumes you should have read already
01 Chris Crawford On Game Design
Even the endorsement on the back cover admits “I don’t always agree with Chris”. Impassioned and controversial – but always illuminating.
02 Reality Is Broken
A thumpingly argued manifesto for game mechanics as a force for good. Despite gamification’s decline, this still has relevance.
03 Masters Of Doom
An engrossingly dramatic personality-led account of the brilliance and bedlam at the offices of id and Ion Storm up to 2001.
04 Trigger Happy
Edge columnist Poole delivered the first truly accessible, intelligently written and celebratory account of the reasons we play.
05 Game Over
Read any book about Nintendo, and you can bet it cribs heavily from this unrivalled dig into the pre-16bit years.
06 Designing Virtual Worlds
MMOGs from the perspective of the genre’s dad: Bartle co-created
MUD. Admirably weighty, practical and inspirational.
07 A Theory Of Fun For Game Design
A compact and playful plea to developers crafting player-matched challenges, told through text and childlike cartoons.
08 The Art Of Game Design: A Book Of Lenses
Students of game design shouldn’t miss this one-element-at-a-time approach to bringing the best out of a game.
09 Beyond Barbie And Mortal Kombat
Yasmin B Kafai and others
Update on a seminal 2000 essay collection. Edifying on what’s changed in gaming’s gender attitudes since – and what hasn’t.
10 Cybertext: Perspectives On Ergodic Literature
Espen J Aarseth
Aarseth is a lordly figure from game studies’ first wave. This introduced “ergodic texts”, stories that demand reader action.
The original theory of why we get ‘in the zone’ in games. A verbose but groundbreaking work. (It’s “Cheek-sent-me-high-e”, by the way.)
12 Hamlet On The Holodeck
Important early exploration of ‘reader’ vs narrative in the digital age. Still referenced all the time, everywhere.
13 Homo Ludens
A 1938 exploration of how play permeates culture. Huizinga’s “magic circle” – the place for play – is big in game studies.
14 Man, Play And Games
This 1961 masterwork from a French sociologist builds on Huizinga. The field of game studies has nurtured its model of four game types.
15 The Medium Of The Video Game
Mark JP Wolf
This influential collection prods at the heart of games: space, time, narrative and genre.
16 The Ultimate History Video Games
Steven L Kent
US-centric and Atari-heavy, but glimmering with anecdotal jewels from everyone who’s ever been anyone in gaming, and weighing in at a satisfying 608 pages.