The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
Burlington, MA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2008. Endnotes, bibliography, index. 512 pp. $59.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780123694966
The opening pages of Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design broadcast its purpose loudly, even before his prose begins. A detailed and well-organized table of contents is no unusual thing, but the Table of Lenses that follows it is. Schell’s textbook on game design is organized along two vectors: first, the components of the game design process more generally, and second, Schell’s own advice in the form of “lenses”—concepts through which design decisions can be approached. For example, #30 The Lens of Fairness addresses the balancing of player skill levels, while the melding of aesthetics, mechanics, story, and technology compose #7 The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad. The components of design are also organized into a mind map that unfolds throughout the book, revealing the order and relationship of the process—from designer to experience, through game, and player. While comprehensive and unique, this structure has its downside. The book’s length and detail prevent it from being a casual read, and its meandering organization makes it difficult to separate into the kind of sections or topics one might find on a college syllabus.