Game Design Resources

Aspiring game designers can find a wealth of resources online, with professional organizations, free courses, and digital literature guiding readers through the process of game writing, level design, animation, and marketing.

Professional Game Design Organizations

There are very few established student honors organizations for video game design, presumably because this field is still young. However, there are several professional associations and conference groups worldwide that provide academic funding in the form of scholarships, as well as networking and career development opportunities.

  • International Game Developers Association(IGDA) – The IGDA has over 90 chapters spread across the globe, dedicated to networking, continued education, and advocacy for game development careers and studies. IGDA was a visible presence during Brown vs. EMA in the United States, when video games fell under free speech protections. The IGDA hosts annual conferences to discuss international legislation, major industry achievements, and professional development.
  • Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interactions(SIGCHI) – This is a unique professional organization that is dedicated to the ways humans interact with technology. SIGCHI has chapters across the globe; chapters exist in Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia. This organization publishes a journal and magazine collecting annual conference highlights, articles, and media that focus on computer-human interactions.
  • Games Learning Society(GLS) – You can see the fruit of GLS’s labor by checking out their recent game releases, which include titles like “Crystals of Kaydor,” “Tenacity,” and “Progenitor X.” GLS members occasionally host open courses online, such as “Video Games and Learning” on Coursera (listed in the section below). The GLS also hosts annual conferences with a doctoral consortium and workshops dedicated to a philosophy of playful learning.
  • Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences – Students searching for game design and development scholarships can apply to the Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund or the Mark Beaumont Scholarship Fund. This 20,000-member organization is well-known for hosting the D.I.C.E. Awards over almost two decades, celebrating achievements in gaming.

Open Game Design Courseware

It seems sensible to learn game design, programming, and theory online. A number of prominent schools, such as MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, have uploaded their game design curricula for online audiences to access for free. Keep in mind that these classes are for personal enrichment, and do not yield college credits after completion.

  • Video Games and Learning – This course is taught by instructors from the University of Wisconsin at Madison who are also members of the GLS. Students will explore the skill sets that are activated and sharpened during video game play, such as perception, attention, and reflex speed. Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire are your guides through this six week course, as you discover the cognition processes that develop during gaming.
  • Gamification – This is another Coursera offering, provided by the University of Pennsylvania. Instructor Kevin Werbach discusses how game theory and strategy can be applied to other disciplines such as business and finance. In “Gamification,” Webach covers the psychology of motivation and incentive, which drives the actions of gamers, investors, employees, and customers.
  • Game Design – Both undergraduate and graduate level students can participate in this MIT course led by Philip Tan and Jason Begy. Participants will gain access to audio lectures, projects, and transcripts covering the design and theory of tabletop games. Students will engage with concepts such as iterative design, prototyping, probability, genre, and puzzles. Students will also get to design their own card game, board game, and a game for a client by the end of this course.
  • Analyzing a Game of Chance – This is an open course provided by Connexions and the Interactive Mathematics Program. The module can be downloaded in PDF and ePub formats. Delve into aspects of probability and chance, which will inform the actions of the student’s player and direct the flow of their storyline.
  • Thinking Strategically – This course was uploaded by Robert Marks of the University of New South Wales. The lectures and course materials can be downloaded as PDFs. Students will explore game theory fundamentals, including strategic decision making, bargaining, game money, and auctions. Students will also explore the game theory and economics, and whether a firm is competing in a way that maximizes potential rewards.

Open Access Game Design Journals

Online journals can help students and current game designers keep up-to-date with the ethics, politics, business trends, and best practices in game design. These periodicals typically contain cutting-edge tech developments and academic observations.

  • Game Studies – This periodical is dedicated to multidisciplinary advancements within the field of gaming. The editorial board is composed of representatives from the IT University of Copenhagen, Lund University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and researchers from Finland. Game Studies welcomes submissions from international scholars and professionals. New issues are released twice a year.
  • International Journal of Design – This is a multidisciplinary journal dedicated to various facets of design, including visual communications, animation, user interface, and gaming design. The first volume was released in 2007, and new issues are published three times a year. Writers are encouraged to submit reviews, original articles, and design case studies that are professionally or academically relevant, and that challenge readers to explore the cultural impacts of design.
  • Ada Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology – This is a feminist publication managed, edited, and published by Fembot Collective and the University of Oregon. Articles dive deep into gaming theory, gender studies, and queer rhetoric. Ada welcomes feminist submissions on technology, gaming, media, and gender. New issues are released twice a year.
  • International Journal of Computer Games Technology(IJCGT) – This journal, founded in 2007, is dedicated to advancements in gaming technology and interactive media. Readers can find over 100 articles within the IJCGT archives, which explore subjects like body motion sensors, motivational gaming elements, auditory gaming enhancement, and game immersion psychology.

Game Design Books

There are many technical guides to game design available in both print and digital formats. These volumes emphasize the importance of various skill sets, including programming, storyboarding, illustration, and marketing. Some of these authors are responsible for penning stories for some of the most popular modern video game hits.

  • The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses – This highly-recommended book explores the fundamentals of gaming by exploring popular board games, video games, card games, and other types of interactive media. Author Jesse Schell describes the basic skills that game designers must cultivate in order to succeed in their field. Schell delves into the elements that create a unique and fun game experience, such as theme, problems, loops, psychology, mechanics, balance, puzzles, and interest curves.
  • A Theory of Fun for Game Design – How do you translate an engaging story into a fun game? What psychological processes go through a player’s mind to create the perfect mix of challenge and enjoyment? While this volume delves into game theory, it is all with the destination of fun in mind. Author Raph Koster delves into what individuals learn from games, the challenges they have with learning, and the place of gaming in our culture.
  • Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design – Scott Rogers has put together a comprehensive guide for game designers and developers. This book is available in both print and digital formats. Level Up! is full of nods to geek culture, with references to n00bs, character tropes, and common gaming memes. This book offers a refreshing and humorous look at designing a game from scratch-from writing the story to distributing your title, and finally, making a profit! Rogers also includes “Bonus Level” content for game makers who really want to challenge themselves.
  • The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design – You might recognize Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten from their critically-acclaimed work on the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. These two writers distill their years of game creation in this how-to volume for aspiring game makers. They take a very direct approach to writing and design, walking readers through the aspects of storytelling, structure, character formation, team interactions, revisions, and game release.

Online Game Design Magazines

Digital format game magazines are quickly overtaking print publications, as was the case of Gamasutra and Game Developer Magazine. The advantage to a digital periodical is that columnists and contributors can illustrate their points with graphics, videos, and interactive widgets.

  • Gamasutra – This digital publication focuses on the creative and business aspects of game creation. Gamasutra has enjoyed a lengthy online presence, appearing on the Internet back in 1997 to supplement the print publication, Game Developer. Gamasutra is split into four sections based on video game type such as console games, mobile games, online games, and indie games. Readers can also sort articles based on field interest such as programming, art, audio, marketing, and design.
  • EdgeEdge is a digital publication operated by Future Plc, a media network that also runs several other gaming publications, including Tech Radar, Bike Radar, and Music Radar. Edge publishes features on current gaming trends, news on business developments within the gaming industry, and reviews of upcoming titles. They also have a unique “Get into Games” section that strives to demystify the gaming industry as a career field, posting interviews and biographies about professionals who are currently working on major releases.
  • Game Developer MagazineGame Developer was the sister publication to Gamasutra, and it enjoyed a print run between 1994 to 2013. Now the entire archive is available as a free digital download. GD was released on a monthly basis, which means readers can view the extensive library of over 200 issues. This will provide aspiring game developers with a wealth of historical industry information, reviews, and interviews.
  • ACM Interactions – This is the official online magazine of the Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interactions, which was mentioned earlier in the “Professional Groups” section. Features cover a wide range of technology interactions, from haptics and wearable game controllers to steampunk UI designs.

Game Design Blogs

Game design blogs allow readers to stay on the cutting edge of game design across platforms like PC, console, and mobile devices. The following blogs are run by expert gamers and designers, with an eye to upcoming business and content trends. These blogs will help aspiring designers get a look at the everyday challenges and tasks of releasing a game.

  • Hobby Game Dev – This stylish blog is run by Chris DeLeon, who has worked as a game designer for EA Games and has been featured in Forbes. His blog posts cover topics such as game coding, idea generation, bug testing, and level design. His blog is a great resource for students and current game designers. DeLeon also frequently engages with readers via Twitter, email, and comments, and he dedicates entire blog posts to answering reader questions.
  • Terra Nova – This is a blog dedicated to MMORPGs, MUDs, and virtual world formation. The founding team consists of four experts with diverse backgrounds in game studies, law, virtual worlds, journalism, and intellectual property. Terra Nova content is developed by 23 different contributors, who bring a diverse range of ideas to the table. You can also find listings for Terra Nova media and books on this extensive blog.
  • Gamasutra Expert Blogs – These are the people to look to for honest reviews of gaming hardware and new releases. Explore the nuances of graphics cards, gaming experiences, and video games sales with experts like Mike Rose, John Krajewski, and Patrick Miller. These writers can help budding game designers keep an eye on relevant market concerns and audience needs.
  • Mobile Dev Memo – Mobile gaming has become a multi-billion dollar industry, with the popularity of smartphones and tablets taking the options to new heights. This developer’s blog is dedicated to mobile format games, coding, advertising, design, and illustration. MDM also features a dedicated job board for game design and development opportunities worldwide.
  • Games Brief – This blog chronicles the latest developments in free-to-play mobile games, game publishing, and in-game purchase pricing tiers. Games Brief also addresses some of the hard-pressing business questions that game designers and game developers face: How do you get funding? This blog posts several columns about venture capital and fundraising opportunities to get your game off the ground.

Who to Follow on Twitter

Game design and development is a continually changing industry, shifting based on hardware updates, audience tastes, and legislative changes. The following groups and individuals are some of the highest-profile leaders within the gaming industry, and they regularly post breaking news on creative and business developments. Stay up-to-date and communicate with your gaming heros by adding them on Twitter!

  • @br – Brenda Romero has over three decades of game industry experience. She began her game design journey with Sir-tech Software and Atari. She is currently serving on the Smithsonian Museum advisory board for the Art of Video Games Exhibition. She is also the COO and game designer of Loot Drop, an indie game development company that has released titles like Ghost Recon Commander and Pettington Park.
  • @GameDesignExpo – This is the official Twitter feed for the annual Game Design Expo hosted in Vancouver, BC. Students and active game designers can find current industry news, upcoming expo news, and career announcements on this Twitter feed. Expo organizers also live tweet photos and commentary about presentations as they happen.
  • @StaffsGamesTech – This is the official Twitter account of the Games Technology department at Staffordshire University in the UK. Students and faculty members post behind-the-scenes and whimsical photos of new hardware and software experiments on this feed, including the “MoCap Suit,” a wearable technology that captures user motions in order to create an animation of the wearer. Get a taste of the future by following this creative, academic Twitter feed!
  • @GabrielNewell – Gabe Newell is an Internet celebrity and the founder of Valve Corporation, and immensely successful game development and distribution company. Newell regularly posts industry news, commentary on recent titles, and Internet memes. Make sure to add him on Twitter – Newell frequently converses with his followers.

Photo Credit: Ben Andreas Harding via Compfight cc