8 Books Any Aspiring Game Designer Should Read

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If making games is your dream, then you probably spend a lot of time playing video games, but in order to thrive in this competitive industry, you will need all the knowledge you can get.

Luckily, there are many books in the market that will help you to get the information you need to make your dream come true. 

This list will show you eight books you should read, if you are an aspiring video game designer. I have divided the eight books in two halves.

The first half consists of four books that address video games directly, while the second consists of books that do not talk about video games, but teach you valuable skills you will need to make your career skyrocket. 

Let the reading commence!

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

Author: Jesse Schell

Price: $43.97

Buy it on Amazon

This book is regarded as the Bible of game designers. It presents the reader with more than 100 elements of game design and analyzes how to think critically about them, in order to better implement these elements in your project.

The author shares techniques from several mediums, including theme park design, puzzle design and mathematics, in order to analyze how each one of these fields can contribute to your growth as a game designer.

It is 600 pages long, but if you love video games, this reading will go as fast as Sonic.

The Ultimate Guide To Video Game Writing and Design

Authors: Flint Dille and John Zuur Platten

Cost: $16.42

Buy it on Amazon

The days when video game relied solely on gameplay mechanics and graphics as selling points are gone.

Of course, these two elements are still important, but a well-built narrative has become a crucial factor for the success of any campaign-driven video game.

Can you imagine The Last of Us, BioShock or Mass Effect without a story? Me neither.

This is why learning storytelling and how to apply it in gaming is a crucial skill a game designer must have and this book will tell you how to do this.

There are many pieces available for purchase on Amazon regarding this topic, but they usually only address narrative.

What sets this book apart is that it discusses storytelling and game design simultaneously, teaching you how to combine both for greater effect.

How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design

Author: Katherine Isbister

Cost: $19.57

Buy it on Amazon.

In a book, the reader reads a story. In a film, the viewer watches a story. In a video game, the player directly interacts with the story. Due to their interactive nature, video games can create emotions that other mediums cannot, such as guilt and pride.

As the palette of emotional responses in a game is larger, the designers must know how to make this fact work in their favor. This book is the result of a research on how video games create certain emotions in players.

If you aim to create powerful and emotional experiences players will never forget, this book is a must-read.

Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People who Play Them

Author: Jamie Madigan

Cost: $31.66

Buy it on Amazon.

Video game design is all about psychology and if you wish to become a designer, having an understanding of this field is paramount.

This book discusses the most effective tricks of psychology video games use to retain the attention of the players and make them enjoy the experience. If you are an aspiring video game designer, but have little knowledge on how the human psyche works, this book is the best way to get started.

This concludes the section of this list dedicated to books that regard video games specifically. The next four items in this list approach topics that, while not directly related to gaming, certainly teach valuable lessons to anyone who dreams of a job in this industry.

Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think

Authors: Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Cost: $11.12

Buy it on Amazon.

Everyday when we turn on the television and watch the news, we hear about poverty, violence, climate change and more negative stories. With this bombardment of negative news, we fear for the future of humanity, but should we?

This books presents to its readers a positive perspective over the future of mankind. A posterity in which technology will help us solve our greatest problems. Poverty, deforestation, famine and many more issues will be a thing of the past, according to this book.

Through robotics, artificial intelligence and many other technological marvels, we will solve the aforementioned problems, claim the authors. But how do video games fit into this?

The writers of this book claim that most people believe technology will fail to solve the problems mentioned herein, because they think of the technology of today, whilst failing to reckon what will be possible to achieve with the machines of tomorrow.

This book introduces readers to the notion of "exponential thinking", which stands for the ability to foresee the future trends of technology.

If you wish to become a game designer, technology will play a crucial role in your job and knowing in which technologies to invest in, will give you an edge over the competition.

With this said, its crucial that you learn how to observe and predict the future trends of technology, in order to stay a step ahead from the competition and the future of technology is the topic of this book.

This is a must read for a game design student, but it is also a book that anyone should read, in order to move astray from the negativity of mainstream media and get a bit more positive about the future of the world.

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Author: Steven Johnson

Cost: $13.01

Buy it on Amazon.

Many people believe that creativity is an innate God-given skill of a fortunate few. Many people also share the creed that creativity is not worth studying, because it is something that "just happens."

These assumptions are wrong.

Creativity is a skill and as any other, it can be practiced and there are techniques to make a person more creative. If you aim to become a video game designer, being a creative individual is an essential prerequisite.

By reading this book, you will understand how some of the most brilliant ideas of humanity were conceived and will have a better understanding of how creativity works and how to get better at it.

Creativity, INC.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmull

Cost: $16.66

Buy it on Amazon.

Written by the President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, this book addresses how to manage the work environment in a studio, in order to extract the best results from a team of artists.

This book analyzes Pixar and Disney specifically, but many parallels can be drawn with how Valve manages its projects with its structure without hierarchy.

Remember, if you wish to be a lead designer, you will most likely also act as a project manager, meaning that it will be your job to ensure the whole team works towards a shared vision.

Reading this book will give you the insights you need, in order to get the best results from your team of dedicated artists.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Author: Daniel Pink

Cost: $10.87

Buy it on Amazon.

What do you do to motivate a worker to perform better at his work? Do you offer him more money? If this was your answer, you were very wrong.

In his book, Daniel Pink shares with his readers what truly motivates people to engage in certain tasks, improve productivity and sometimes, even change habits.

Considering that video games consists of asking the player to perform certain tasks, having an understanding on how to motivate people to perform these tasks is a valuable skill to any game designer. 


The books presented in this list are among my favorites, but they are only the starting point to a much larger universe of literature relevant to video games.

Some people do not have enough time to read books often and this is comprehensible, but if you are an aspiring video game designer, you are about to enter a highly competitive world and you should take every opportunity you can to polish your knowledge and gain an edge over the competition.

I hope to have convinced you to read at least one book in this list.

Happy reading!

Published Jan. 22nd 2017

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