Bibliography of books about or related to games will be added to (at top) as I read more . . .  Disclaimer: I own a small amount of Amazon stock.

Paid to Play by Keith A. Meyers. Self-published through iUniverse, Inc. 2008. 89 pages 9" by 6" (yes, a very small book). About $20 as I recall,click the article title for the link. Also, there is another book of the same name, except different subtitle, about video games. Don't get confused.

As the subtitle indicates, this book is not about how to design a game but about the process that game design is a part of what you start with ideas and end up with a published game, whether license to a publisher or self published.

The author has worked in the game industry for more than 20 years sometimes for publishers, sometimes for retailers, now for himself as a designer. I first encountered him through a newsletter he used to publish for game inventors.

That word "inventors" is important because he talks primarily about the toy and game industry (where designers are often called inventors) than about the hobby game industry. In particular the games that he talks about are very simple, and that may be why he feels he can wait until the game is essentially set before he writes the rules. My experience with hobby games is that Iím writing the rules earlier and earlier in the process as I go along.

The books I am writing are almost entirely about the process of game design itself and donít say much about marketing, and this little book would be a good complement. Another important observation is that itís about tabletop games and toys, not about electronic/video games and toys. There are very few books written typically about tabletop industry.


Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.

Originally published 1992, this version 1993 (many printings since), purchased recently from Amazon $15.61.

This 216 page softcover "comic book" in largish trade paperback form is an exploration of comics as a distinct art form with its own conventions and possibilities, not merely as a combination of pictures and words.  Some of our video game industry guest speakers for our Simulation and Game Development curriculum recommended it.  Wanting to be an "educated person", I bought a copy and read it in bits over the course of a couple weeks.

I don't read comics nowadays, but I did when I was a kid and somewhat beyond (the first one I purchased, for 12 cents, was Spider Man #6--yeah, I sold it long ago). My brother collected comics quite seriously for many years. Comics are clearly still a big deal to young people, though often in the form of Japanese manga, which involve different conventions than American comics or European comics.

Anyone who is interested in drawing professionally should think about reading this book. It explains comics on their own terms, and using a well-drawn (mostly black and white) comic to do so helps make many things clear. It is fundamentally a work of...well, I'm not sure I can pin it down. I don't want to say philosophy, or art history, nor is it a "how to do it" book, but the treatment is absolutely serious (with occasional bits of humor thrown in). Though I cannot draw, it was an eye-opener for me, and should be for most people who do draw, whether they're interested in video games, or comics, or films, or something else. There's a lot more to drawing, and to comics, than the "kids stuff" that many people think, and this book illuminates all of that, also throwing light on some of those other media that involve drawing.

I can see why it is so widely recommended. Well worth reading if you have an interest in visually-related storytelling.


Game Design: Principles, practice, and techniques--the ultimate guide for the aspiring game designer. Jim Thompson, Barnaby Berbank-Green, Nic Cusworth. Wiley, ISBN 0-471-96894-3. Full color, 192 pages including brief index and gloassary.

This is a very good book, particularly for teens. It is written primarily by a teacher, and makes strong use of color and illustrations. Each topic is covered in just two facing pages, usually. There is very little long text, again a plus where young people used to reading (skimming) the Web are concerned.

In the end, the book is not about game design generally, but about game design and production of video games that focus on a single character--FPS, action, and the like--the kind of game that particularly appeals to teenage boys.

This is the first book I've read that describes the process of modelling characters and then making them ready to be manipulated by programming.

There is almost no recognition--in common with most other books about digital games--that you can plan everything about a game down to a "T", but you won't really know whether you've got something good until you have a playable prototype. I've just been reading a history of the original Civilization game on Gamasutra that describes Sid Meir's process. He programmed, Bruce Shelley (who later made Age of Empires and earlier was the Avalon Hill "developer" for the American version of Britannia) played the game, they discussed what worked and what didn't, Sid modified, Bruce played, and so forth. The playable prototype was the key to success.

Perhaps genre games such as FPS are so similar to an archetype that you can plan it all beforehand and still get it (mostly) right. This "front-loaded" attitude primarily comes from the necessity for game studios to present detailed plans (the Game Design Document) to potential publishers. If the publisher likes the plan, they put up the money to enable the studio to produce the game. To put it another way, it's now too expensive to produce working prototypes of A-list games, so studios produce written plans. No wonder there's little risk or innovation in these games.


World Atlas of the Past, Volume 2, The Medieval World AD1 to 1492, by John Haywood. Oxford U. Press, 2004.

This slim (64 pages) hardcover may be aimed at younger people--the sentences are shorter, the coverage is simpler--but I enjoy any atlas by John Haywood, and this one is noit much different from his others. There are several maps per two-page spread, but in this case there is not only text on those two pages, but two more pages of text and photographs as well as smaller maps. There's also a timetable for each set. Non-western areas are well-served, perhaps half the atlas (4 sets Western, 7 non-Western, the other 2 world-wide).


 

Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings (second edition 1984), Oxford University Press, paperback, over 500 pages.

This is one of the standard histories of the Vikings. Jones wrote in an era when the savagery of the Vikings was being downplayed--"oh, they were mainly merchants"--though he does not seem to have been entirely of that party. He does, however, buy the notion that the "Great Army" was only 500-1,000 men, a notion I find quite ludicrous given what that army did in both England and France. But it's inconvenient, if you believe the Vikings were mainly traders, to account for armies of 5,000-10,000, which is the size you'd judge both from the capabilities of the Great Army and from the number of ships reported by the chronicles. (The typical trick here is to believe the chronicles when they report small numbers of ships, and simply disbelieve when they report large numbers.)

Jones says at many points that Scandinavians in general and Vikings in particular (Vikings being those who roved overseas) were motivated by (had a goal of) "land, wealth, and fame". Anyone who designs a Viking game but does not account for this is leaving something out--of course, designers are always leaving things out.

Jones writes with a dry British wit combined with a poetic turn of phrase that is quite enjoyable. There is a LOT of detail, much of it not military in any way.


 

Goldsworthy, Adrian, The Fall of Carthage: The Punic Wars 265-146 BC. Cassell, 2000. 412 pages including notes and index, paperback, purchased from Amazon.

When I've not felt the energy to do much of anything else, I've been reading this interesting summary of this subject. The author takes a particularly realistic view, I'd call it, trying to see things as the participants would without imputing modern values to them. Moreover, his ideas of how battles were fought seem to me far more likely than the wild charges and melees we see in the movies.

My history prof used to say "there were just too damn many Romans", and (including non-Roman Italians) that seems to be the way it was. This, combined with the uniquely Roman determination to fight until the enemy was not merely defeated but subordinated (permanently, it was hoped) meant they, not the Carthaginians, would prevail in the long run. Where Hellenistic states expected negotiated peace with a possible renewal to the struggle later, the Romans fought on. Disasters that would have prompted any other state (including Carthage) to sue for peace only made the Romans fight harder. They thought they had finished it at the end of the First war, but Hannibal's family found a way to continue in the Second. The Third war was terrifically one-sided, a consequence of Roman arrogance and fear of the economic revival of Carthage that resulted in the utter destruction of the Carthaginian state.

Once again we see how much of the history of the ancient world was lost in the Dark Ages. For the greatest prolonged struggle of the ancient world--much larger in scope than Greece vs Persia--we have large holes in our knowledge and often sometimes depend on only one (unreliable) author.

Warriors of the Steppe: a Military History of Central Asia 500 BC to 1700AD by Erik Hildinger. Paperback (260 pages), 1997 Da Capo Press, $18 (less at Amazon).

This is written by a former "practicing lawyer" who "now teaches at the University of Michigan". Though lacking scholarly credentials, Hildinger brings some reality to the subject of nomad horse archers (and cataphracts), especially in his descriptions of their capabilities. These are often based on accounts by travellers, including a book translated by Hildinger himself dating to before Marco Polo's journeys. Hildinger describes horse- and bowmanship in realistic terms (unlike Grousset's fantasy of 400 yard effective range).

(I'll interject here that there is nothing sacred about having a Ph.D. in history; some of the best (non-eyewitness) historical accounts I have read have been written by persons who really like a subject and know how to research it, rather than by scholars. In fact, scholars tend to get lost at times in minutiae.  "Academic nazis" (and there are a lot of them) would disagree with me.)

The book is not exactly a military history of Central Asia, but is more an episodic account almost entirely focusing on steppe nomads--Sarmatians and Scythians, Huns, Avars, Magyars, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Mamluks, Tamerlane, Crimean Tatars, and Manchus (Jurchids). There are accounts of campaigns and of individual battles, but it is not comprehensive.

The book is written in a readable style. The few maps aren't very helpful. The section of illustrations is good.

I read this because I'm slowly working on a Central Asian version of Brit (LOTS of invasions...). It is useful, but quite insufficient on its own, for my purposes.

 

 

The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings, by John Haywood (who seems to make a career of historical atlases) has both interesting maps and reading, more detailed than the maps I've seen elsewhere. Purchased at Amazon.  Realizing how much the back-and-forth of history gets lost in a game like Britannia, I sometimes wonder if, should I live long enough, I'll make a much more detailed version of the game. But who'd want to play an eight hour game? Everything seems to be going toward simplicity, except in computer games. Nonetheless, this book will help, and with my Viking game(s) as well.

 

 

 

The Historical Atlas of the Celtic World by John Haywood. Thames & Hudson (UK) (purchased at Amazon USA with a considerable delay in shipping). Uses the typical layout of a Haywood Atlas, photos, text, and map on a two-page (usually) spread, with callouts (more or less) pointing to specific points of interest on the map.

 

 

  For strategic-level historical games in Europe this is excellent, more detail than you normally get in a broader-based historical atlas, about the Gauls, Irish, Welsh, Scots and Picts, Bretons. One of the maps finally made me realize that Mar, in Britannia, could just as well be lowland as difficult terrain (though I haven't changed it in Brit II) . . .
 

 

 

The Columbia Companion to British History, edited by Juliet Gardiner and Neil Wenborn (840 pages hardcover). An encyclopedia, more or less. I'm using this to look up obscure references associated with Britannia and History of the British Isles. It covers the period up to 1979. Purchased used through Amazon.

 

 

 

A History of Venice, John Julius Norwich. Vintage Books (Random House) paperback 1989 (purchased at Amazon). 673 pages. Norwich writes hiSTORY, telling a story of people and events, with sympathy for the "characters" of the story. Consequently, Norwich's histories can be quite entertaining and even riveting. He rarely provides or deeply analyzes statistical information. I had no idea what a long history Venice has, nor how much it resembled ancient Athens.

 

 

 

A Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich. Based on his three-volume History. Vintage Books, 1999, paperback 431 pages. Perhaps the three volume version provides more discussion of causes other than poor rulers and good ones (but in Byzantium's case, much more than with Venice, the rulers made a big difference). At one page per nearly three years of history, there's limits to what you can do.

 

 

 

Break Into The Game Industry: How to Get A Job Making Video Games by Ernest Adams. McGraw-Hill Osborne Media; 2003. Paperback. Outstanding. I used this as a textbook in my Intro to Gaming Class, and was very pleased with the quality of advice. Read it if you're interested in making video games as a career.

 

 

 

Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design New Riders; 1st edition (May 2003)  Paperback: 648 pages. My other textbook, and just as outstanding. Rollings and Adams have really thought about and analyzed games and gameplay. Just plain good reading, as well.

  
 Crawford, Chris.  Chris Crawford on Game Design.  New Riders, 2003.  I listened to Crawford speak at Origins about thirty years ago, and listened to him again in 2004 at a teachers' conference.  He is a man of strong opinions and unusual ideas, one of the early computer game creators.  As far as I have read, a very interesting book.
  
 Schmittberger, R. Wayne.  New Rules for Classic Games.  Wiley, 1992, out of print (I got a used copy through Amazon).  245 page trade paperback, does just what it says, and enjoyable to read.