20 Best Books for Game Designers

In this article, we'll look at 20 of the best books that are highly recommended for game designers who want to deepen their knowledge and experience in the field.
20 Best Books for Game Designers

In the fast-paced game development industry, it is essential for aspiring game designers to stay ahead of the curve. From creating narratives and designing gameplay to testing and analysis, mastering the art of game design requires both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. One of the best ways to gain this experience is to learn from industry veterans and study the most influential books in the field.

In this article, we'll look at the top 20 books every game designer should read to gain a comprehensive understanding of their specialty. These books have been carefully selected for their influence on the industry, expert advice, and ability to cover a wide range of game design principles and mechanics. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, these books will provide you with invaluable information and resources to enhance your game design expertise.

If you're ready to dive into the exciting world of game design and expand your horizons, we at Devtodev invite you to check out our list of 20 best books that are sure to take your game design skills to the next level.

1. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

The art of game design Jesse Schell

The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell is commonly referred to as the Bible of the game design world. The book takes you through the entire game development process, providing step-by-step instructions for developing fun and innovative games that will keep players coming back for more. This book not only explains the core principles of game design but also showcases how strategies employed in traditional board games, card games, and sports can also be effectively applied in high-quality video games.

2. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Game

game design workshop Tracy Fullerton

Game Design Workshop by Tracy Fullerton is a highly regarded and comprehensive guide for aspiring game designers. This book takes a playcentric approach, emphasizing the importance of player experience throughout the design process. This workshop delves into the core components of game design, equipping you with the tools to prototype, playtest, and refine your own games.

3. Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design

level up Scott Rogers

Written by renowned video game expert Scott Rogers, this must-have book offers a fresh and practical approach to game design. Rogers, drawing on his extensive experience working on popular games such as Pac Man World, Maximo, and SpongeBob Squarepants, presents clear and concise examples, showcasing his expertise in an accessible and visually appealing manner. Immerse yourself in this book to gain practical solutions to game design problems, presented through Rogers' illustrations and hands-on experience.

4. A Theory of Fun for Game Design

a theory of fun for game design Raph Koster

The book introduces readers to various aspects of game design, including storytelling, interactivity, visuals, sound, and more. Raph Koster emphasizes the importance of game mechanics, arguing that understanding and managing these mechanics is at the core of creating successful games.

In addition, the author provides practical tips and techniques for game designers, such as how to balance difficulty levels, create clear feedback systems, and promote a sense of achievement and progress.

5. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice

The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook

Meet a practical and hands-on guide that explores the effective use of gamification in the field of education and instruction. Written by Karl M. Kapp, Lucas Blair, and Rich Mesch, this book offers strategies for leveraging game elements to enhance learning experiences.

Read more: Game Metrics for Captivating Potential Investors

6. Game Feel: A Game Designer's Guide to Virtual Sensation

game feel Steve Swink

This book shows that in game design there is an unspoken language called "feel". This language can be compared to the fundamental elements of music, such as meters, chord progressions, and verses. Just as these elements are present in all genres and eras of music, feelings and sensations are important components of game design. They combine to create a meta-sensation that draws players into the game.

7. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

rules of play Katie Salen Tekinbas

Designed for anyone interested in game development, Rules of Play serves as a resource that includes a textbook, reference book, and theory guide. The authors propose a unified model for considering all types of games: from board games and sports to computer and video games. As active participants in gaming culture, the authors have filled the book with new concepts, strategies, and methodologies for creating and understanding games.

8. Fundamentals of Game Design

Fundamentals of Game Design

Written in a clear and accessible style, the book covers various aspects essential for creating engaging and immersive games, including game mechanics, gameplay, storytelling, player experience, and prototyping. It delves into topics like game balancing, level design, user interface design, and playtesting. With its practical examples, exercises, and case studies, the book not only educates you about the theory but also helps to apply the principles in your own game design projects.

9. How to Analyze Promotional Activities in Games

how to analyze promotional activities in games

Having carefully studied countless in-game promotions, we at Devtodev have acquired comprehensive knowledge and understanding of this topic. By following the recommendations presented in this book, you can significantly improve the effectiveness of promotions in your free-to-play game and, as a result, achieve a significant increase in revenue.

10. Video Game Storytelling

Video Game Storytelling

By reading this book, you'll be able to absorb the fundamental storytelling principles needed to create truly memorable games that will keep gamers coming back again and again. 

11. Challenges for Games Designers

Challenges for Games Designers

The book presents a collection of engaging, captivating, and stimulating exercises aimed at enhancing your skills as a video game designer, regardless of your experience. Drawing from real industry insights, each chapter explores a crucial aspect of game design. Following a concise introduction to the topic, you'll find five challenges that require less than two hours to complete.

12. Start Your Video Game Career

Start Your Video Game Career

Gain insights on launching your video game career from esteemed game industry expert Jason W. Bay. Dive into a wide range of topics, from choosing a career path to polishing your resume and portfolio. Led by Jason W. Bay, embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of entering the world of video game creation.

13. Designing Virtual Worlds

Designing Virtual Worlds Richard Bartle

Designing Virtual Worlds by Richard A. Bartle is one of the most influential books that dives into the art of creating virtual worlds for video games. Bartle deeply explores the principles and techniques of creating immersive and interactive virtual environments. Covering topics such as worldbuilding, player motivation, social dynamics, economics, and immersion, the book serves as a source of knowledge for game designers, developers, and analysts.

14. Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design

Game Mechanics Advanced Game Design

Throughout the book, you'll be introduced to the various stages of prototyping, testing, and integrating mechanics into games. This book is invaluable for aspiring game designers as it provides a roadmap for creating compelling game mechanics.

15. Think Like a Game Designer

Think Like a Game Designer

A useful resource that offers practical guidance on how to develop a game designer's mindset and unleash your creative potential. With step-by-step instructions, Justin Gary takes readers on a journey through the game design process, from generating ideas and conceptualizing game mechanics to prototyping and playtesting. 

16. Designing Games: A Guide to Engineering Experiences

Designing Games A Guide to Engineering Experiences

This enlightening book takes you deep into the game design structure used in most popular games today. As you study this book, you'll gain the knowledge and strategies for creating games that evoke deep emotional responses — a combination of complex game mechanics, compelling storytelling, and exciting pacing that keeps players hooked.

17. The Role of a Great Game Designer

The Role of a Great Game Designer

This book is intended for people working in game design, regardless of their level of knowledge. It is also intended for teams, developers, and support staff who collaborate with game designers. The book offers a realistic portrayal of the tasks performed by game designers, dispelling common misconceptions about the profession.

18. In-game Store: How to Boost your Revenue

in-game store Devtodev

Traditionally, there are two main methods of generating revenue from free-to-play games: advertising and in-game stores. We at Devtodev decided to focus on the second method based on the valuable information received from our team. In this free ebook, we bring together our extensive experience in analyzing advertising and user interaction with in-game stores in various games.

19. Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping, and Development

Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping, and Development

Learn the fundamental design and development skills you need to create exceptional games using Unity. This book offers invaluable hands-on experience with modern techniques and tools, providing an unparalleled learning opportunity. Jeremy Gibson Bond, a respected indie game developer, offers in-depth coverage of the three pillars required for success in game development: game design theory, rapid iterative prototyping, and hands-on programming.

20. Principles of Game Design

Principles of Game Design

Principles of Game Design is an in-depth and informative book that examines the fundamental principles that govern the world of game design. With concise explanations and practical examples, this book provides a detailed guide to the basic principles every game designer should know.

Read more: 20 Best Books for Game Analysts

In conclusion, whether you're a novice looking to begin your game design path or a professional looking to expand your skills, these recommended books are sure to serve as essential guides on your journey.

From classics that have stood the test of time to contemporary titles that reflect the latest trends in the industry, these books cover various aspects of game design, including analytics, storytelling, game mechanics, prototyping, and player psychology. 

Read more