Originally created by Natasha Boskic

Bateman, C., & Boon, R. (2006). 21st century game design. Hingham, Mass.: Charles River Media, Inc.

This book is a result of analysis of numerous surveys and case studies on game audience. What do gamers want? How to create the best game? The beginning chapter “Zen game design”, firmly establishes the underlying philosophy of the whole book: knowing comes through experience, and all experience is relative. Just as Malcolm Gladwell says, honouring the work of Howard Moskowitz, a market researcher, “by embracing the diversity of human beings you will find a sure way to true happiness”, so do Bateman and Boon claim that the way to a successful game is not applying to the majority but to the diversity of the audience. “Not everyone plays in the say way”, they say, and, although there is nothing revolutionary in this statement, it is often overlooked by the game designers and industry. Bateman and Boon consider the psychology of play and aim towards inclusiveness.

Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of video games. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Games could be a very powerful political and educational tool. They already have their internal “procedural rhetoric”, as Bogost calls it, a way of persuasion through interactions. He offers a historical perspective on recent game developments, tackling the debate on what serious games are, and on the variety of terminology used to describe them. Bogost’s view of games as means of political, commercial and educational persuasion is elaborated through a wide range of classical rhetorical models from verbal to visual, with numerous real world examples. This book is Bogost’s contribution to videogame studies and a strong argument against seeing videogames as trivial “children’s games”. Instead, we should be aware of their expressive power. They should convince, not force, as Bogost argues.

Castronova, E. (2005). Synthetic worlds: The business and culture of online games. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Through the lenses of his background in economics, Castronova looks at the factors that influence videogames’ growing popularity. He calls these immersive environments “synthetic worlds”, playing with the notion of artificiality and realism. The two worlds, virtual and real, become so similar to each other that the players simply chose in which to live Castronova believes that artificial intelligence may soon be capable of meeting the emotional needs of the players, which may lead to an increased preference of virtual over real.

If you are interested in what the author says about his book and the future of videogames, read this interview with Edward Castronova published by the University of Chicago: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/096262in.html

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990) Flow: The psychology of optimal experience, Harper and Row, New York.

Whenever theorists and scholars try to explain what happens with a player when plying games and the reasons he/she spends hours immerged in a different world, they go back to Csikszentmihalyi and his theory of flow. His talk about his interest in the topic is a good introduction to his book, at TED http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow.html

de Castell, S., & Jenson, J. (Eds.). (2007). Worlds in play: International perspectives on digital games research. New York: Peter Lang Puplishing, Inc.

Suzanne de Castell and Jen Jenson offer us an international cross-section of human action in the world of games, or as they say the “state of play”. They start with contributions that help us define games research and look at various frameworks for their analysis. J. Murray’s prelude to Part I sets the stage. Part II explores the player’s role and experience, while the third part looks into spaces and places. The next section, Part IV, takes us into the specific issues in game design and construction. The final Part V connects games with learning, wrapping up this interesting discussion with James Gee’s question, “Are video games good for learning?”, that makes us think about the ways to merge our knowledge on good game design and good learning practices. Read more about this book on its publisher’s website.

Galloway, A. R. (2006). Gaming: Essays on algorithmic culture. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.

Alexander Galloway, a media study specialist, argues that games should be explored and theorized as a separate and unique medium, distinct from television, film or other fields. The games should be played, not just watched as movies, or listened as music. Galloway draws from various other media artifact, such as The Matrix of EgzistenZ

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gee talks about his own experience learning and using games. Through his personal story, he invites us to reconsider our ideas and concepts about cognitive development and social behaviour. He goes through a list of 36 learning principles and applies them to the practice of a videogame player. Gee argues that videogames, just as any other learning strategy teach us about agency, meaning making, social interactions and building identity. He raises a question of adequacy of our school systems to respond to current generation’s ways of learning.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Why video games are good for your soul: Pleasure and learning. Australia: Common Ground.

As Gee says, he is an old gamer, coming to the field of video games late. This means that he started playing games not when he was a little kid, just for fun and entertainment, but when he was a mature adult, to explore their value and potential for learning. Therefore, Gee approached them as an educator and a scholar. He was inspired by his nine-year old son’s passion for videogames.

In this book, Gee analyzes a number of games: Tetris and Castlevania, Full Spectrum Warrior, Thief and Riddick, Rise of Nations and The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. He explores their unique characteristics, their similarities and differences, and above all, their affordances for learning.

Gee, J. P. (2007). Good video games + good learning: Collected essays on video games, learning and literacy. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

If you would like to learn about what Gee has said about games, literacy and learning, take this book. It is a collection of essays that will give you a good insight in Gee’s thoughts on finding potentials in any game (commercial, created for learning or not, etc) and using it for learning. Gee explores student motivation, identity and agency. He also provides a balanced view on what is good and what is bad about video games. More reviews and details about the book and the author at Peter Lang publishing group website.

Harrigan, P., & Wardrip-Fruin, N. (Eds.). (2007). Second person: Role-playing and story in games and playable media. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

The main idea behind this collection of essays is to encourage the discussion about games and storytelling. The role has been shifted from the first person (see their 2004 book First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, MIT Press.) to you, a role-player and a storyteller to explore different artistic forms situated in gameworlds. Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin cunningly avoid the unsettled debate about what is what (a game, an interactive fiction, a simulation, an MMOG) calling them all “playable media”. The contributors are mainly from North America, with a few European exceptions, which gives a specific “local” tone to the collection. You can see the full table of contents and a sample chapter on the publisher’s website.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York and Lodon: NYU Press.

In Jenkins’ own words, this book “offers a basic overview of different kinds of convergences — technological, economic, aesthetic, organic, and global — which are redefining our media environment.” The complex concepts are made understandable through examples from popular culture, such as The Matrix, Survivor, American Idol, Harry Potter and many others. Jenkins discusses the power of media and talks about converging technologies and cultures at http://vimeo.com/4672634

Juul, J. (2005). Half-real: Video games between real rules and fictional worlds. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Jesper Juul examines the evolving tension between rules and fiction in video games. He adds to Salen and Zimmerman’s debate on what games are, comparing different theorists’ definitions of games in relation to the game as formal system, the player and the game and the game and the rest of the world.

Juul’s look at the games through a variety of perspectives from literature to film theory, computer science, psychology and game studies, makes this book interesting to a diverse audience from media specialist to game professionals and players. Juul argues that “the modern digital computer works as an enabler for games in the way that the printing press or cinema has worked as enablers for storytelling”.

McGonigal, J. (2008). ‘Why I love bees: A case study in collective intelligence gaming’ in K. Salen (Ed.), The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 199-228.

Murray, J. (2003). ‘Inventing the medium’ in N. Wardrip-Fruin, & N. Montfort (Eds.), The NewMediaReader Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 3-11.

Ryan, M. L. (2006). Avatars of story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

For all media theorists and those who are interested in narratives, this book will be an engaging and intriguing read. Ryan provides an overview of narrative theory evolving from traditional streams of thought to digital environments. How storytelling develops, what its relation to reality is, and what media has to do with it, are just few of the questions Marie-Laure Ryan makes us think about. Going through a number of examples from film, tv shows and interactive digital narratives, she wonders about the ways media will provide in the future, to reconcile the concepts of narrativity and interactivity.

Salen, K. (Ed.). (2008). Ecology of games: connecting youth, games, and learning. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Compared to other edited books on gaming, this one has a slightly different perspective, which makes it a fresh and an interesting read. The focus is on youth practices and digital literacy. The contributors, Ian Bogost, Anna Everett, James Paul Gee, Mizuko Ito, Barry Joseph, Laurie McCarthy, Jane McGonigal, Cory Ondrejka, Amit Pitaru, Tom Satwicz, Kurt Squire, Reed Stevens and S. Craig Watkins, explore the potentials of empowering youth through employing technology. Thanks to the support of the MacArthur Foundation, all the full texts are available for free.

Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2004). Rules of play: Game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

As its title says, this impressive book on game design is a valuable resource on design fundamentals, almost like a game primer. The authors look at games “across digital and non-digital media to understand what is common to all of them.” Numerous examples are used to illustrate human activity from ancient to contemporary times. And if over 600 pages are not enough, at the end of the sections there are suggestions for further readings. The MIT Press provides the full table of contents and some sample chapters.

Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (Eds.). (2006). The game design reader: A rules of play anthology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

The Game Design Reader is a follow-up and companion volume to Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, the MIT textbook Salen and Zimmerman co-authored in 2004. It’s a substantial book that includes 33 writings plus fourteen short introductory essays and several visual essays as well. The writings in the book come from a wide range of authors including game designers, game critics, game fans, philosophers, anthropologists, media theorists, and others. The MIT Press commentary about the anthology says it is “an invaluable resource for professionals and a unique introduction for those new to the field. The Game Design Reader is essential reading for anyone who takes games seriously”. Check the table of content and read some example chapters on their website.

Senges, M., Praus, T. and Bihr, P. (2007) Virtual Worlds: A Second Life’s Beginner’s Guide Barcelona: Universidad Oberta de Catalunya

Steinkuehler, C. (2007). ‘Massively multiplayer online gaming as a constellation of literacy practices’, in B. E. Shelton, & D. A. Wiley (Eds.), Educational design & use of computer simulation games Sense Publishers, pp. 187-214 . 

Szulborski, D. (2005). This is not a game: A guide to alternate reality gaming. New-Fiction Publishing

This is one of the rare books dedicated completely to Alternate Reality Games (ARG). It is a great introduction into the new field of ARGs. ARG is a growing subgenre of usually serious games, which blurs a thin line between reality and fantasy. Szulborski explains what they are, how they differ from other games and what takes to design them. He draws from his personal experience in developing ARGs, learning from his own mistakes and improving the design. His book is a rich source of theoretical and practical guidelines.

Turkle, S. (2005). The second self: Computers and the human spirit. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

 Turkle, S. (Ed.). (2007). Evocative objects: Things we think with. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 

Wardrip-Fruin, N., & Montfort, N. (2003). The NewMediaReader. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

This is a wonderful treasure of the texts, videos, and computer programs—many of them now almost impossible to find—that mark the history of new media from Borges and Vannevar Bush to Scott McCloud and Espen Aarseth. General introductions are written by Janet H. Murray and Lev Manovich. The book is accompanied by a CD with examples of early games, digital art, fictions and poetry and software.



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