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50 Books for Everyone in the Games Industry 50

Ground Glass writes "Over at Next Generation there's a comprehensive feature on the books that everyone in games should read. It's by game designer and author Ernest Adams, and attacks the medium from every possible angle. Adding these books to your Amazon wishlist could only give you a better understanding of where games have been and where they are (and should be) going."
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50 Books for Everyone in the Games Industry

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  • I guess... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Gice ( 708222 )
    As is the case with 50 xxx of anything, one has to, in this case, also seperate the wheat from the chaff. Some of those books are excellent reads, others seem like somewhat of a stretch to relate to either the interests of a gamer or a game programmer, or game theorist.
    • Re:I guess... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rachel Lucid ( 964267 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @02:50PM (#16382555) Homepage Journal
      The main complaint should be "Why are these books useful to me" versus "What the hell is RELEVANT to what I want to do?"

      World-builders and game artists will learn more from the open-ended game narratives as they will from the lone comic offering (and fuck, I can think of PLENTY of books they should've offered from that perspective), while actual business people and those looking to pitch game offerings will appreciate the history books and the more office-politic-style offerings.

      Anyone even thinking of developing the mythical 'one-developer game' could use a smattering more of the actual game design and programming, but really needs everything from the coding to the story to the interfacing, And the girl-gender books are good examples how to (and more importantly, NOT to) appeal to a specific demographic.

      The entire list, in and of itself, is useless. A breakdown of which books are relevant to which people would have been better.
  • Snow Crash. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by torpor ( 458 )

    I remember, oh how long ago now it seems (1993), visiting the makers of a very fine game (Spectre VR), a company called Velocity, who had "Snow Crash" (Neal Stephenson) as required reading for all programmers. A very fond memory indeed, sitting in Embarcadero, watching the subs and the whales in San Francisco Bay, following along to Hiro P and the gang, while I boned up on my required reading for the job. Pleasant.

    Seems to me not much has changed since then, and things (SecondLife) are pretty much as pred
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by revlayle ( 964221 )
      A "do it yourself" adventure book!
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) *
      So I say this, if you had to have one book for games programmers to read, and not 10, which would it be?

      Halliday & Resnick; Fundamentals of Physics, which isn't even on the list of 50.

      KFG
      • Nice... If you can get the math right for Fundamentals of Physics, just about all other math required for video games should be simple to pick up and learn.

        I may be biased, I've read that book.
    • Neuromancer. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So I say this, if you had to have one book for games programmers to read, and not 10, which would it be?

      J.L. Borges.

      No, really: he anticipated everything in Stephenson, Sterling, and the rest of those guys.
    • I'm sorry, I remember Snow Crash being funny, stylish, and freaking cool and not being a run-down virtual Las Vegas where the choice of avatars was limited to B, S, and M. Second Life seems to have nailed the "other people can crash your brain by uploading a virus into it" (look at any screenshot of the game, blam, BSoD in your cerebral cortex). Unfortunately, they haven't got:

      1) An Eskimo with muscles the size of small nation states and a nuclear weapon on his motocycle
      2) An Italian grandfather cum piz
  • by flonker ( 526111 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @10:55AM (#16378867)
    Printer Friendly link for those of us who hate clicking next every 2 seconds.

    http://www.next-gen.biz/index2.php?option=com_cont ent&task=view&id=3962&Itemid=2&pop=1&page=0 [next-gen.biz]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Printer friendly is people friendly, because people are printers and printers are WHALES.
  • So do people in the video game industry read anything besides the girly magazines for girly men? When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari for six years, I was considered an oddball for reading a book on project management even though I was a lead QA testers. Then again, I never considered myself to be a "game" tester. Why limited yourself?
    • by Stormie ( 708 )
      When I worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari for six years, I was considered an oddball for reading a book on project management even though I was a lead QA testers.
      I can assure you that during my couple of years in the games industry, I never came across a lead or manager who had ever read a book on project management. Or ever seemed likely to.
  • by ludomancer ( 921940 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @10:59AM (#16378931)
    You could come up with this same list of books by just visiting your local bookstore and picking up everything on games. He only mentions a few things outside of that. Disappointing.

    I'd hoped he was going to recommend reading books like, say, Charles Dickens, or some Oscar Wilde, or a science magazine. Nothing is better to draw inspiration from than media you have very little contact with already. I think if you sat a developer down with a pile of game books, and another developer down with a pile of classic literature or something, the latter would ultimately produce the more unique experience because he would be exposed to new ideas outside of the realm of interactive media.

    Just a thought.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Danse ( 1026 )
      I think if you sat a developer down with a pile of game books, and another developer down with a pile of classic literature or something, the latter would ultimately produce the more unique experience because he would be exposed to new ideas outside of the realm of interactive media.

      Nah. He'd probably just produce a game called "Moby Dick Extreeeme Whale Hunting" which would play much like the old Jaws game on Nintendo.
    • Most game developers already know how to code, and probably have ideas as to how their plots will go. Here is a great book that addresses what most game developers don't know:

      Game Development Business and Legal Guide [amazon.com] by Ashley Salisbury

      Highly recommended
    • Having read "The Rules of Play" during my schooling at The Guildhall, I can honestly say that book is a complete waste of paper. The author's tone was almost child-like, so much so I expected to see "Gee Wiz! and "COOOOL DUUUDE!" at the end of any particular paragraph... Upon seeing it listed, I immediately agreed with the above poster. Mod him up.
  • Ok, so the inspiration section includes LoTR, DND players handbook, all of the star treck series, and the hunt for red october, but doesn't include either Neuromancer, or the Matrix.....

    What with the web section, and the sociology section I would have thought at least Neuromancer would make it....
    • Agreed. Prescribed inspiration = BIG... FAT... ZZZ... Since DND is, to a large extent, a derivative of Tolkein's work anyway there is not much left on the table here. Orcs and Elves, Star Trek and The Hunt for Red October... Relatively slim pickings IMO! (And boy have some of those been done before!) Some of the most inspired games I have played* (and I am focusing on traditional elements like plot and characterization in particular) are a long way from what is recommended. *The Longest Journey, De
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by east coast ( 590680 )
        Since DND is, to a large extent, a derivative of Tolkein's work anyway there is not much left on the table here.

        Really? So you don't consider the logical mathematical structure of D&D a good model to review? As in inspiration for the types of structure that a game coder would need to understand?

        Either you don't code or you've never considered that when stuff like Telegard came out it was more about D&D than Tolkien... actually, a lot more.

        Granted D&D PHG 1st edition isn't a blueprint for cre
  • Uh huh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @11:01AM (#16378979) Homepage Journal
    Well, the article certainly has a lot of hemming and hawing over "Game Design". Just about every book ever published on the subject is included. Unfortunately, this is just a fluff piece. Reading these books won't suddenly force you to understand how to design games, they will merely provide useful tips that may or may not prove to be helpful. (Some of the tips may even be bad ideas!)

    Let me ask you, the Slashdot readers. Can anyone explain to you how to be the next DaVinci or Picasso? Can anyone tell you how to write the next great Symphony? Can anyone tell you how to make the next blockbuster movie?

    The answer in all cases should be an emphatic "No". These are the areas of artistry that reflect their creators' desire to express themselves. You can't tell someone how to do these things, you can only offer suggestions on how to polish and commercialize them.

    It's the same with video games. A *good* video game reflects the complexity and intensity of its author. It expresses things in an interactive media that can't be expressed in other ways. People wonder why Mario was such a good side scroller while something like The Rocketeer was considered bland. What made Half-Life so special when there was a market full of First Person Shooters? Why Wing Commander succeeded where so many other shooters failed.

    If you analyse these questions, the answer becomes obvious. The amatuer game designer merely plays with game mechanics with no rhyme or reason behind his changes. He may combine things that are popular, or try to cram in every cool thing he's ever seen done in a game. (With apologies to the author, 2Hard4U [sourceforge.net] is an excellent example of this.) The end result, however, feels like game mechanics squished together rather than a cohesive system.

    The master game designer has a vision in his mind of what a game should be. He only adds mechanics as required by his vision. He then tweaks and polishes and tweaks again until every last mechanic finds a balance with all the other game mechanics. The final work represents his vision for what a game should be, rather than merely a hope that combining concepts will be fun.

    I saw an interesting interview with Shigeru Miyamoto at one point. Apparently, Mr. Miyamoto had created games like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., and Zelda based on imaginings he had while walking through the nearby woods. He imagined things like trap doors in the sky, or meeting interesting creatures at the lake. He formed these concepts into little stories which he then sought to tell using the limited canvas of the electronic games platform. The result was all the little intracasies that made these games great. Mario was able to become a giant. He could climb through the sky on a beanstalk. He could smash bricks. Link grew into a man after starting from nothing. He met interesting creatures, and had to defend against enemies. So on and so forth.

    So if you want to be a game designer, you have to learn that it's about more than just the technology. You have to have a vision for what your game should be about. Once you have that vision, following it through to its logical conclusion is the only way to make a great game.
    • by xtracto ( 837672 )
      Let me ask you, the Slashdot readers. Can anyone explain to you how to be the next DaVinci or Picasso? Can anyone tell you how to write the next great Symphony? Can anyone tell you how to make the next blockbuster movie?

      I know how.

      First, you must throw away every preconception of the subject (or art) you will work on (drawing, painting, game development, etc). In the case of game development you have to erase from your mind your mind things like "game genre" and "oriented to X type of people". Of course, do
      • A blockbuster game is something like GTA. You just have to create something similar, shoot people, slap women and all that will guaranty you tons of sells.

        Hmmm... perhaps I should have used the term "Timeless Classic" rather than "blockbuster". :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jackbird ( 721605 )
          GTA:VC IS a timeless classic. It's gaming's Birth of a Nation.

          Horrendously offensive content, but so brilliant in structure and execution that it informs many, many games that followed in many, many ways.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jackbird ( 721605 )
        First, you must throw away every preconception of the subject (or art) you will work on (drawing, painting, game development, etc). In the case of game development you have to erase from your mind your mind things like "game genre" and "oriented to X type of people".

        You skipped a step. You need to bone up on Craft. Picasso was classically trained, and his early work shows him to have developed an exceptional mastery of academic painting. It was only then that he could begin to adequately address the fai

        • It's not just art that's like that... it's in every field. If there is a 'classical' tradition in a field, most of the greatest innovators that changed that tradition came up out of that tradition.

          Those who don't understand history often can't move forward. They don't know where they are, so they are doomed to repeat the mistakes of others. It may sound like a cliche, but as far as artistry goes, that is the case. If you understand a tradition fully, you can understand it's strengths and weaknesses, and the
  • The list (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The writeups are good, but here's the list for the lazy.

    THEORY
    Trigger Happy: The Inner Life of Videogames, by Steven Poole
    Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi
    Rules of Play, by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
    Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, by Jesper Juul
    Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, by Ian Bogost

    DESIGN PRACTICE
    Fundamentals of Game Design, by Ernest Adams and Andrew Rollings
    21st Century Game Design, by Chris Ba
  • ... I've got to work on leveling up my Titan Quest character, and hit the next LAN party!
  • Film Theory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Cy Sperling ( 960158 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @11:52AM (#16379803)
    I see film theory missing from that list. The movies have been around for long enough that the form has distilled a very effective common language for visual storytelling. It never ceases to amaze me how poorly many games work story-wise that could be improved with basic film storytelling techniques. Cut scenes alone are mini-movies, and yet often are missing out on the use of good editing and shot set-up. Any game that is attempting to tell a story needs to be concerned not only with script, but with visual compisition, editing and pacing, lighting, camera movement etc.
    • by sowth ( 748135 )

      You obviously have no clue why most people play video games. Most real gamers hate cut-scenes and "stories". They break up gameplay and add no real value. People play games to have interactive fun, not watch a movie.

      Camera placement should be first person (meaning where your avatar's eyes are looking, the camera points. You are supposed to be seeing through your avatar, not staring at his/her ass.)

      Visual composition in games is just recreating real world objects in a realistic fashon. If it is a decent

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Cy Sperling ( 960158 )
        Your hyperbole aside, many people play games because of story- otherwise we'd all still be playing pretty versions of Tetris. To deny that games and movies don't share some of the same territory in visual storytelling is naive. Most games nowadays do tell a story one way or another. Storytelling in games SHOULD be interactive, but that doesn't mean that the storytelling should be ham-handed and clumsy. RPGs with poor storytelling are inherently broken. Not every game is a 1st person shooter clone. You
        • by sowth ( 748135 )

          So I guess we're calling any post which disagrees with you a hyperbole?

          So you are saying Pac-Man was a pretty version of Tetris? Donkey Kong? What about Unreal or Unreal Tournament? Or Quake? Doom? Those games may have had something resembling a story or plot, however they were pretty much a joke. Gamers loved those games because they had fun gameplay and some of them had an immersive environment.

          I used GTA as an example because of the gameplay, not the perspective. In fact, the only version I played wa

  • by Bones3D_mac ( 324952 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @12:00PM (#16379949)
    I read the original version of this one back when it had the longer title, Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children, about twelve years ago. It's a pretty entertaining read and even goes back into Nintendo's history prior to their entry into the video game industry. (For those who don't already know, Nintendo was already several decades old, prior to their entry into the video games arena, as a playing card manufacturer.)

    Most interesting of all though, is how they describe Hiroshi Yamauchi throughout the book. He almost has mafia-like qualities about him and apparently operated the company in that manner, taking no crap from anyone.

    Definitely worth a look if you're into what goes on behind the curtain of the company that gave us Mario.
    • Seconded. I first read the "Press Start to Continue" version of the book after finding it in the clearance bin at Gamestop for $2. It is just as informative on the history of Nintendo as a video game empire, as it is on the diverse personalities that broght it about.

      Sadly, the book seems to be out of print now, but it is still in demand. My $2 paperback seems to be going for insane prices on Amazon's secondhand market, from $35 to almost $200... now I wish I'd bought the rest out of that clearance bin!
    • (For those who don't already know, Nintendo was already several decades old, prior to their entry into the video games arena, as a playing card manufacturer.)

      Of course, by "several decades" you mean "nearly ten decades".

      • Yeah, I forgot whether or not it had been an entire century or not. I knew it was somewhere in that ballpark though.
    • I love that book. I read the second edition, updated with Gumpei Yokoi's passing. I was only 12 at the time though, but what stuck to me was the story about Howard Lincoln and Minoru Arakawa going to Russia to secure the rights to Tetris. They ended up in a crappy hotel room and played poker (or some other card game) to figure out who got the one bed. It reminded me that these people were human, and not just the Gaming Gods that gave us great games.
  • Use this link [next-gen.biz] for the printable version on one page, instead of ten tiny pages full of banner ads.

  • Death March (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mad.frog ( 525085 ) <steven AT crinklink DOT com> on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @01:24PM (#16381265)
    Having worked in said industry long enough to know better, I can unequivocally say the one book I WISH I had read prior to taking said job is "Death March -- The Complete Software Developer's Guide to Surviving 'Mission Impossible' Projects" by Edward Yourdon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Death-March-Developers-Impos sible-Computing/dp/0130146595 [amazon.com]
  • who don't want to wait for the movie versions, here they are...

    Tron -- Required viewing.
    Matrix -- Required viewing after Tron.
    Dungeons and Dragons -- Required viewing.
    LotR -- Required viewing after Dungeons and Dragons.
    Star Wars 1-3 -- Required viewing (sorry).
    Star Wars 4-6 -- Required viewing after SW 1-3.
    Star Trek: the Movie -- Required viewing.
    Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan -- Required veiwing after Star Trek: the Movie.

    I could keep going, but what's the point...

    Required gaming would be a better subject and
    • I think we're confusing 'geek pop culture' with REQUIRED reading for games. I appreciate the list, but none of these are required - only a good understanding of mechanics and the 'classical' notion of games design is required, not content that appeals to an oversaturated demographic. In fact, I ascribe to a philosophy of 'dont get boxed in by other people's ideas'. Watch these movies 1000 times each, and every game you design will be exactly like these movies - completely derivative. Never watch them, and y
    • by Hakubi_Washu ( 594267 ) <robert.kosten@gmail . c om> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @06:50AM (#16390869)

      I fully agree that a "Required Gaming" list should accompany the "Reading" and "Watching" ones, so I decided to try and come up with one. I have separated the list into categories (I wouldn't call them genre) and within each category I suggest playing the games in order. And, yes, there are exactly 50 in this list.

      Required Gaming
      Arcade

      This category in a way even more dead than the platformer below, but some classics have to be played nonetheless.

      1. Space Invaders
      2. Pacman

      First person Shooters

      Naturally this is what many people think about first, when they hear the term "Computer Game", basically because it's the category most closely associated with 3D-Engines, which get most of the press for years now.

      1. Doom II - If you even have to ask why you should play this one, get the biz out of your head
      2. Die by the sword - A good look at "mature" in the early days, with detachable limbs and a swear voice pack
      3. Half-Life - A nice introduction to story in FPSs
      4. Manhunt - How to make even bloodthirsty players cringe
      5. Unreal Tournament
      6. Doom 3 - How to make one big engine show-off that gets really old really fast

      Platformers

      While this category is practically dead now, it was of great influence in the gaming middle-ages and could offer opportunities for those with a creative idea.

      1. Prince of Persia - the original, please, not the 3D versions
      2. Duke Nukem 2 - so you understand where that character came from
      3. Commander Keen, Keen Dreams
      4. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 - How to clone Sonic and make a cooler game at the same time

      Beat'em Ups

      Well, they're brainless fun, nothing more to say, playing just a couple should suffice IMHO.

      1. Mortal Kombat
      2. Tekken 3
      3. Soul Calibur

      Simulations

      This is a difficult category, as many games in it could be listed elsewhere or not be considered "games" per se.

      1. Sim City
      2. Sim City 4 - To get an idea about progress in the series
      3. The Sims - The best-selling video game ever, like it or not
      4. Microsoft Flight Simulator (any newer version)

      Strategy Games

      I have to admit not knowing much about these, a the category doesn't appeal to me.

      1. Dune 2000
      2. Command & Conquer
      3. Age of Empires
      4. Darwinia - I don't understand what the fuzz is about, I find this game terrible, but people seem to enjoy it, and be it for its perceived independence
      5. Master of Orion 2

      Adventures

      Now this category might be a bit overrepresented due to my love for it, but claims of its death are greatly exaggerated.

      1. Zak McKracken - Nothing beats using your CashCard with the sign on the yak to reach the airport in Katmandu
      2. Monkey Island
      3. Monkey Island 2
      4. Monkey Island 3 - You really need to get the progression to this point
      5. Monkey Island 4 - How to alienate all your fans by going 3D
      6. Sam & Max
      7. Star Trek Judgement Rites - On logical puzzles instead of funny ones
      8. The dig - On serious adventures
      9. Kana little sister - Technically a japanese dating simulation, this is a great example of how to evoke emotion (Hey, I cried at the end, something no other game ever managed to do)
      10. Myst - Before the sims, this was the best-selling video game, like it or not as well
      11. Riven - The sequel to Myst and probably the reference in logical puzzle design, immersion, both graphically and sound related and compelling, though difficult for impatient or reading-/listening-challenged gamers to discover, story
      12. Daemonica - A budget title, but with great mood, evocative narration, etc.

      Roleplaying Games

      While I love Pen & Paper gaming, computers always pose a problem, because they can't react like a human could. I feel thus compelled to include few titles that don't deserve the categorization, but would commonly be given it by game

      • by grumbel ( 592662 )
        Some additions:

        Adventures:
        - The Last Express (to see an adventure that plays in realtime instead of waiting for the player to act)
        - Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (dito, but implemented in a different way)
        - Façade (dito, also shows that storys don't need monsters and crazy to be interesting)
        - The Longest Journey

        Strategy:
        - XCom:UFO (best thing that ever happened in the genre, great demonstration on how to combine different modes of gameplay into a single game)
        - Syndicate (to see that RTS can be much more th
        • Making lists like this is seriously flawed.

          Neither of your lists include Tetris, Street Fighter II, Super Mario 64, Tomb Raider, any Final Fantasy game or any sports game. All of which would be very important for your "required gaming" list.

          I'd love to see someone try to make a real list of "canon" games someday though.
  • I'll wait forever on that Katamari art book, won't I? Not prepared to die so young.
  • In the book is entitled From Barbie to Mortal Kombat, then why is it Sarah Bryant next to Barbie on the cover?

Is a computer language with goto's totally Wirth-less?

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