How do you become the best writer?
You read a lot of books and write a lot of content!
What if I wanted to become the most popular YouTuber?
You watch a lot of videos and make a lot of your own!
Now, what about becoming a game designer?
Well, that’s the fun one – you PLAY a lot of games, both good and bad so you learn what to do, and what not to do. You also come up with your own ideas, character, stories, designs, rules – and make your own games!
Practice makes perfect, right?
But if you are looking for some shortcuts – you must also learn from the best people out there, who already made all those mistakes and shared them – so you don’t have to!
Now, it doesn’t mean that if you read all these books you won’t make any mistakes!
Oh, you will…
But you will also avoid so many, as they will now be obvious and silly to you!
So, pick a book that interests you the most – and make some awesome games for the world to play.
All you need is passion, willingness and one of these sick books 😉
Online Video Game Design Courses To Help You Learn Faster:
- 20+ Hours Long course that covers EVERYTHING game design related;
- This is a course for people who are truly serious about learning game design and are dedicated.
- It covers everything from making your first game, character design, working in Unity and much more!
- Has 180+ courses on Game Design Topic.
- Over 975+ results found under “Game Design”
Note: PluralSight has combined everything for you that truly feels like an organized course, the other 2 sites are amazing as well but you will have to do some more research and piece it together.
My favorite places to buy books:
Amazon (a great resource that allows super fast shipping to your home if you have Prime, and lets you flip through some books to see what is actually on the inside! As well as, let’s not forget reviews from people who already purchased what you are deciding on!)
BookOutlet (with the BookOutlet, the books are super affordable and sometimes the price is on sale for up to 75%. The only thing is, that they don’t always have the items you are looking for in stock, but if you are willing to go there from time to time you might get lucky 😉 )
25 Best Video Game Art Design Books
1. The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition (+actual deck of lenses)
This is the book EVERYONE is talking about – and it lies on the shelves of so many amazing creators!
Some even refer to it as a “bible” for game designers! 🙂
- The book is written by Jesse Schell – a professor of game design, formerly a creative director( + designer, programmer and manager on several projects) for The Walt Disney games;
- 600 pages of amazing insightful content;
- The book takes a “lens” approach – these are the questions that a game designer needs to answer to create the best game design possible!
- There are 100 questions (lenses) in the first edition and an additional 12 in the second!
- These “lenses” cover a variety of questions related to the game itself, psychology, architecture, music, film, visuals, writing, anthropology an so much more!
- The deck of lenses can be purchased separately for easy referencing here.
- The book is written by Tracy Fullerton – an American game designer, educator, and writer;
- 535 pages of educational content;
- The book is based on the core game design curriculum taught at the USC Interactive Media & Games Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
- It focuses on exercises you can do to improve, without programming or artistic expertise;
- There are many amazing contributors in this book, such as Keita Takahashi (game designer and artist, most known for Katamari Damacy and We Love Katamari), Elan Lee (game designer, developer and creator – designs games for XBOX and helped create world’s first Alternate Reality Game), Xinghan Chen ( video game designer of award-winning games Cloud, Flow, Flower, and Journey.) and many other professionals!
- Written by Raph Koster – an American entrepreneur, game designer, and author, the lead designer of Ultima Online and the creative director behind Star Wars Galaxies.
- 300 pages full of tips and ideas;
- Not a typical how-to book, that focuses on new ways of thinking about game design;
- It will help you create games that are highly addictive, entertaining, and engaging;
- You will discover the most important elements used to build the most successful games;
- Written by Scott Rogers – game designer most known for designing the hits Pac Man World, Maxim vs. Army of Zin, SpongeBob Squarepants and more;
- 552 pages of awesome content;
- It is easy to read for beginner and advanced designers;
- It covers the entire video game creation process from developing marketable ideas to understanding what gamers want and monetizing;
- Creating games for mobile devices and search consoles;
- Written by the top game designers Flint Dille– an American writer and designer best known for Transformers, G.I. Joe, and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West; John Zuur Platten – worked as a production coordinator on a number of series including Lassie and Harry and the Hendersons;
- 272 pages of great content!
- Covers ideas beyond the basics;
- Focuses on creating games that involve the player and their emotional experiences;
- Covers topics from storyline to presenting a pitch to developers and publishers.
6. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education
- Written by Karl Kapp – a professor, analyst, speaker, learning expert and designer of instructional games and gamification.
- 336 pages of awesome content;
- Accessible, engaging and filled with real-world game examples;
- Covers the principles of learning, marketing, and behavior;
- Evolves around 4 important topics: Elements critical for players, theory, matching game content with game design, the design and the development of a game.
- Written by Karl Kapp (read more about him in the previous book’s description), Lucas Blair (game designer, educator and founder of Little Bird Games) and Rich Mesch (Senior Director of Customer Engagement, worked in the field for over 25 years);
- 480 pages filled with educational content;
- Step-by-step Field Book that is a guide to concepts provided in the previous book. They go hand in hand.
- It is filled with tips, tricks, examples, and worksheets to help you put the ideas into practice.
- Written by Steve Swink – game designer and educator;
- 376 pages filled with great content;
- This book revolves around the “feel” of a game that is described as a hidden language which is what makes a game successful. “The feel” is being compared to building blocks of music;
- Topics covered here are: the role of sound, the importance of metaphor, how players perceive things and a brief history of the “feel” in games;
- It also goes into depth about the 6 key components that create a virtual sensation and a lot of exercises for readers to complete n order to figure out the best way to design a game.
- Written by Katie Salen Tekinbaş (professor and researcher) and Eric Zimmerman (game designer, writer and academic);
- 688 pages of amazing content;
- This book is filled with new concepts, strategies, and methodologies for creating and understanding games;
- Authors define core concepts such as “play”, “design”, and “interactivity”;
- They also go in depth about the 18 “game design schemas” that define games. These schemas include games as a storytelling medium, as sites of cultural resistance and as contexts for social play.
- 340 pages of educational and entertaining content;
- Great for professionals and beginners alike;
- Filled with enjoyable and challenging exercises that will train you to great better video games;
- Every chapter covers an important topic for game designers and has 5 challenges that don’t take much time to complete and don’t require any programming skills or a computer.
- This book can be completed chapter after chapter, or you can also jump around to focus on what you enjoy the most;
- Written by
- 192 pages of thought-provoking content;
- This book is all about exploring new ways of game design that evokes strong emotions for players;
- She argues that games play a powerful role in creating empathy and other strong, powerful and positive emotional experiences;
- This book is filled with studies, concepts, and examinations from many games and how they can create such a big positive impact on a player;
- She describes how designers use physical movement and choice of flow to enhance player’s emotional experiences;
- Written by Michael Salmond – a digital interaction designer, video game artist, and digital theorist.
- 272 pages of inspiring content;
- This book focuses on the integration of core design principles for game designers such as: level design, prototyping, critical analysis, mechanics and aesthetics;
- It is filled with examples from award-winning studios, and different perspectives from game industry professionals (with a lot of interviews!);
- Each chapter ends with a workshop to help you absorb what you learned and put it in practice;
- It also includes over 200 images from some of the best-selling creative games in the market for the past 30 years;
- Written by George Skaff Elias, Richard Garfield, and K. Robert Gutschera – three of the most prominent game designer today.
- 336 pages of educational content;
- Focuses on understanding games through certain traits: rules, number of players, degrees of luck and skill needed as well as reward/effort ratio;
- Revolves around the inner workings of the game;
- Filled with exercises and examples from a wide variety of game genres.
- Written by Chris Solarski – BA in Computer Animation and currently develops his own video games under Solarski Studio.
- 240 pages of inspiring content;
- Supports and explains the idea that games are a work of art;
- It goes on to examine the connection between traditional art and video games in order to create more variety and emotional experiences in games;
- This book covers basic and advanced drawing skills techniques and how they can be implied in the gaming world;
- Written by Robert Denton Bryant – video game developer and publisher, and Keith Giglio – screenwriter, designer and a producer.
- 232 pages of amazing content;
- This book is aimed at game creators who want to tell better, emotionally involving great stories;
- It is filled with a lot of lively discussions and self-paced exercises;
- It covers writing great game characters, making the game emotionally meaningful and bringing your game’s world to life.
- Can Be Purchased on Amazon and you can also try BookOutlet.
- Written by Colleen Macklin – game designer, founder and co-director of PETLab, and John Sharp – a designer, art historian, curator and educator;
- 288 pages of awesome content;
- This book is play-focused and process-oriented that links the concepts and elements of play to the practical tasks of game design;
- It is filled with colorful examples that illustrate how real game designers think and work;
- It focuses on practical details that will guide you step-by-step from a simple idea to a finished design;
- This book is great for beginners and professionals alike, and covers: core elements of design, tools, types of play, brainstorming, prototype, rules and much more!
- Written by Evan Skolnick – a game developer with over 25 years of experience, his works include Marvel, Activision, Lucasfilm and more;
- 208 pages of awesome content;
- This book is an easy-to-follow guide to storytelling basics and how they are applied at each step in the game development process;
- It breaks down the key roles in game development showing how a team is sharing the work and responsibilities;
- This book also goes into depth of creating a game that is gripping, memorable and entertaining.
- Written by Matthew Omernick – lead artist, and has more than 7 years of industry experience as a 3D artist;
- 320 pages of awesome content;
- This book teaches you everything about the planning, modeling, texturing, lighting effects, and interface design that go hand in hand with game designing;
- It is full of explanations, tutorials, and real-world documentation to improve your understanding of workflow, tools and techniques required to be a successful game artist;
- Whether you are using Photoshop, 3ds max, Maya, or any other computer graphics software, you’ll find a lot of information that you can continue to come back to again and again.
- Written By Keith Burgun – game designer, writer, composer and visual artist;
- 188 pages of thought-provoking content;
- The author uses philosophy to analyze the history of games and modern trends as well as to design games;
- This book gives you real answers about what games are and how they work;
- With the ideas provided here you will be ready to create fun games;
- Written by Ernest Adams – programmer, producer, game designer and design consultant with over 22 years of experience;
- 576 pages of educational content;
- This is the third edition of his “Fundamentals of Game Design”;
- The book provides a lot of information for you to learn all the fundamentals of concept development, gameplay design, core mechanics, user interfaces, storytelling, and balancing;
- Learn more about indie-developers and how they are pushing the envelope;
- Adam walks you through the process of designing a game, from initial idea to the final tuning;
- Full of engaging exercises, design worksheets and case studies;
- Written by Robert Nystrom – has been programming for over 20 years;
- 354 pages of educational content;
- This book collects proven patterns to untangle and optimize your game, organized as independent recipes so you can pick just the patterns you need;
- It helps you complete a game, as it fights the complexity and overwhelming;
- You will learn how to write a robust game loop, how to organize your entities using components, and take advantage of the CPUs cache to improve your performance;
- Written by Frans Mayra – Professor of Games Studies and Digital Culture;
- 208 pages of awesome content;
- This is a core textbook for game studies as an academic discipline;
- Introduces the reader to the history and characters of games as a significant and dynamic cultural construct;
- This book shows how to analyze games by introducing the core analytical concepts;
- Written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – is a Hungarian-American psychologist widely recognized for his “flow” concept;
- 336 pages of thought-provoking content;
- This book reveals that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying – it is a state of consciousness called flow;
- “Flow” is a state in which a person typically experiences deep enjoyment, creativity, and a total involvement with life;
- This book shows you how to control this state – and therefore design amazing and involving games;
- Written by John Pearl – a Design Director and a co-founder of Gunfire Games, with over 18 years of experience;
- 247 pages of amazing content;
- This book is a guide that walks you through the first step of making a portfolio, to acting the job interview and beyond;
- It also explores a variety of art-related jobs and their possibilities;
- Each chapter is filled with questions and answers to the industry professionals for reader’s better understanding and growth;
- It is an ultimate roadmap from the beginning of your career to making the best decisions to help you grow and stay excited;
- Written by Celia Hodent – a leader in the application of user experience (UX) and cognitive science in the game industry with a PhD in Psychology and over 10 years of experience in the development of UX strategy and processes in video game studios;
- 266 pages of great content;
- UX is the whole experience a player gets from playing a video game – from the first time they open it, to menu navigation and throughout the whole progression in the game;
- So many games have a successful launch – but then fail to deliver the expectations and retain a player for a long time, and this book is here to help you understand the gamer’s brain – the capabilities, limitations, interactions, and emotions;
- These insights will help a game designer to identify the ingredients needed for a successful game – and then use them to develop their own unique game recipe and provide a better experience for their audience;
That will be all for the list of 25 Best Video Game Art Design Books!
I hope you find the one that will truly resonate with what you are trying to learn/achieve.
And if you are really serious about learning GAME DESIGN – I suggest checking out PluralSight and getting to work!
All the best,
-Your Art Bud 😉
Blog Posts to check out next → ”Best Resources For Artists”