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Game Business Classes

Bibliography

Below are some of the books that I refer to in class. If you enjoyed that particular the class or lesson, you may want to buy the book(s) associated with it as well.

I've linked these books back to their respective order pages at Amazon.com in case you want to "look inside" them or seek any other additional information. I recommend that you build your own game developer library, particularly with books in your area(s) of specialization.


Required Textbook for All of my Courses:

This is the required textbook for all of my classes.Game Development Essentials: An Introduction
[NOW IN ITS 2ND EDITION] by
Jeannie Novak

Mr. Emrich is a cheapskate. I would never assign a course textbook unless I was sure that you could pick it to the bone for good information. Game Development Essentials: An Introduction is just that book. Over my five different classes, you'll use every bit of it, including the CD-ROM it packs.

Not only will you get 100% value out of the book during your tenure as a student at the Art Institute, it's also a darn useful read. The author, Jeannie Novak, is a teacher that I respect and has done an outstanding job of nailing down a great deal of material from her perspective. Her well researched book is very instructional by design, and has a breezy style and that reads much like my lesson Review Sheets (only in color, and with a CD-ROM supplement in the back). Between she and I, if you learn well by reading, there is plenty of great material for you to absorb and take with you into the trenches of game development. Get this book!

Required Textbook for my Game Prototyping Courses:

The Game Maker's Apprentice
by
Jacob Habgood and Mark Overmars

I'm still a cheapskate, but have found something of rare value and so require my students to acquire it as an essential part of their game prototyping education. I have found Game Maker by Mark Overmars to be an excellent tool for building myriad 2D games (using sprites and object oriented programming made easy). For a registration fee of about $25 US, you simply cannot beat the price for the marvelous tool you get.

With the publication of this book, a good thing just got a lot better. The eight tutorial games included on its CD-ROM and lessons in-between provide its owners with a one-two punch that was made for delving deeply into the 2D possibilities of this terrific product. These tools really help people who are not programmers to 'walk a mile in a game programmer's shoes.'

In total, I teach over a dozen Game Maker tutorial lessons between my two game prototyping courses, and thanks to that program and this supporting textbook, student projects are turning out better every quarter!

Here is a link to the schedule spreadsheet of when the chapters are read over these five classes.


Survey of the Game Industry

Week 1:

Oxford History of Board GamesOxford History of Board Games
by
David Parlett

Here are the origins and development of games, from the Egyptian and Asian ancestors of Chess, Checkers, and Backgammon, to the invention of such modern classics as Monopoly, Clue, and Scrabble. Parlett groups the games in different families -- such as those based on races or chases, wars or hunts, capture or blockade -- and then provides a fascinating history of each family. This book is no mere catalog of the familiar, but takes the reader into a world a games they have never known before. And not only does he describe the rules and strategies of the games, but Parlett also draws on 20 year's experience as a professional games researcher, critic, and inventor, to offer many perceptive insights into the thinking involved in creating these games. And, finally, Parlett also illuminates the significance of game-playing as a central part of human experience -- as vital to a culture as its music, dance, and literature.

Board and Table Games from Many CivilizationsBoard and Table Games from Many Civilizations
by Robert Charles Bell

This book was one used by Parlett in his research for Oxford History of Board Games (above), but is also an interesting read in its own right. Written in 1960s, this scholarly work considers games famous and obscure and considers their cultural value in addition to explaining them as games. The greatest virtue is when Bell occasionally goes off in to the world of a game's variants, which puts some designer insight into how to look at classic board game designs. If you have an unrequited curiosity about the deep roots of gaming and want to take a meaningful historical and cultural roots of our favorite pastime, then Bell's book deserves a place on your gaming library shelf.

Dice Games Properly Explained (Right Way)Dice Games Properly Explained (Right Way)
by
Reiner Knizia

Reiner Knizia is the most prolific game designer of our day and we play many of his games in my Game Design class (Formula Motor Racing, High Society, Res Publica, and The Lord of the Rings). With this book, Dr. Knizia turned his attention away from the board games and card games for which he's famous and instead focused on dice games. Throughout the book, he presents each game clearly and concisely, and then follows that presentation with strategy tips and (frequently) his own personal variations. So if you have any love for math puzzles, probability, or dice games, you'll want to investigate this book.
 

Card Games Around the WorldCard Games Around the World (Dover Books on Magic)
by
Sid Sackson

Most of us know only a handful of classic card games and are aware of only a few more, but Sid Sackson's book presents a wealth of card table enjoyment that most of us never suspected existed. Included are fascinating, exotic, and downright fun games from across Asia, Europe, and Latin America. There are more than 60 included, ranging in difficulty from easy to hard, and able to entertain anywhere from two to a tableful. The American games range from old favorites to recently created amusements--including a football card game that will keep gridiron fans going through July and August.

Sid Sackson is the "grand daddy" of famous game designers; we play is I'm the Boss game in Game Design class, but his other classics include Acquire, Sleuth, and Buy Word.

Weeks 2, 3, and 4:

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon - The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the WorldThe Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon--The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World
by
Steven L. Kent

Unfortunately, I have insufficient time to cover this historical subject in depth, but this book certainly does that; I can't recommend it highly enough. It tells many a great story, serves as a fantastic reference, and for us Baby Boomer-types it is a trip down memory lane. There are plenty of pictures, interviews with luminaries of the time, and lots of great research that is well-presented. Read the real stories all about Space Invaders, Centipede, and Pac-Man and you'll lean how they created an arcade culture that defined a generation. Some of the cool parts include:

Wargame Design: Strategy & Tactics magazine staff studyWargame Design: The History, Production, and Use of Conflict Simulation Games
(A Strategy & Tactics magazine staff study)

"Back in the day..." I often begin a story about what it was like growing up the game industry in the 1970s. This is one of those books that defined an era. Not only is it a useful (nay, essential) book for serious strategy and simulation game designers, but the section on the history of wargames was a primary source of information regarding "the great bridge" between games of antiquity and our modern first-person shooter (and most other) video game. Simulation technique in all its glory is spelled out here in clear, practical detail. Although long out of print, you can still pick up a used copy. This is one of the most indispensable books in my library.

Wargames Handbook: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional WargamesWargames Handbook: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional Wargames
by
James Dunnigan

Jim Dunnigan, "the dean of board wargaming," is the man who codified the first two rules of game design (K.I.S.S. and 'plagiarize'). He's designed dozens of games in his career and written or co-written about a score of books on matters military (both contemporary and historical). While this book has some weaknesses in the area of modern computer wargames, as a historical reference about simulation gaming during the 1950s through 80s, where Mr. Dunnigan was a central starring figure, this book is great. With so few books on wargaming available in print, this book is worth reading if you want to see how it was in the "good old days" of wargaming, when there was a large number of gamers. If you want the most up-to-date information on wargaming, this book is not a superior resource.

Chris Crawford on Game DesignChris Crawford on Game Design
by
Chris Crawford

Chris Crawford on Game Design is all about the foundational skills behind the design and architecture of a game by one of the Great Gurus of game design. Now, granted, this book reads as one large opinion piece, but it's a damned good one! In this latest edition, Mr. Crawford tells some great stories about his experiences that are sure to make you laugh. You're lucky you don't have to learn all this stuff the hard way (like he did). Instead, you can enjoy this book. It's the perfect prequel to the more contemporary works by Andrew Rollings, Ernest Adams, Pedersen, Rouse, and Bob Bates. If there was ever a "blue sky ranger" who had the vision and is living the dream, it is Chris Crawford.

Weeks 5, 6, and 7

Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business ForeverGot Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever
by
John C. Beck, Mitchell Wade

Sometimes, it takes the whole world to tell you who you are. As a future game developer, you'll be entering a world managed by old-school game geek Baby Boomers, and even most of them don't know what it's like to grow up with a controller in their hand. The defining technology of the Baby Boomers was the television; for your generation, it is the video game... and that makes you a breed apart, even in the game business itself. This book shows how you will dramatically reshape the workplace as you rise through the ranks, what your generational skills are (and they are surprisingly many and acute), and what you can actually learn from the Baby Boomers ahead of you.

According to the authors, "While many of these changes [the rise of the Gamer Generation] are positive -- such as more open communication and creative problem-solving -- they have caused a generation gap that frustrates gamers and the boomers who manage them. Got Game identifies the distinct values and traits that define the gamer generation-from an increased appetite for risk to unexpected leadership skills -- and reveals management techniques today's leaders can use to bridge the generation gap and unleash gamers' hidden potential."

Game Plan: The Insider's Guide to Breaking In and Succeeding in the Computer and Video Game BusinessGame Plan: The Insider's Guide to Breaking In and Succeeding in the Computer and Video Game Business
by Alan Gershenfeld, Mark Loparco, Cecilia Barajas

This book provides a general industry overview to put things in perspective, which where you're at right now in your education on the subject. While the section on breaking into the business is all right (and we'll cover this in a lot more detail during Senior Project Planning: Game Project Management), some of the other sections range from amusing to downright fanciful. Still, a great deal of thought went into this book, and the quotes and vocabulary building are a good introduction to learn before beginning your career making games. If you need validation that you're making the right career choice, you may well find it in these pages.

Secrets of the Game BusinessSecrets of the Game Business (Game Development Series)
by
Francois Dominic Laramee

Although much of the material from these lessons is based on my own experiences in the business, there is an excellent reference book that follows many parallel paths to the systemic production of games and those who make them. This book is a collection of very useful articles, case studies, and interviews covering all aspects of the game industry, many of which relate to the topics of these lessons, including managing game development, game publishers and developers, and taking a game to market. I would never research any of these subject without consulting this book first. It's diverse insights are like having several Mr. Emrichs in a single book. If you're serious about a career in the game business, reading this book and referencing its lessons as you progress will be one of your 'secret weapons.'

Week 8:

A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More CreativeA Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative
by
Roger von Oech

A fast and pleasant read, this book nails what makes creative people tick and how they think. Better still, it points out the problems in most people's thinking with stories, quotations, and memorable illustrations that target each lesson like a sniper's bullet.

This is an oldie but a goodie, in my opinion the best book on the subject of creative thinking and how you can get there. It remains fresh, new, and interesting every time I re-read it. The best part is, you can buy used copies cheap. I consider this book indispensable if you are plan on showing any real creativity in the entertainment business.

Week 9:

A Kick in the Seat of the PantsA Kick in the Seat of the Pants
by
Roger Von Oech

When was the last time you had a creative idea? This morning? Last month? Last year? Sometimes you need A Kick in the Seat of the Pants to get your thinking going. This book does just that by taking you on a guided tour through the four roles of the creative process-Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior.

Week 10:

Marketing WarfareMarketing Warfare
by
Al Ries and Jack Trout

There are plenty of boring, generic books on the subject of marketing. This isn't one of them. This is simply one of the greatest marketing manuals ever written because it presents the subject like a military exercise, a wargame if you will, the kind of competition that you've been bread to win since you first held a controller in your hand. Marketing is war, and this classic tome defines the strategies, plans, and campaigns of today's marketing battlefield. Although a novel (and brutal) take on the subject of marketing, this book remains a fun, breezy, and always thought-provoking read. You won't be taught this stuff in a normal, stodgy old class or book on the subject, that's why I'm recommending this to you. Yours is a generation of brilliant competitors; you need this book not to merely win but to triumph.

The Game Inventor's GuidebookThe Game Inventor's Guidebook
by
Brian Tinsman

The old school of analog games is not dead, as you learned in class, and for aspiring game inventors, avid players, and game enthusiasts, this is a superb reference. This is a bible-in-miniature overview of the analog game business, with particular help in creating your own role-playing, collectable card, miniature, and board games using a step-by-step process. Mr. Tinsman includes tips on invention, design, and the business end of selling, manufacturing, distributing, retailing, marketing, and even self-publishing analog games. My favorite part was the interviews with game inventors found throughout, plus the frequently asked questions.

If you ever wanted to start your own game company, and can only afford to begin with analog games, you must have this book.

If you're going to make analog games, this out-of-print book from 1993 is well worth tracking down a used copy of.The Game Inventor's Handbook
by Steve Peek

This book is loaded with folksy wisdom from someone I pounded the hobby streets with since the 1970s. Steve Peek has a way of expressing ideas on subjects such as inventing board games, selling them to a publisher, the joys and perils of self-publishing, what board game marketing is like, how to get your game some additional exposure, the board game markets, plus additional information that will help you navigate through the minefield that is analog game publishing.

In addition to having this book as a resource for the Survey of the Game Industry section on the analog game business, much of the wisdom herein will help you with your graded course project in Game Design as well.


Game Design

Week 1

Wargame Design: Strategy & Tactics magazine staff studyWargame Design: The History, Production, and Use of Conflict Simulation Games
(A Strategy & Tactics magazine staff study)

"Back in the day..." I often begin a story about what it was like growing up the game industry in the 1970s. This is one of those books that defined an era. Not only is it a useful book for strategy and simulation game designers, but the section on the history of wargames was a prime source of material for "the great bridge" between games of antiquity and our modern first-person shooter video game. Simulation technique in all its glory is spelled out here in all its glory. Although long out of print, you can still pick up a used copy. This is one of the most indispensable books in my library.

Wargames Handbook: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional WargamesWargames Handbook: How to Play and Design Commercial and Professional Wargames
by
James Dunnigan

Jim Dunnigan, "the dean of board wargaming," is the man who codified the first two rules of game design (K.I.S.S. and 'plagiarize'). He's designed dozens of games in his career and written or co-written about a score of books on matters military (both contemporary and historical). While this book has some weaknesses in the area of modern computer wargames, as a historical reference about simulation gaming during the 1950s through 80s, where Mr. Dunnigan was a central starring figure, this book is great. With so few books on wargaming available in print, this book is worth reading if you want to see how it was in the "good old days" of wargaming, when there was a large number of gamers. If you want up-to-date information on wargaming, this book is not a superior resource.

General Course References

A Theory of Fun is a great place to learn the essentials of making a successful game.A Theory of Fun
by
Raph Koster (forward by Will Wright)

If there is a game designer lurking anywhere in your soul, this book may not be the bible of game design, but I would certainly include it in the apocrypha (the missing books of the bible). Mr. Koster has assembled a tome that is at once insightful, poignant, and rich in detail, yet paints on the canvas of game design with light, cheerful strokes such that any reader (who is a gamer, at least) could not fail to be entranced with. Playing some games produces "game lock," where you're in "the zone;" this book is akin to that, one which cannot be put down until completion. If you ever wanted to feel good, and feel smart, about designing games and knowing how the human brain works sucking all of the fun out of them, A Theory of Fun is essential reading. I can't imagine anyone in the game industry who would not profit from enjoying this delightful book.

Here is a link to the 2005 Game Developer's Conference presentation the author gave on this subject.

Game Design Workshop: Designing, Prototyping, and Playtesting GamesGame Design Workshop: Designing, Prototyping, and Playtesting Games
by
Tracy Fullerton, Christopher Swain, Steven Hoffman

This is a great book on game design for non-engineers (and non-artists, which is me), so I heartily recommend it. It answers the question, "How do I learn game design?" The book is essentially a how-to class in game prototyping, playtesting, and redesigning, complete with exercises that teach design skills to help you develop a working understanding of the thought processes of a game designer.

Even if you're not destined to be a game designer, the workshop curriculum in this book provides the foundation for careers in producing, programming, visual design, quality assurance, and even marketing.

Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game DesignAndrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design
by Andrew Rollings, Ernest Adams

These great game designers not only reinforce the lessons of this class throughout the first half of this book, but use the second half to expand the subject into a more "advanced course." This second half discusses each of the major game genres in some detail (action, adventure, role-playing, strategy, puzzle, and so on) and identifies the design patterns and unique creative challenges that characterize each.

This book is required reading for aspiring game designers looking to fill that roll in the industry. You'll find the examples and worksheets it contains practical and easy to follow. Buy this book!


Interactive Conceptual Storytelling

Game Development Essentials: Game Story & Character Development
by
Marianne Krawczyk with Jeannie Novak

This will probably be the course textbook in the future, but for right now, it's a "must have" if you're a serious student of the subject. It's an outstanding primer and can get you thinking like an interactive storyteller.

Author Marianne Krawczyk has impressed me with her past articles and this book delivers much of her past ruminations on the subject. What I found annoying is that neither of the two ladies who collaborated on this tome know much about ancient history. They must reference Julius Caesar at least a dozen times throughout the book, each time saying that he wanted to rule to the Roman Empire. Tragically, Caesar would murdered during the days of Roman Republic. The Roman Empire would not even be established until Octavian (Caesar's adopted son) fought another entire Civil War to start bringing it about. Oh, well...

Character Development and Storytelling for Games
by Lee Sheldon

In class, I seem to cause considerable stir and some wonder at all of the old games that I remember which my students have never heard of. Like me, Lee Sheldon remembers old movies and can recite famous storylines and plots to make his points about character development and storytelling in interactive games.

Mr. Sheldon is verbose (another trait we share), but each word is well worth hanging on as he builds a very complex subject together in what seems to be a haphazard manner, yet he always pulls it together and delivers the reader safely into the lap of understanding.

If there is a torch that authors can look to in the darkness of the present state-of-the-art in game storytelling, Mr. Sheldon is holding it -- up high and for the next generation of game developers to follow. I strongly urge you hear him.


Game Project Management

Week 1

The Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon--The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the WorldThe Ultimate History of Video Games: From Pong to Pokemon--The Story Behind the Craze That Touched Our Lives and Changed the World
by
Steven L. Kent

Ultimately, I have insufficient time to cover this historical subject in depth, but this book certainly does that; I can't recommend it highly enough. It tells many a great story, serves as a fantastic reference, and for us Baby Boomer-types it is a trip down memory lane. There are plenty of pictures, interviews with luminaries of the time, and lots of great research that is well-presented. Read the real stories all about Space Invaders, Centipede, and Pac-Man and you'll lean how they created an arcade culture that defined a generation. Some of the cool parts include:

Awesome Game Creation: No Programming Required (Second Edition)Awesome Game Creation: No Programming Required (Second Edition)
by
Luke Ahearn, Clayton Crooks II

In class, I discussed the concept of giving the power to gamers to easily make their own computer games. I bought this book because I like the Game Maker software included in it that actually gives non-engineers (like me) the power to make basic computer games (include .exe files that I own and can trade or sell). The book features hands-on tutorials and "drag-and-drop" game engines so that you can make and modify your own 2D and 3D computer games. The book uses development tools like The Games Factory, The PIE 3D Game Creation System, gmax, 3D GameMaker, Milkshape 3D, and Game Maker (a favorite of mine). Limited-use versions or demos of these development tools are located on the accompanying CD-ROM (or may be downloaded from Web sites).

Week 2

Game Development and ProductionGame Development and Production (Wordware Game Developer's Library)
by
Erik Bethke

According to the blurb: this is the first handbook for game development with detailed coverage of both team management topics, such as task tracking and creating the technical design document, and outsourcing strategies for content, such as motion capture and voice-over talent. Let me add that it's also an occasionally vain and smug treatise on the subject, but it's also pretty much all that's out there on serious game project management.

Taking the presentation with a proper dose of salt, the actual content of the book is pretty good. Despite his company's current reputation and business situation, Bethke delivers a course in Game Producer 101 and Project Management all rolled into one. In effect, this book could be used as the content backbone of this course.

Week 3

Game Design Theory and PracticeGame Design: Theory and Practice (With CD-ROM)
by
Richard Rouse, Richard Rouse, Richard, III Rouse, Mark Louis Rybczyk

While this book has many virtues of its own, taking a particularly focused look at gameplay elements in game design (balancing, storytelling, non-linearity, player motivations, input/output, AI, level design, and playtesting) and featuring lots of interesting interviews of industry luminaries, I recommend it here as a superb reference on game design documentation. Effective documentation of your game idea is critical to success, and this book touches on focus, the design document (which is why I particularly recommend this tome), story bible, script, and technical specifications. A complete sample design document in the appendix illustrates the principles of good game development documentation, making it worth its rather hefty price.

Week 4

Marketing WarfareMarketing Warfare
by
Al Ries and Jack Trout

There are plenty of boring, generic books on the subject of marketing. This isn't one of them. This is simply one of the greatest marketing manuals ever written because it presents the subject like a military exercise, a wargame if you will, the kind of competition that you've been bread to win since you first held a controller in your hand. Marketing is war, and this classic tome defines the strategies, plans, and campaigns of today's marketing battlefield. Although a novel (and brutal) take on the subject of marketing, this book remains a fun, breezy, and always thought-provoking read. You won't be taught this stuff in a normal, stodgy old class or book on the subject, that's why I'm recommending this to you. Yours is a generation of brilliant competitors; you need this book not to merely win but to triumph.

Weeks 6, 7, and 8

Game Development Business and Legal GuideGame Development Business and Legal Guide
by Ashley Salisbury

Quite simply, this book is "the bomb" on the subjects of intellectual property and deal-making as it relates to game development. It not only provides the skinny on financing your own game project and protecting your own IP, but it also makes sure you understand all of the crucial legal terms and concepts that we discussed in class -- all of which can keep you out of heaps of trouble down the road.

This book has the authority of a legal mind speaking to "just plain game developers" like us. It can be understood by people without law degrees, yet gives explicit examples of copyright laws, trademarks, and what you can and cannot legally do with intellectual property.

Week 9

Get in the Game: Careers in the Game BusinessGet in the Game: Careers in the Game Industry
by Marc Mencher

This is a very user-friendly tome that provides a step-by-step system for making your entry as a career game developer. The sections about research and meeting the right industry people, which are passions of mine, are well covered.

Also, Mr. Mencher delves into "the unadvertised job market," covers self-promotion, handling interviews (including answering some of the tough questions), and negotiate a salary package. If I had to recommend only one book for your entrée into the game business, this would be it.

Break Into The Game Industry: How to Get A Job Making Video GamesBreak Into The Game Industry: How to Get A Job Making Video Games
by Ernest Adams

Ernest Adams can be a little long-winded at times, and this book is no exception. Fortunately, every word that he utters is well worth noting, and again this book is no exception.

This book could serve as a course overview of both Survey of the Game Industry as well as a reference to help you get a job in it. The key chapter, of course, focuses on the 45 pages centered on how to get a job. Here, Adams shines a lot of practical advice on the subject. There are a lot of tangential things covered in this book, which puts the job hunt aspect into perspective, but this only serves to raise the price of the essential information. Still, those 45 pages are very valuable...