The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell

November 6, 2014
Publisher: A K Peters/CRC Press
ISBN: 978-1466598645

From the Amazon website:

Good game design happens when you view your game from as many perspectives as possible. Written by one of the world's top game designers, The Art of Game Design presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, visual design, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, puzzle design, and anthropology.

  • Describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design
  • Demonstrates how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in top-quality video games
  • Contains valuable insight from Jesse Schell, the former chair of the International Game Developers Association and award-winning designer of Disney online games


The Art of Game Design, Second Edition gives readers useful perspectives on how to make better game designs faster. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again.


This is a bunch of notes and quotes from the first edition of the book The Art of Game Design:

  • The designer creates an experience. The game enables the experience, but it is not the experience.
  • The most important skill for a game designer is listening. Game designers must listen to his/her team, audience, game, client, and self.
  • Games are worthless unless people play them.
  • Games are interactive: the player has control over pacing and sequence of events.
  • Game-based experiences: feeling of choice, feeling of freedom, feeling of responsibility, feeling of accomplishment, feeling of friendship, etc.
  • Designers care more about how things feel and less about what is really true. Because of this, designers can often trust their feelings and instincts regarding the quality of an experience. 
  • Bad games have little challenge, or too much challenge.
  • When we are mentally "in the game" we have very different thoughts, feelings, and values than when we are "out of the game".


  • Psychology: behaviorists (measurable behavior as an experiment) vs. phenomenologists (the nature of human experience / introspection).
  • Cultural anthropology: the study of living peoples' ways of life, mostly through fieldwork ("what it feels like to be the subject of the study"?)
  • Introspection: the act of examining your experiences as they happen.
  • Subjectivity: what is true of my experiences may not be true for others ("I like playing this game, therefore it must be good"). Solution: listen to your audience, try to put yourself in their place. How your experince differs from theirs?
  • Essential experience - a key feature that defines experience and make it special.
  • Things that have value inside the game have value only inside the game (endogenous value) such as score, collected objects, etc.


  • Stop thinking about your game and start thinking about the experience of the player.
  • You must be able to clearly state what you like, what you don't like, and why.
  • Introspection: When you play a game, analyze how it made you feel, what it made you think of, what it made you do. You must be able to describe it. Observe yourself as if you were siting outside yourself. Practice this skill anywhere.
  • Analyze memories of an experience.
  • Capture an essential experience. The essential experience can be delivered in a form that is very different from a real experience.
  • Fill your game with interesting surprises and challenging goals, entice the players curiosity ("What happens when I finish this level?"), allow them to solve problems ("How can I complete this level?").