Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Theory of Fun (?)

As I mentioned before, I've got a small list of reference material that I plan to read or access as I work through this project. One of them is A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster.

I got the book almost two weeks ago, and finished reading it almost a week ago. I've wanted to write about it earlier, but... well, I didn't know how.

I suppose you could say that I'm a fan of Koster. He was the Creative Lead on Ultima Online, my favorite game, and he has always seemed personable (in postings on the ultima mailing list) and knowledgeable (on his website). That's why it's hard to say that I was disappointed by this book.

The shortcomings of the book as a production, first: it's a half-height trade paperback, 244 pages. Half-height really cuts that down by half. A drawing on every second page does so again. A somewhat large font perhaps again. So, we've got a book of 30 pages of content. To be fair, some of the drawings convey some useful or enhancing information. So, say 50 pages? I'm glad I didn't pay the cover price.

The content is about fun in games, and I suppose I'm to blame for assuming it meant online games, or video games specifically. Still, what applies to all games, including board games or tic-tac-toe (a frequent theme in the book), should be applicable to all games, right?

I finished the book feeling like I didn't learn anything. I don't feel that I have any better idea on how to make a game fun than I did before. Does that mean that I just knew everything Koster had to say? Or that I just didn't get it?

To be fair, the book is what it claims to be: a theory of fun. Quite theoretical, I'd say, to the point of it really just analyzing the concept, but not necessarily telling you how to use the results.

I'm sorry, Raph. Perhaps I'm not being fair? Perhaps I read it too quickly, and didn't let things sink in? Perhaps it's just beyond me?

Perhaps I'll re-read it in a few months, and give it another try.

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