January 4, 2005

A Theory of Fun

by Nick Montfort · , 5:00 pm

Looks like A Theory of Fun for Game Design, by game designer Raph Koster, is now out, as Andrew mentioned it soon would be. Perhaps that explains why Koster didn’t update his blog in 2004.

Slide: ...games will never be mature as long as the designers create them with complete answers to their own puzzles in mind. The book, which I haven’t yet gotten to ogle [Update, 2004-01-25: I’ve reviewed A Theory of Fun, after successfully finding it a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. See also the discussion below this post, for some of Raph’s comments.], is an enlarged and illustrated version of his 2003 Austin Game Conference keynote speech, [PDF] which is similarly named. His slides are laid out and illustrated in a pretty amusing way, can be read quickly, and do a good job of concisely expressing a philosophy of game design, and a perspective from which there is no divide between seeing “games as art” and “games as games.” It’s certainly worth taking a few minutes to flip through those. While Koster doesn’t distinguish all the different dimensions of gaming very well – collapsing “puzzle” into “game” in a way that loses some of the nuances of these two things, mixing the pure interpretation and resonance of art with the additional understanding and operation of a computer game – this clearly isn’t a work on the scale of Rules of Play, and such conflations aren’t fatal to it. The slides are more of a manifesto than a treatise, and they make an interesting statement.

Koster writes that the book’s ubiquitous penguin and alligator will soon appear on “t-shirts and mousepads,” perhaps in time for A Theory of Merchandizing.