January 4, 2005
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.