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Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals

by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
Pub Date:
Hbk 688 pages
AU$172.00 NZ$179.13
Product Status: In Stock Now
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& Academics:
As pop culture, games are as important as film or television--but game design has yet to develop a theoretical framework or critical vocabulary. In Rules of Play Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman present a much-needed primer for this emerging field. They offer a unified model for looking at all kinds of games, from board games and sports to computer and video games. As active participants in game culture, the authors have written Rules of Play as a catalyst for innovation, filled with new concepts, strategies, and methodologies for creating and understanding games..

Building an aesthetics of interactive systems, Salen and Zimmerman define core concepts like ''play,'' ''design,'' and ''interactivity.'' They look at games through a series of eighteen ''game design schemas,'' or conceptual frameworks, including games as systems of emergence and information, as contexts for social play, as a storytelling medium, and as sites of cultural resistance.

Written for game scholars, game developers, and interactive designers, Rules of Play is a textbook, reference book, and theoretical guide. It is the first comprehensive attempt to establish a solid theoretical framework for the emerging discipline of game design.

''Rules of Play is an exhaustive, clear, cogent, and complete resource for understanding games and game design. Salen and Zimmerman describe an encyclopedia of game design issues, techniques, and attributes. In particular, they analyze the elements that can make a game experience richer, more interesting, more emotional, more meaningful, and, ultimately, more successful. It should be the first stop you make when learning about game design.''
--Nathan Shedroff, author of Experience Design

''Rules of Play makes a monumental contribution to the development of game theory, criticism, and design. It will instantly become a standard textbook in the field on the basis of its rigor and scope--yet it is written in such an engaging style that many will read it for pleasure. Salen and Zimmerman do for games what Sergei Eisenstein did for cinema--offer an expert practitioner's perspective on central aspects of the aesthetics and cultural importance of an emerging medium.''
--Henry Jenkins, Director of Comparative Media Studies, MIT

''This is the most impressive book on game design I've ever seen. Broad in scope yet rich in detail, Rules of Play sets a new standard for game analysis.''
--Will Wright, Game Designer of Sim City and The Sims

Frank Lantz
Sample Chapter - Download PDF (113 KB) ix

Sample Chapter - Download PDF (125 KB) xiii

1 About This Book
Sample Chapter - Download PDF (162 KB) 1

2 The Design Process 11

Commissioned Essay
Reiner Knizia 22

UNIT 1: Core Concepts 28

3 Meaningful Play 30

4 Design 38

5 Systems 48

6 Interactivity 56

7 Defining Games 70

8 Defining Digital Games 84

9 The Magic Circle 92

10 The Primary Schemas: RULES, PLAY, CULTURE 100

Commissioned Game
Richard Garfield 106

UNIT 2: Rules 116

11 Defining Rules 118

12 Rules on Three Levels 126

13 The Rules of Digital Games 140

14 Games as Emergent Systems 150

15 Games as Systems of Uncertainty 172

16 Games as Information Theory Systems 190

17 Games as Systems of Information 202

18 Games as Cybernetic Systems 212

19 Games as Game Theory Systems 230

20 Games as Systems of Conflict 248

21 Breaking the Rules 266

Commissioned Game
Frank Lantz 286

UNIT 3: PLAY 298

22 Defining Play 300

23 Games as the Play of Experience 312

24 Games as the Play of Pleasure 328

25 Games as the Play of Meaning 362

26 Games as Narrative Play 376

27 Games as the Play of Simulation 420

28 Games as Social Play 460

Commissioned Game
Kira Snyder 490


29 Defining Culture 504

30 Games as Cultural Rhetoric 514

31 Games as Open Culture 536

32 Games as Cultural Resistance 556

33 Games as Cultural Environment 570

Commissioned Game
James Ernest 588

Additional Reading and Resources 602

Conclusion 604

Bibliography 608

List of Games Cited 620

Sample Chapter - Download PDF (249 KB) 638

Katie Salen is a game designer and interactive designer as well as Director of Graduate Studies in Design and Technology, Parsons School of Design. With Eric Zimmerman, she is the coauthor of Rules of Play (MIT Press, 2003) and coeditor of The Game Design Reader (MIT Press, 2005).

Eric Zimmerman is a game designer, game design theorist, and co-founder and CEO of gameLab. He has taught at universities including MIT, the University of Texas, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts.