I just finished Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun for Game Design.

Overall I’d rate it as good with reservations (four stars).

It’s a bit too philosophical, repetitive and  self-reflective for my tastes. I was hoping for something more formal and rigorous. I found myself wanting to skim over text in search of substance. The book is really short, maybe a couple hours at best. Every other page is a crude drawing and many of the pages with text don’t use the full page. I think the intent is to reinforce the games are art premise. It reminded me of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Similar tone and feel, but I think it falls short whereas McCloud’s work delivers. Maybe Koster should have written a game to convene his message. After all one of the bigger points he’s trying to make is that games teach.

The good news is that every so often there’s a brilliant and incredibly insightful tidbit. I had a couple ah-ha moments when I suddenly saw game design in a different perspective. The book has altered my own game’s design. For $16 and a couple hours this is a bargain. So in the context of Pac-Man: you might have to eat a lot of dots to find the rare power pellets, but they are there and probably worth the effort.

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