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Game Design Vocabulary, A: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design

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Game Design Vocabulary, A: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design


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  • Brings together the foundational principles of superior game design
  • Demonstrates key concepts through examples from real games
  • Helps designers discover how their choices truly impact the player’s experience 
  • By leading game design thought leader Anna Anthropy, who has presented in venues ranging from NYU to the industry-leading GDC conference
  • For every game designer, developer, critic, player, student, instructor, and decision-maker
  • Instructor resources include a PowerPoint presentation as well as bonus project ideas and extra questions/solutions.


  • Copyright 2015
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9"
  • Pages: 240
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-88692-5
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-88692-7

Master the Principles and Vocabulary of Game Design

Why aren’t videogames getting better? Why does it feel like we’re playing the same games, over and over again? Why aren’t games helping us transform our lives, like great music, books, and movies do?

The problem is language. We still don’t know how to talk about game design. We can’t share our visions. We forget what works (and doesn’t). We don’t learn from history. It’s too hard to improve.

The breakthrough starts here. A Game Design Vocabulary gives us the complete game design framework we desperately need—whether we create games, study them, review them, or build businesses on them.

Craft amazing experiences. Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark share foundational principles, examples, and exercises that help you create great player experiences…complement intuition with design discipline…and craft games that succeed brilliantly on every level.

  • Liberate yourself from stale clichés and genres
  • Tell great stories: go way beyond cutscenes and text dumps
  • Control the crucial relationships between game “verbs” and “objects”
  • Wield the full power of development, conflict, climax, and resolution
  • Shape scenes, pacing, and player choices
  • Deepen context via art, animation, music, and sound
  • Help players discover, understand, engage, and “talk back” to you
  • Effectively use resistance and difficulty: the “push and pull” of games
  • Design holistically: integrate visuals, audio, and controls
  • Communicate a design vision everyone can understand

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

How a Common Game Design Language Can Improve Game Design

Sample Pages

Download the sample pages (includes Chapter 1 and Index)

Table of Contents

Part I Elements of Vocabulary     1
By Anna Anthropy

1  Language     3
Signs Versus Design     4
Failures of Language     7
A Voice Needs Words     9
A Beginning     10
2  Verbs and Objects     13
Rules     14
Creating Choices     16
Explaining with Context     21
Objects     22
The Physical Layer     25
Character Development     30
Elegance     32
Real Talk     34
Review     36
Discussion Activities     37
Group Activity     38
3  Scenes     39
Rules in Scenes     40
Shaping and Pacing     50
Layering Objects     56
Moments of Inversion     60
Chance     61
Real Talk     64
Review     71
Discussion Activities     71
Group Activity     73
4  Context     77
First Impressions     78
Recurring Motifs     82
Character Design     83
Animation     86
Scene Composition     89
Camera     94
Sound     96
Real Talk     99
Review     103
Discussion Activities     104
Group Activity     104

Part II  Conversations     107
By Naomi Clark

5  Creating Dialogue     109
Players     110
Creating Conversation     111
Iterating to Fun and Beyond     113
Your Conversation     115
6  Resistance     117
Push and Pull     118
Flow     119
Alternatives to Flow     129
Opening Up Space     132
Opening Up Purpose     134
The Pull of Rewards     137
Time and Punishment     141
Scoring and Reflection     147
Review     150
Discussion Activities     152
Group Activity     153
7  Storytelling     155
Pattern Recognition     156
Authored Stories     159
Interpreted Stories     172
Open Stories     181
Review     187
Discussion Activities     188
Group Activity     189

A  Further Playing     191
Achievement Unlocked (John Cooney, 2008)     192
American Dream (Stephen Lavelle, Terry Cavanagh, Tom Morgan-Jones, and Jasper Byrne, 2011)     192
Analogue: A Hate Story (Christine Love, 2012)     193
The Banner Saga (Stoic, 2014)     193
Candy Box (aniwey, 2013)     194
Consensual Torture Simulator (Merritt Kopas, 2013)     194
Corrypt (Michael Brough, 2012)     195
Crypt of the Necrodancer (Ryan Clark, 2013)     196
Dwarf Fortress (Tarn Adams, 2006)     196
English Country Tune (Stephen Lavelle, 2011)     197
Even Cowgirls Bleed (Christine Love, 2013)     197
Gone Home (The Fullbright Company, 2013)     198
Mighty Jill Off (Anna Anthropy, 2008)     198
NetHack (NetHack Dev Team, 1987)     199
Papers, Please (Lucas Pope, 2013)     199
Persist (AdventureIslands, 2013)     200
QWOP (Bennett Foddy, 2008) and GIRP (Bennett Foddy, 2011)     201
Spelunky (Derek Yu, 2008)     201
Triple Town (Spry Fox, 2011)     202

Index     203


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