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Game Designer's Playlist, The: Innovative Games Every Game Designer Needs to Play

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Game Designer's Playlist, The: Innovative Games Every Game Designer Needs to Play


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  • The games you need to play, and what you can learn from them
  • Concrete game design and playability lessons drawing on current research in psychology, philosophy, and media
  • How to apply each game’s lessons in your own designs, with end-of-chapter questions to deepen your understanding
  • By Full Sail University’s Zack Hiwiller, one of the world’s leading pioneers in teaching game design


  • Copyright 2019
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9"
  • Pages: 240
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-487326-2
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-487326-8

Game Designers: Learn from the Masters!

In The Game Designers Playlist, top game design instructor Zack Hiwiller introduces more than 70 remarkable games, revealing how they work, why they’re great, and how to apply their breakthrough techniques in your own games.

Ranging from Go to Texas Hold’em and Magic: The Gathering to Dishonored 2, Hiwiller teaches indispensable lessons about game decision-making, playability, narrative, mechanics, chance, winning, originality, cheats, and a whole lot more. He gleans powerful insights from virtually every type of game: console, mobile, PC, board, card, and beyond.

Every game is presented in full color, with a single purpose: to show you what makes it exceptional, so you can create legendary games of your own.

  • Discover how game designers use randomness and luck
  • Make the most of narrative and the narrator’s role
  • Place the game challenge front and center
  • Optimize game mechanics, and place mechanics in a broader context
  • Uncover deep dynamic play in games with the simplest rules
  • Find better ways to teach players how to play
  • See what games can teach about the process of game design
  • Build games with unusual input/output modalities
  • Explore winning, losing, and game dynamics beyond “one-vs.-all”

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Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

Local Culture and Game Design

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Acknowledgments xxi

About the Author xxii

Chapter 1: From Simplicity, The Universe 1

A Universe, Conquered 2

The Simplicity and Complexity of Go 3

More Than Thinking, Learning 6

Play to Win 9

Summary 11

Chapter 2: Randomness and Cholesterol 13

A Short History of Randomness 14

Pass the Chips 14

Mate 15

Stranger and Stranger Danger 18

Goofspiel 19

Agency and Uncertainty 21

Types of Uncertainty in Mechanics 23

Randomness and Perceptions of Fairness 26

Summary 28

Chapter 3: Pushing One’s Luck 31

Press Your Luck or Press Your Skill? 32

No Whammy 34

It’s in the Name 35

Greed and Risk 38

Let Them Eat Cake 39

Equity 43

Summary 44

Chapter 4: Piecemeal Perspectives 45

Interactive Fictions 46

Actors and Interactions 47

Armchair Jurors 48

Her Story 49

Orwell 52

The Eye Above 53

Summary 54

Chapter 5: Permanence 57

Interactive Fictions 58

Fiero 58

Memories of Places That Have Never Been 62

Summary 65

Chapter 6: Mechanics as Message 67

Where Meaning Exists 68

Marriage of Theme and Interaction 70

September 12th 71

Passage 72

Dissonance 73

Bioshock and Dissonance 74

Systems as Politics 76

Parable of the Polygons 78

Summary 82

Chapter 7: Requiem for a Pewter Shoe 85

Pieces and Meaning 86

The Buddha Nature 86

Nomic 89

Eying Basic Grammars 90

Summary 91

Chapter 8: The Second Chance Phenomenon 93

Flexibility 94

Hearthstone 96

Dominion 97

7 Wonders 98

Summary 99

Chapter 9: Challenging Complexity 101

Retracing Your Steps 102

Drop7 103

Triple Town 107

Game of Life 109

Pair Solitaire 111

Love Letter 114

Summary 115

Chapter 10: Learning to Walk 117

The Price of Entry 118

Building a Structure 119

Thinking with Portals 121

Summary 124

Chapter 11: Mechanics in Milieu 127

Taste and Distaste 128

Agency and Dilemma 130

Depression Quest and Indirect Representation 131

Papers, Please 133

A Mind Forever Voyaging 135

One Vision 136

Summary 138

Chapter 12: The Clone Wars 141

Here Comes the Flood 142

What If Clones Are Necessary First Steps? 143

How Mechanically Different Can a Clone Be? 144

Summary of Questions 146

Chapter 13: The Discipline of Game Design 149

The Worst Game Design Question 150

So Then What Is a Game Designer? 151

Accidental Game Design 154

Write What You Love ... or Not? 156

Why Rewards? 158

Summary 159

Chapter 14: Winning and Losing 163

Playing Together 164

Communication 164

Diplomacy 167

Informal Rules 168

Summary 169

Chapter 15: Inputs and Outputs 171

Mimicry 172

Jousting 173

Life as Game Inputs 174

Waiting Is the Hardest Part 176

Verbal Communication as Game Inputs 178

Summary 179

Chapter 16: Whose Stories? 183

Negotiated Storytelling 184

Automated Dungeon Masters 186

Symbolic Worlds 187

Who Are You? 188

Summary 189

Chapter 17: Cheat Codes 191

On Cheating 192

Katamari Damacy 194

Terry Cavanaugh 195

Dream Quest 196

Desert Golfing 196

Summary 197

Chapter 18: Conclusion and Final Playlist 199

Mindset 200

Final Playlist, Divided by Platform 200

Mobile 201

Consoles 201

PC 201

Analog 203

Index 205



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