Notes from The Art of Game Design, Chapters 1-4


The game designer is crafting an experience where the player can control the pace and sequence of events, unlike in a movie.

In a game, there is an element of play- manipulation that indulges curiosity. Games are:

  • entered willfully
  • have goals
  • have conflict
  • have rules
  • can be won or lost
  • are interactive
  • are challenging
  • have endogenous value – “What in the game has value for the player? How can more value be created? How are value and player motivated related?”

Players like solving problems. Games create problems for players to solve.

“What questions does the game put into the player’s mind? What is making the player care about these questions? How can the game provoke more questions?”


In creating the experience, we ask “What is the experience we are trying to create, and what elements are essential to produce that experience?”

The experience we are trying to create is focused around a theme, and game elements are added to reinforce that theme.

To write a mighty book choose a mighty theme. – Melville


Developing a convincing experience requires us to develop the ability to observe our own experience while thinking also about the underlying causes of that experience. (46)

When defining and designing the game, to achieve the optimal result, listen to:

  • your team
  • your audience
  • the game itself
  • your client
  • yourself

Elements of a game, in order of visibility to the player, include:

  • Aesthetics – appearance (sight, sound, feel, etc)
  • Mechanics – procedures and rules, goals
  • Story – the sequence of events as they are witnessed
  • Technology – materials and interactions

A useful analysis of Space Invaders is on page 44.


  1. What elements can you identify in the game?
  2. How can each element be improved?
  3. Are the elements in harmony?

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