Books

I always enjoy a chance to look over a list of recommended books and add a few to my amazon wishlist. So, I thought it would be a good idea to look over at my favorites on the bookshelf and write a list for the site here.

These are the top three (or 6, depending on how you look at it) books that I’ve returned to after I’ve finished them, and the books with the most to offer to a game artist:

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Envisioning Information, Visual Explanations, Beautiful Evidence: Edward Tufte

These 4 books (all studies of the same subjects) have value that is difficult to explain. They are filled with images, and they are about seeing, so it’s better to look at them than to describe them in words. If you find them in a bookstore, pick one up and browse, you’ll know if they’re up your alley. They’ve benefited me with a better instinct in what the player’s eye will catch on, and how to present visual feedback to the player.

Understanding Comics: Scott McCloud

This book is a great at helping you think about player experiences. There is a lot that goes on moment-to-moment inside the players head, and the same goes for comics. A lot can happen for the player in less than a second – especially if you’re talking about the core gameplay loop that you’ve trained him to connect with. That loop becomes this visceral “feel” thing that you can’t really verbalize or express except in gameplay. Understanding Comics will help you get a better grasp on “feel” and what it’s made of.

Plus, it’s a great summary of comics as an art form, which leads us to:

The Illusion of Life: Frank and Ollie

The best summary of visual storytelling as an art form. I’ve got the out-of-print original of this book (lots of extra chapters on Disney studios and specific animators). When making art for games, you have to constantly make decisions about where to spend your time – what aspects of the visual presentation that will matter most to the player. Frank and Ollie give you an understanding of “The Illusion of Life.” This is the oft discussed “believability” or “suspension of disbelief.” Frank and Ollie are the guys who figured this out in the first place for the realm of moving pictures. This is the principle you must constantly apply in deciding where to put your paint.

This is also a foundational book on animation techniques. All of these books focus on topics that are, at best, adjacent to game making. You’ll need to read a lot about things that appear irrelevant, but, thankfully, these are all really interesting topics on their own.

–UPDATE–

I’m only halfway through Jesse Schell’s “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses” and I can already tell that it’s the best book on game design ever written. It’s actually the only good one ever written, in my opinion, but it’s a pretty difficult subject to write about, and Jesse’s book is comprehensive. So, well done, Jesse!

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