Rules of Play Header Image

Taking a look again at books On My Shelf, I want to talk about a textbook. A textbook?! You probably are pondering, “Why would he recommend a textbook to read for fun?

For the past few months, I have been collaborating with a professor to develop an Introduction to Game Studies course here at the University (where I work in IT as my day job). Game Studies courses are growing in popularity at many universities as student interest in digital, mobile, and tabletop games is very high.

As we create the syllabus for this course, we have been evaluating potential texts. Beyond books like the KOBOLD guides I mentioned in my previous On My Shelf, we found this fascinating textbook from MIT Press: Rules of Play by Katie Salen Tekinbaş and Eric Zimmerman

Rules of Play Cover

That’s right, I said fascinating textbook. Not dry. Not boring. Not overly academic. I read the book from cover to cover and enjoyed all of it. This quote from early in the text describes the book well.

A game design education cannot consist of a purely theoretical approach to games. This is true of any design field: designers learn best through the process of design, by directly experiencing the things they make. Therefore, a large part of their training as students of game design must involve the creation of games. As conceptual as this book might seem, its intention is not just to spark debate and analysis but to facilitate the design of games.” (Chapter 2, Page 11, The Design Process)

The book opens with a great essay from Reiner Knizia on “The Design and Testing of the Board Game –  Lord of the Rings.” The essay quickly sets the tone for the entire book. The authors wonderfully mesh the topics of digital and tabletop games in the discussion from Atari Football to Zork and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to Yahtzee. I especially enjoy the units on Play and Culture. They delve deeply into the discussion of how games affect us as individuals and as a community. As a freelance editor/proofreader, I would be remiss if I did not give the book huge praise for its documentation and referencing. The Bibliography, List of Games Cited, and Index are thorough and wonderfully organized, making this textbook a useful reference to have on the shelf. 

Even if you are no longer in school or university, reading a textbook can still be a learning experience. This book is enjoyable to read, educational, and a great reference. Whatever area of freelancing that interests you, continue to read and learn it.  Henry Ford has a great philosophy on life as stated in “My Philosophy of Industry and Moving Forward.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” 

Keep learning. Keep playing games. Stay young.

On My Shelf: Rules Of Play

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9 thoughts on “On My Shelf: Rules Of Play

  1. Oh man….. Another book to read – as if I didn’t have enough reading ahead of me.
    This one, though, sounds like a good spring – summer read with a bit of practicum added on.
    Might have to check it out….

    1. Roy – It is definitely a heavier book to read, but I feel it is very worth it if game design interests you. If you do pick up the book, please let me know our thoughts after reading it.

    1. David – Glad you liked the recommendation. The authors did extensive research and also worked with numerous game designers as they developed the textbook. MIT Press is very particular regarding the books they publish so I was very confident in the quality of the book when I purchased it. I will be very curious your thoughts after reading it yourself.

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