Thursday, January 27, 2011

“Hey…what are you reading?”

I know I need to get caught up on my experiences at the Army’s Warrior Transition Course and the holidays and <gulp> my oldest daughter’s engagement, but I just wanted to do a quick post on a couple books I’m reading.

Level Up

levelupI’ve been a big fan of Scott Rogers since I first saw his talk “Everything I Learned About Game Design I Learned From Disneyland” at the 2009 Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. Some people share my my appreciation of Scott’s work; and some people don’t. That’s cool, I’m not saying he’s the end-all-beat-all genius of game design. (After all, I’ve played Pac Man World and it kind of sucks.) But having seen the talk and felt his enthusiasm for the subject first hand, I had to pick up his book Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design. I’m about 3/4 of the way though it on my Kindle and I’m really enjoying it. It is an outstanding exploration of the details of designing fun and engaging experience in interactive storytelling in all its facets – from Mario Brothers to Alan Wake. I really recommend this for anyone in the industry and for anyone who really enjoys gaming.

A Theory of Fun

On the other hand, I also checked out A Theory of Fun by Raphtheory_of_fun Koster (courtesy of the Microsoft corporate library). Superficially, these books cover some of the same ground, but my what a difference. Raph’s book is not without merit, but the presentation of the material is really quite poor – especially in comparison with Scott’s book. Beyond just the material itself, the production values of the book – which is filled with very crude doodle-like illustrations – really detracts from the material that is there. It’s not fun, it’s not interesting, and it isn’t fun to look at. Scott’s book is all of those things and more. I feel like Raph’s book sets out to be a little more academic while specifically claiming that it isn’t.

Other stuff…

I was getting my stuff together for my upcoming Reserve weekend and was putting on my ACUs to make sure everything was in the right place and they were presentable. It was kind of weird to be reminded – oh yeah, I really am in the Army. In December, we just asushad a one day assembly where we had an ASU inspection, a legal briefing for an upcoming deployment, and then a Christmas party in the evening, which was very nice. It’s weird to remember that just a couple months ago I was wearing it constantly.

Here’s a picture of me and the delightful Mrs. Pulsipher in the living room on the way to the party.

As a final note, can I get an “amen” from the congregation on those great Xbox numbers in the Microsoft quarterly earnings released today? And remember, you can never have too many Xbox consoles, games, Kinect sensors, and LIVE subscriptions. Stock up!