Tag Archives: books

Non-Game Design Books that Game Designers Should Read

After some twitter musings the other night, I got several requests for my list of “books that aren’t about game design that I think game designers should read.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful texts on game design and game development in general with all sorts of useful information. However, I am fond of supplementing these reads with books from unrelated fields that still have something to teach about game design. I think it is because you have to forge your own connections when you read them, and when you do your own digging and have the insights yourself without them being presented to you, I find it tends to make the insights a little stickier. Basically it makes for good learnin’, so here we go!

Continue reading Non-Game Design Books that Game Designers Should Read

The Design of Everyday Things

This is one of those books that has been on my “recommended design-related reading” list for ages. It is extremely relevant to designers of any field, game designers included, mainly in the realm of the importance of usability. Aspiring game designers, read this book!

It’s pretty interesting to read now through the lens of the future (the original was written in 1988) and seeing how the author’s predictions about the future have come true. Basically he longed for the iPhone. Thinking about electronics now compared to those of the late 80s, I wonder how many designers “grew up” on this book and came into design with usability as a priority.

Anyway, much of it was reiterating what I had learned about playtesting through other means, while providing a more systematic framework for thinking about usable design. Every time I use a public restroom now I consider whether the automatic faucets have been “playtested,” and I feel like I appreciate a well designed object much more when I run into one. I also finally learned what those weird little gates are in stairwells that lead to the basement level.

Books Post!

I'd been pretty good before about writing entries on books I'd recently read, but that sort of fell behind. Thus, a huge backlog entry of books I've read since my last book post!

War and Peace

I thought I'd give this a go after Anna Karenina, since it was big and meaty and kept my brain occupied for a long span of time. His books are very strange in their plot arcs. It's just one thing happening after another and after another. I believe I enjoyed it in an idle way of sitting back and watching people go about their lives.

Red Dragon

This was a bit of a whim and I can't remember what inspired me to read it. It gave me weird psychological nightmares, which has never really happened to me with a thriller or horror book before. Anthony Hopkins of course obeys the mental image of Hannibal Lector now and forever. I wonder how authors feel when that happens to their books?

Far from the Madding Crowd

Lik Snow Fox efore, this was a "randomly plucked from the shelves" title, and a pretty interesting read. At first it started out as a love story, then I realized it was turning into a love triangle, then it surprised me by taking it even further and turning into some manner of lov quadrangle. The setting imagery was pretty nice. I approve.

Joust Series

I started reading Mercedes Lackey stuff only recently, which surprised me because I would have loved this stuff in high school. The Joust series is about dragon riders, and much of the books are occupied in the care and feeding of jousting dragons. These books are delightful, but kind of mild in conflict. There were always cases where I'd get nervous because they were perfect for the author to pull some cruel reversal, but she never did. That's okay, really, it made for a stress-free read.

The Lady in the Tower

A historical fiction book on Anne Boleyn, which I picked up because I think I reached her in some wikipedia link-clicking vortex I was engaged in one evening. Man, Henry VIII was a jerkface.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

For a long time my only frame of reference for this book was when it appeared as a gag in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, getting a pack of dogs excitedly rushing off to Brooklyn to find the tree. This book is AMAZING and I recommend it for anyone. Because of the time frame and the setting, there were a lot of parallels to what I'd read of the childhood of Harpo Marx in his autobiography (one of my favorite books), so a lot of the customs and scenes seemed familiar to me.

A Paradise Built in Hell

My brother recommended this to me, and I went in expecting a big downer, as it is a study in the behavior of groups after large scale disasters. Much to my surprise, however, a lot of it debunks the common perception that normal people turn into savage looting mobs. Normal people actually tend to behave quite altruistically, and can even experience a sense of joy in spite of being in the midst of a disaster due to the communities that and sense of belonging that form up around them. The trending behavior of power holders in these situations, however…

A Song of Ice and Fire

Yeah, I'm deep in the midst of this series. I never realized that I could be so entranced by the vivid details of political intrigue, yet here I am!

Man in the Iron Mask

I was really surprised at how good The Three Musketeers was the first time I read it. But man, this one is just a huge downer. Also it has no resemblance to the movie whatsoever, in case you were wondering.


I read this because the other Neal Stephenson book that someone recommended to me wasn't at the library. Reading this book sometimes felt like taking a college course, due to all the specialized fictional vernacular, but I loved it. I loved the idea of a monastic society based on math, and the story unfolded into something bigger and more spectacular than I'd been expecting. It kept me hooked the whole way through

Snow Crash

Since I enjoyed Anathem so much, Nick lent me this (I never did get around to reading the original Neal Stephenson recommendation that got me to the library, and I don't remember which book it was at this point). I loved the context and the conflict in this book, and it was fun to see how the future evolved from the time this was written. Some of it was in the right direction, other aspects were a bit of a miss (no one expected smart phones in the 90s!)

So there you go! I hope to do these a little more frequently in the future, to avoid huge backlog posts like this one.


These posts are really more for my own reference than anything, but I figure it’s good to share them all the same.  Here’s a bunch of books that I’ve chewed through recently.

East of Eden – is this my first Steinbeck ?  It might be!  I’m glad I read it now, though, since I’ve lived in California a bit and have a much better mental context for the setting.  It was exciting when Nick and I took the train to San Francisco and passed Salinas.  The character of Cathy Ames was so horrifying, though, that I almost ended the book prematurely.  I stuck it through!

The Snow Fox – sometimes when I don’t have any ideas of the next book I should read, I wander the aisles of the library and randomly pluck out titles, then try the first one that has a blurb of interest to me.  This book was a love story between a samurai and a poet in medieval Japan, and had wonderful imagery.  They did some playing around with time jumps, though, so occasionally I wasn’t sure when I was reading, but the story was nice, if not somewhat melancholy.

Cat’s Cradle – I usually have a really hard time with Vonnegut, but I really enjoyed this one.  The whole Bokononism thing was really fun, and a clever lens through which to interpret the world

Trickster Makes this World – I was actually kind of disappointed by this book.  I am really interested in trickster stories and was hoping to learn more about their origins and their relations to each other across cultures.  There was some of that, but he would get so swirling and deep and metaphysical about the interpretations of just a few key trickster stories that they felt worn out and uninteresting by the end of it.  Pretty “meh,” and I probably should have just stuck to reading actual trickster tales.

To Kill a Mockingbird – another classic story that I realize I’d never read.  This book is wonderful, but it’s also pretty depressing to see that many of the uglier aspects of how human beings treat each other still go on today.  Sigh

Neverwhere – I generally enjoy Neil Gaiman but just had never gotten around to reading this one.  It was awesome.  I liked it.

Magic Street – I always think I’ve read more Orson Scott Card than I actually have.  I always think I’ve read Ender’s Game when it was really The Worthing Saga that I read.  Anyway.  I love fantasy books that spin on the traditional Tolkein-inspired notions of fantasty, and this story is a prime example.  Highly recommended!

As always, if you have a good read to suggest, please do so!


It’s been awhile since I’ve made a book post, hasn’t it? Here’s what I’ve been reading recently:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: A story told from the perspective of an autistic savant boy, mostly about the mysteries and adventures in his daily life. I found it a good read from an interesting perspective.

Our Tragic Universe: A story about a writer which gets a bit meta from time to time, but has just the right touch of magic to keep me interested. I found that I kept coming up with plots that would help the main character solve her problems. Interestingly, there were two anecdotes in this book that also appeared in the previous book, even though the two are completely unrelated. One was The Cottingley Fairies, and the other was the joke about the economist, the logician, and the mathematician on a train who see a cow and derive various conclusions based upon what they see.

Anna Karenina: This was referenced several times in Our Tragic Universe, and piqued my interest, so I checked it out. I’d never read anything from Tolstoy before and I *think* I enjoyed it, though it did have sort of a depressing portrayal of how jealousy in relationships destroy people.

I’m looking for more books to read, so send suggestions my way!

Book Review: Blind Hope

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Blind Hope was a very fast read – I finished the day I received it, in fact. However, I think it would have benefited from being shorter than it was in some ways. You see, the stories about Laurie and Mia are wonderfully inspiring and well presented. The stories are heartwarming, and each one offers unique spiritual insight.

However, after each life tale, the author feels the need to spell out the meaning of the dog-to-human/human-to-God analogy in careful detail. Explaining why a metaphor is insightful is akin to explaining why a joke is funny, it takes all the humor our, or in this case, diminishes the insight. A summary of the lesson wouldn’t be burdensome, but it goes too far: “When Mia did this it taught me this,” for every moment. These explanation moments took so much out of the otherwise fantastic spiritual life lessons which were perfectly capable of standing alone.

So, Blind Hope is a heartwarming animal tale of insight, but the meanings are way too spoon-fed for me. 2 1/2 Stars.

The publisher has the first chapter up for a preview on their website.

Book Review: Dragons of the Valley

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

If I hadn’t read this as part of the Blogging for Books program, I would have stopped after 3 pages. However, I felt a sense of obligation to give a proper review, so I suffered through the whole thing. I had high hopes for Dragons of the Valley because a) it has dragons in it, usually a win for me, and b) the premise – with the three interlinked statues and an artist-turned warrior – seemed an interesting fantasy setup. I was unfortunately very disappointed.

The writing in this book is just awful! There is almost no variation in the sentence structure throughout the entire book, no voice to the storytelling, no voice to the characters, and the figures of speech are crudely executed. Occasionally you’ll run into a piece of dialog that seems to remember that the characters need distinctive voices, and gives a frail attempt at doing the job before falling back to the same tone for everyone. Reading the story was agonizing because of the repetition of Subject-Verb-Object sentences with very similar length. And don’t give me any flack about target audience! There are plenty of examples of young adult fiction with good basic writing. But please, don’t take my word for it, check out the sneak peek of the first few chapters on the publisher website.

Besides the writing style obstacle, the style of fantasy in this book was really bland. I was excited at first at the mention of so many different races, but there is so little visualization of the various races that it may as well be 7 styles of humans with made up fantasy style names. It felt like a lot of the fantasy elements weren’t very unique, and had some pretty overbearing TSR-feeling fantasy standards. The kimen were very much like kender (only not as interesting) and the wizard very much like Fizban (only not as endearing).

Lastly, the religious messaging in the book was completely transparent, and took me out of the world of the story (what little I was able to immerse myself in) every single time. It was not elegant at all as an allegory.

The one saving grace of this book is that there were indeed dragons in it. That won it 1 star instead of a half of a star from me.

Book Review: The Bridge of Peace

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

The Blogging for Books program recently had a mishap where the book suggestions for review, which are based on user preferences, got all mixed up. It’s since been corrected, but let’s just say I’m not the target audience for an Amish romance novel.

However, I found the story to be very enjoyable. It chronicles the adventures, relationships, and struggles of several different members of an Amish community. The characters are varied and likable (except the ones you aren’t supposed to like) and have good depth to them, making them believable and easy to relate to. The details of Amish lifestyle and community are interesting and play in well with the storylines.

Cindy Woodsmall does a great job of giving hints of further depth to her characters, like referencing something in the characters’ past that they are aware of but the reader is not. It keeps readers curious and rewards them with further explanation later in the story. The pacing of events throughout is done really well.

There are some moments of romantic emotional inner drama among the characters that I wasn’t too fond of, but once again, I am not a usual fan of romances. That said, it was not so distracting that I wasn’t able to stay interested in the rest of the story. 4 stars!

Book Review: Lady in Waiting

So in an attempt to force myself into new genres and new books, I signed up for a program in which the publisher sends you a book for free on the condition that you write a review for it. In fact, I even have to post this disclaimer, ahem: “I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review”

Lady in Waiting is a dual-story book, one centered on modern-day Jane Lindsay, the other on Lady Jane Grey as the girl who would become the ever brief Queen of England. The two Janes are connected by a ring, found by the former and belonging to the latter, and the relationship between their plights of love and choice.

I found the book to be a quick and moderately enjoyable read. The move back and forth between the two stories kept things engaging without either one dwindling in interest. Both were connected in the themes of love and perspective of choice, but took unique perspectives on each. Susan Meissner does a great job of shifting language between the time periods of her two stories, so that you can pick up the book after a break and instantly recall in which time frame you last left off. I felt personally more drawn to the historical story and the close relationship between the servant Lucy and Lady Jane Grey, but I can see how the personal doubts, struggles, and revelations of modern Jane would appeal to certain readers.

The cons of the book were few but poignant. There are some religious overtones in the modern day story that feel heavy handed and inelegant in execution. They took me out of the story, and as a result probably lessened the impact of any spiritual connection that they were trying to instill in the first place. In particular, some subtle digs at Catholicism were pretty awkward. These were less out-of-place in the historical story, which was placed at a time between Henry executing Catholics and Mary executing Reformers, so the tone from the perspective of Jane Grey on matters of faith felt more believable. When these showed up in the modern story, they disrupted my immersion in the fiction rather than enhanced it.

For example, here is an excerpt from modern Jane’s story:
“I wish I had the Onyx rosary too. I found myself whispering prayers to God to make Brad love me again. And to silence the questioning in my own heart. An easy fix. I could almost hear Stacy, who prayed without a rosary, telling me it doesn’t work like that.”

I found that this bit came off as particularly tasteless. It feels “out of the story,” and doesn’t make sense with, nor make me feel a closer understanding to, the modern Jane character.

In spite of the awkwardness of the religious overtones, I think the whole book does a great exploration on the choices we have in our lives, even in times when it seems we are given none. I can’t speak on the historical accuracy of the Lady Jane account outside the fictional relationship with Lucy, so Tudor lineage buffs might or might not find fault if they are very picky. As a non-historian, I found it enjoyable.

I give Lady in Waiting 3 of 5 stars. If you want to give it a go, the publisher has the first four chapters up for a preview.