Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy for Understanding Games, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Game Design Theory

A New Philosophy for Understanding Games, 1st Edition

By Keith Burgun

A K Peters/CRC Press

188 pages | 31 B/W Illus.

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Despite the proliferation of video games in the twenty-first century, the theory of game design is largely underdeveloped, leaving designers on their own to understand what games really are. Helping you produce better games, Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy for Understanding Games presents a bold new path for analyzing and designing games.

The author offers a radical yet reasoned way of thinking about games and provides a holistic solution to understanding the difference between games and other types of interactive systems. He clearly details the definitions, concepts, and methods that form the fundamentals of this philosophy. He also uses the philosophy to analyze the history of games and modern trends as well as to design games.

Providing a robust, useful philosophy for game design, this book gives you real answers about what games are and how they work. Through this paradigm, you will be better equipped to create fun games.


While literature and music, for example, stand on a solid theoretical foundation, the theory of game design is much less developed. … It is possible that thought-provoking books such as this one may be just the spark required to kick start the industrial revolution of game design.

—From the Foreword by Reiner Knizia

Table of Contents


The Death of Tetris

Our Story

My Story

Problem Statement

On Game Design

Game Design Theory Today

What This book Is

What This book Is Not

Why Video Games?

The Concept of "Game"


Types of Interactive Systems

The Abstract and the Literal

The "Meaningful" Decision

Are Games "Art"?

Games: The "Finer" Interactive System

Game-Playing Itself Is An Art

The Value of Games?

Misconceptions about Games

Games Can Occur Naturally

"Video Games" and the Value of Words


Game Design

Do You Want to Make a Game?

Games and Story

Understanding Design

"Let's Add Some Fun!"


Continuous or Discrete Space

Execution vs. Decisions



"Survival", "Completion" and "Game Difficulty"



Inherent/Emergent Complexity

Information and Solvability


False Choices

Too Many Choices


Take Nothing for Granted

Become an Expert

|Studying Games

Related Disciplines


How We Got Here

Ancient History


The 20th Century

The Promise of SpaceWar!

The Video Game "Generations"

The Alternate Reality of PC Games

Other Notable Areas

Looking Back

Through the Lens: Videogames

Problems Common to Almost All Genres

On Brawlers

On Third Person Action

On Real-Time Strategy

On Turn-Based Strategy

Role-Playing Games

On Sports Games

On Racing Games

On Fighting Games

On FPS Games

On Platformers

Other Genres

"Videogames" That Aren't Games

Through the Lens: Boardgames

Area-Control games

Bidding Games


Roleplaying Games

Cooperative Games

Role-Selection/Worker Placement Games

Card Games

Abstract Games

Other Genres


Rise of Indies




About the Author


Keith Burgun

Goldens Bridge, New York, United States

Learn more about Keith Burgun >>

Keith Burgun is a game designer, writer, composer, and visual artist who has been developing games independently for nearly 20 years. He writes for Gamasutra, Destructoid, and several other popular websites, including his own blog at Dinofarm Games. He is a founding member of Dinofarm Games and produced its first commercial game 100 Rogues for the iOS platform. He also teaches game design and animation courses at local art schools.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games