Pattern Language for Game Design  book cover
1st Edition

Pattern Language for Game Design

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after December 9, 2020
ISBN 9780367367725
December 9, 2020 Forthcoming by CRC Press
448 Pages

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Book Description

Christopher Barney’s Pattern Language for Game Design builds on the revolutionary work of architect Christopher Alexander to show students, teachers, and game development professionals how to derive best practices in all aspects of game design. Using a series of practical, rigorous exercises, designers can observe and analyze the failures and successes of the games they know and love to find the deep patterns that underlie good design. From an in-depth look at Alexander’s work, to a critique of pattern theory in various fields, to a new approach that will challenge your knowledge and put it to work, this book seeks to transform how we look at building the interactive experiences that shape us.

Key Features: 

  • Background on the architectural concepts of patterns and a Pattern Language as defined in the work of Christopher Alexander, including his later work on the Fifteen Properties of Wholeness and Generative Codes.
  • Analysis of other uses of Alexander’s work in computer science and game design, and the limitations of those efforts.
  • A comprehensive set of example exercises to help the reader develop their own patterns that can be used in practical day to day game design tasks. 
  • Exercises that are useful to designers at all levels of experience and can be completed in any order, allowing students to select exercises that match their coursework and professionals to select exercises that address their real-world challenges. 
  • Discussion of common pitfalls and difficulties with the pattern derivation process.
  • A guide for game design teachers, studio leaders, and university departments for curating and maintaining institutional Pattern Languages.
  • Interactive Pattern Language website where you can share patterns with developers throughout the world. ( )
  • Comprehensive games reference for all games discussed in this book.

Table of Contents





Introduction xx

What is this book for? xx

Why is this book for you? xx

Why am I the person writing this book? xx

Patterns, Creativity, and Art xx

Why are there patterns? xx

Back to Art xx

Is there room for creativity and innovation? xx

Different Designers, Different Patterns xx

Forming Patterns vs. Accepting Tropes and Stereotypes xx





Background on A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander xx

Pattern Theory xx

Criticisms xx

Implications for Games xx

Background on the use of pattern languages in other fields xx

Computer Science xx

Social and Behavioral Science xx

Background on the use of patterns in game design xx

Books xx

Patterns in Game Design xx

Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design xx

Scholarly Articles xx

The Case For Game Design Patterns xx

Developing a pattern language for flow experiences in video games xx

Design Patterns in Games: the case for Sound Design xx

Patterns and Computer Game Design Innovation xx

Other Game Design Pattern Projects xx

LARP Pattern Language xx

Kind Fortress xx

Swedish ICT Interactive Institute xx




An Introduction to Patterns in Game Design xx

The Pattern Template and an Example Pattern xx

Pattern Template xx

Pattern Confidence xx

Example pattern xx

Mystery driven exploration xx

Introduction to Pattern Exercises xx

Common Problems in proposed patterns xx

Patterns should address a design problem xx

Shallow Patterns xx

Circular Pattern xx

Patterns should be Prescriptive xx

Jumping to Conclusions xx

Anti-Patterns xx

The Desire to be The Authority / Kill Your Babies xx





Pattern Exercises: xx

Example Exercises and Patterns xx


Basic Pattern Exercise xx

Basic Pattern Exercise xx

Pattern purpose xx

Exercise 1: Basic Pattern Exercise xx

Basic Pattern Exercise Example xx

Structural Pattern Exercises xx

Higher-order Patterns xx

Pattern purpose xx

Exercise 2: Higher-order Patterns xx

Example Higher-order Patterns xx

Lower-order Patterns xx

Pattern purpose xx

Exercise 3: Lower-order Patterns xx

Example Lower-order Pattern xx

Formal and Functional Design Elements xxx

Formal Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 4: Formal Patterns xxx

Example Formal Pattern xxx

Bonus Student Example: Temporally Unavailable Space xxx

Functional Patterns: Patterns from Rules xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 5: Functional Patterns xxx

Example Functional Pattern xxx

Emotional Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 6: Emotional Patterns xxx

Example Emotional Pattern xxx

Player Experience Pattern xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 7: Player Experience Patterns xxx

Example Experience Pattern xxx

Theme Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 8: Theme Patterns xxx

Example pattern xxx

Focused Patterns xxx

Patterns from Micro, Macro, and Meta Circulation-patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 9: Circulation Patterns xxx

Example Circulation Pattern: Micro, Macro and Meta xxx

Boss Encounter Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 10: Boss Encounter Patterns xxx

Example Boss Encounter Pattern xxx

Emergent Narrative Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 11: Emergent Narrative Patterns xxx

Example Emergent Narrative Pattern xxx

Embedded and Environmental Narrative Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 12: Embedded and Environmental Narrative Patterns xxx

Example Embedded and Environmental Narrative Pattern xxx

Patterns that Break the Mold xxx

Breaking Spaces Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 13: Breaking Spaces Patterns xxx

Example Breaking Spaces Pattern xxx

Player Manipulation Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 14: Player Manipulation Patterns xxx

Example Player Manipulation Pattern xxx

Patterns in Innovation xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 15: Patterns in Innovation xxx

Example pattern xxx


Taking a Step Back: What We Have Learned So Far xxx

The 'Fifteen Fundamental Properties of Wholeness' in game design xxx

Levels of Scale xxx

Strong Centers xxx

Boundaries xxx

Alternating Repetition xxx

Positive Space xxx

Good Shape xxx

Local Symmetries xxx

Deep Interlock xxx

Contrast xxx

Graded Variation xxx

Roughness xxx

Echoes xxx

The Void xxx

Inner Calm xxx

Not Separateness xxx




Advanced Pattern Generation Exercises xxx

Patterns from Core Mechanics xxx

Core Mechanics xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 16: Patterns From Core Mechanics xxx

Example Pattern from Core Mechanics xxx

Finding missing Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 17: Finding Missing Patterns xxx

Example Finding Missing Pattern xxx

Finding negative Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 18: Finding Negative Patterns xxx

Example Negative Pattern xxx

Finding positive Patterns from negative ones xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 19: Finding Positive Patterns From Negative Patterns xxx

Example Positive Patterns xxx

Using Patterns for Understanding xxx

Understanding Techniques xxx

Exercise 20: Using Patterns to Understand Techniques xxx

Example pattern xxx

Understanding Tropes xxx

Exercise 21: Using Patterns to Understand Tropes xxx

Example patterns xxx

The First Question xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 22: The First Question xxx

Example pattern xxx

Audience Patterns xxx

Pattern purpose xxx

Exercise 23: Audience Patterns xxx

Example Audience Patterns xxx

Exercise 23 A: Audience Patterns xxx

Exercise 23 B: Audience Patterns xxx

Theoretical Patterns xxx

Pattern Purpose xxx

Exercise 24: Theoretical Patterns xxx

Example pattern xxx




Connecting Patterns into a Language xxx

Introduction to Pattern Language construction xxx

Building a Pattern Language xxx

Make sure that you have enough patterns xxx

Add Keywords xxx

Understanding the Scope of Your Language xxx

Pattern Categories xxx

Meta, Macro, and Micro-level Patterns xxx

Adding Existing Parent Patterns xxx

Adding Existing Child Patterns xxx

Linking Other Related Patterns xxx

Suggesting New Parents and Children xxx

Use the Theoretical Patterns Exercise to Find Related Patterns xxx

Link Confidence xxx

Integrating Patterns from Other Sources xxx

Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design xxx

Patterns in Game Design xxx

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses xxx

Exercise 25: Creating Patterns from Lenses xxx

Example Pattern xxx

Pitfalls of pattern relationships xxx

Combining patterns xxx

Eliminating patterns xxx

Creating New Pattern Exercises xxx

Framing the intent of the Exercise xxx

Listing and describing examples xxx

Analyzing the examples xxx

Articulating the pattern xxx

Designing with a Pattern Language xxx

Integrating Pattern Language Use into Existing Design Processes xxx

Pattern Language as the Basis of Design xxx

Teaching yourself or students with Pattern Languages xxx

An institutional Pattern Language xxx

Developing with Patterns xxx

Providing Feedback xxx

Assessing Patterns from others xxx

Developing with other people’s patterns xxx

Group Pattern Exercises xxx

Dividing Up the Examples xxx

Reviewing Other’s Projects xxx

Creating Keywords xxx

Categorizing Patterns xxx

Assessing A Pattern Language xxx

Design Exercise Using Patterns xxx


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Christopher Barney is an industry veteran, with over a decade of experience designing and engineering games like Poptropica and teaching at Northeastern University. He has spoken at conferences including GDC, DevCom, and PAX on topics from core game design to social justice. Seeking degrees in game design before formal game design programs existed, Chris built his own undergraduate and graduate curricula out of offerings in sociology, computer science, and independent study. In pursuit of a broad understanding of games, he has worked on projects spanning interactive theater, LARP design, board games, and tabletop RPGs. An extensive collection of his essays of game design topics can be found on his development blog at