Dec 022004

Today I got my author copies in the mail. They look wonderful. I can’t wait until the book gets cruelly savaged on the Net. 🙂 Those of you who pre-ordered, I am told that the books will show up as shipping as soon as they get from the printer to the various booksellers. It should be in the next couple of days!

I spent a very nice couple of hours with William Huber during an abortive visit to UCSD. We discussed a lot of the material that the book covers… I believe I will be heading back to visit with Natalie Jeremijenko and her class and other faculty there sometime next week.

Gamasutra is excerpting a chapter from the book on their website starting on Dec. 3rd… I am also giving a version of the original presentation as part of the Serious Games Summit day at the Game Developers Conference 2005.

As you may have noticed, the website has been updated. Among the changes: there’s a Resources link now with ways to get every book, game, bit of music, and piece of artwork mentioned in the book. Think of it as an interactive bibliography. The press quotes have been moved to their own page along with the press release for the book. Lastly, the excerpts have been improved with Will’s foreword, a few of the cartoons, and a sample of the endnotes that accompany chapter one. The Stuff link is also now fairly populated. I’ve successfully ordered a few penguin t-shirts and mugs of the cartoons, so if you’re tickled by the artwork, there’s the crass cash-in for you.

Reviewing the final draft

 Posted by (Visited 9836 times)  Game talk, Writing
Nov 022004

Well, I’m all done voting. I’m also almost done proofing! Last night, we printed out the whole thing, both sides of the page, so what we got was something that closely resembled the book. Then for the first time, both my wife and I went over it with red pen, rather than doing editing on the computer… there’s something about that change of venue that makes it easier to see mistakes.

It looks like a couple of pages are running a bit long, so there will be just some minor touch-ups, but nothing too drastic. We’re pretty excited.

In other news, there’s actually stuff up in the Stuff section now–a mug, some shirts, and some mousepads. I’d love to hear what sort of stuff people might want…

I’ve also updated the front page with a bunch of quotes about the book that I have gotten from various folks. A special shout-out goes to Loren over at The Incremental Blogger, who commented on the book in his blog, saying,

The ISBN classification will call it a book about game design, but I’m guessing that the creativity and concepts will inspire designers and doers of all types.

The book’s genesis comes from a presentation that Raph gives on game design (5MB PDF). And no, this isn’t any ordinary PowerPoint slide presentation. Raph trades bullet lists for ink drawings. Words are limited to “See Jane run” simplicity. The result has a decidedly Lawrence Lessig feel about it and grabs your attention. And as a Tablet PC enthusiast the style shouts out “Tablet PC” to me.

The book is equally visual. It’s loaded with Raph’s illustrations. But it’s not all drawings–although with Raph’s conciseness that would be equally compelling. The manuscript is also filled with easy-to-read prose that’s interwoven with friendly insights and cerebral theories. I’m not finished reading the manuscript yet, but I just had to point out the book now. It gets the creative juices flowing.

Glad you liked it, Loren!

GTA cartoon idea needed…!

 Posted by (Visited 10747 times)  Game talk, Writing
Oct 242004

Sorry for the lack of updates–I was on the road all week.

I am up to chapter 11 (of 12) in the edits and rewrites. The copy editor has made it up through chapter two. I expect that we’ll have finished all the edits by the end of this week. I’ve updated the excerpt page with the new text, which hopefully reads exactly the same only shorter. I also put a table of contents on there.

It’s amazing how much editing can tighten up text. The downside is that I have been cramming a lot into the endnotes. They are getting rather long. Hopefully that won’t be a problem, but I guess we’ll see! So far, the endnotes range from discussing Laban’s notation system for dance to describing the effects of dopamine on the frontal cortex to a careful description of the gameplay in Defender.

My first CD, After the Flood, has been re-issued with a new bonus track–or rather, an old track that we didn’t include on the edition because of space. The new edition also includes a lyric sheet in the booklet. You can hear little snippet samples on the website there too.

I’m having to redo one cartoon because we want to avoid any hassles with trademarks. If anyone has any ideas what would make a good cartoon to represent Grand Theft Auto, let me know. 🙂

Oh, and before I forget… signing up for the newsletter will let you get notified when stuff goes up on the store.

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Grimwell discussions

 Posted by (Visited 8638 times)  Game talk, Writing
Oct 172004

Over on there’s a discussion about the book and some of its ideas. Some quotes:


Learning is fun. But so is doing–so is applying knowledge. I continue to play games (and enjoy them) after I’ve learned everything there is to know about them.

In fact, the only games that I stopped enjoying due to knowledge (or familiarity) were the ones I worked on. In those cases, I think testing the game 100 hours a week for 6 months in debug mode at .004 fps was the most important factor, not my insider knowledge.

Edit: Actually, I partly take this back. I’ve stopped playing new games, not because of my knowledge of that game, but because of my knowledge of the genre. I knew after only an hour or two of play that this game would not offer anything I hadn’t already seen before.

This still doesn’t explain why I’d re-play Planescape or Deus Ex ten times or more, even if I was taking the same path through the game and had read every guide and walkthrough… Gaining knowledge is only part of my motivation.


I know for myself, Learning is the end and all of “fun” in these games. I enjoy the fighting and socializing, but when I quit a game, it is always because I feel like I’ve learned everything I’ve wanted to. This doesn’t mean I know everything, nor that I’m all that good at what I do know. It simply means I’ve looked ahead and see nothing more available to do but apply what I already know.

Unfortunately, that means for me Learning has a built in warranty.

In a player skill game, that’s not as big a problem. I can learn everything I need to know in an FPS or RTS shooter fairly quickly. But to become good at applying that learning requires manual practice.

Not so much in MMORPGs though. The need for me to respond faster hasn’t always grown as much as my need to respond smarter. Which is that warranty.


I’ve been kicking around the idea of a game that is about learning. Albeit this may have been because of long hours studying math books thinking, “There’s gotta be a less boring way to learn math than this!” Yes, I know there’s math games already, but they’re generally geared towards kids or the fun trappings are removed.

It’s got me thinking, if we could combine a first rate education with the addictive mechanics of a MMORPG, we’d have a lot more brilliant people walking around.

Castle in the air or realistic goal?


Learning isn’t the core fun for me. It’s a factor, but not the biggest one. I’d put at least two things far higher than Learning:


I’m always up for a game of Tetris, even if I can’t “learn” anything from the game or improve my nearing-middle-age reflexes any further. Why? It’s fun. And I might “win,” even if I’m playing against myself.

Is just hanging out with friends fun? How about going to a concert? I don’t learn much, especially if I drink… But I have more fun than any game can provide. This is Belonging and closer to the core of most on-line games than Learning.

And I usually get Bartle typed as ESA or EAS. If I, as an “explorer” don’t place Learning first, who does? I enjoy figuring out the game, but I wouldn’t consider it my primary motive.

If learning is the core, how come it’s so hard to make educational games “sticky”?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, head on over..

I turned in two chapters of edits, plus the first two chapters of endnotes late last night (VERY late). It’s amazing how much tighter you can get your text if you work at it! The endnotes are something that a lot of advance readers have asked for, so I am going back through my research to put them together. It’s been fun, because I keep finding things I forgot to mention. I haven’t settled with the editor whether or not the endnotes will take this form in the book, but if not, I’ll toss them up on the website.

In other news, I think I need to get real blog software. I installed the one that came with the web hosting, and I am not impressed… I can’t get it to point to a page other than the index, and I can’t customize it as I would like, either.

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Final edits

 Posted by (Visited 21388 times)  Game talk, Writing
Oct 152004

Today ran a little blurb for the book. They said it was a “sure-to-be-great book.” Hmm. I better get back to rewrites.

I hooked up the little thingy so you can order the book through here.

I mentioned before we’re in final edits… I got back a ton of edits from the publisher, the editor, and also from some friends who are reviewing the book for me (Thanks, Dave!). So that’s what I am doing all weekend…