Five years ago, I was asked to put together a list of the best articles on the website. I did, and it’s been linked as “recommended posts” up on the menu under the Blog section for a few years now.
Just the other day, I was asked by Jordan Amaro (@JordanAMAR0) whether I was ever going to update it. Probably at some point, but in the meantime here’s a list of the ones I think are best from the last five years.
Looking over the list, the things that jump out at me are: a lot more posts about the game business and trends, about general topics like creativity, and about the intersection of the virtual with the real — the way tropes from online worlds are impinging upon our daily lives. I also note quite a lot of looking backward in these: game histories, postmortems, etc. Of course, this was also the period that encompassed the Great Formalism Wars of 2012, which seem overblown given hindsight. And lastly… despite my feeling I am hardly posting anything, this is a pretty nice list for five years!
General game design
These are talks or posts about general game design topics: history of games, systems design advice, that sort of thing.
- Do auction houses suck?
- Gritty Systems Design for Retention (talk)
- Ten Years of World of Warcraft
- Game design vs UX design
- Social games vs gambling
- What makes a game last a generation?
- Dishonest opponents
- Balancing novices and experts
- GDC FlashBackward (talk)
- Abstract Games (video)
Postmortems and anecdotes
The bulk of this section is the epic postmortem of Star Wars Galaxies wherein I discuss the way in which the economy, procedural content systems, and social systems were designed… and talk about the failures around Jedi and ultimately what led to the NGE, which stands to this day as an object lesson for MMO developers.
- Ultima Online is fifteen
- Star Wars Galaxies Temporary Enemy Flagging
- A Jedi Saga
- SWG’s Dynamic World
- Designing a Living Society, part 1
- Designing a Living Society, part 2
- Did Star Wars Galaxies Fail?
These essays aren’t about game design per se, but more about how we talk about games. They aren’t “formal” enough to fit into the “game grammar” category, though, as they are mostly about topics more on the humanities side, or even about games criticism as a field, or how we as developers and critics talk to one another. Some of these were controversial, but it’s because of that that I include them on the list; they were part of a large conversation that took place, and it was an important one.
- Two cultures and games
- Damsels in distress
- A Letter to Leigh
- A New Formalism (talk)
- Interactive Mountain
- The Devil Wears Prada game
- On personal games
Theory of Fun and game grammar
This is stuff directly related to the very formal exploration I’ve been doing of “how games work” for over a decade now. It’s less directly applicable than the stuff in the general game design section, but is instead more structural.
- A Theory of Fun 10 Years Later
- Why do we like a given game?
- Why are QTE’s so popular?
- Every genre is only one game
- Playing with “game” (essay)
- On choice architectures
- Playing with “game” (talk, which is quite different from the essay)
- When is a Clone
- Games vs Sports
- Game Grammar (talk)
- Teaching to Fish (talk)
Games and society
These are all about the impact of games on our everyday world, more or less. Some of them are very concrete and specific, and others are a lot more intellectual. Many of them are about how we can work to create ethically. Several of them are outside of “games” per se. I’m particularly proud of “Digital Bards,” even though several other ones from here got a lot more traction.
- How Games Think (talk)
- Social media is broken
- Wikipedia is a Game (talk)
- High Windows (talk, actually from 2008 but wasn’t available until this time window)
- Community Management in the Culture Wars (talk)
- Games affecting people
- Digital Bards (talk)
- Still Logged In (talk)
These are mostly about games as a business; some of them are a little bit dated in terms of referencing events from when they were written, but I think they are all still very relevant.
- Oscar bait
- Requiring online for single-player
- Musings on the Oculus sale
- Is this the future?
- The Financial Future of Game Developers
- How to build the scary future today
- AR is an MMO
- I really did mean “MMO”
- An Industry Lifecycle
Game design practice/developer advice
These are about being a game developer, and advice on things like creativity, career, and evaluating your and other people’s work.