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Review: Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us

11 July 2010 1 comment

Haven’t posted in a long time, so figured I’d post a review of a book I recently read. It’s no secret I’ve an interest in casual game design. The addictive simplicity of play is what appeals to me. If you think about it, one can consider the old coin-op games like Pac-Man and Tempest and all those greats, heck, even Pong, casual games. But generally the consensus is that the first real casual game to really jump-start the casual design movement is Bejeweled (speaking of which, I tried the World of Warcraft version yesterday. It was meh. I’ll stick to my iPhone version (tied in with Facebook).

The book in question? Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in ALL of Us by Gregory Tefry. [Purchase from Amazon]

What I like about this book is that it’s really good for budding game designers or those who are interested in designing casual games, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Trefry starts with the basics: writing the game design document, what makes a game, and the like. He then goes into a myriad number of major casual game design themes (e.g. matching) and discusses what makes a game like Solitaire or Bejeweled work, not work, and examples of games that don’t quite get it. This is actually very important: one of the key factors in design is knowing what works, what doesn’t, and why, and how you can build upon this. Design is not at all about lines of code: it’s about solid concept expressed extremely well so that others one the team, from the artists to programmers etc., can work with your vision and create a solid product.

For the experienced designer, this book has benefits as well. Casual game design is different: your focus isn’t on large, complex systems, but smaller, addictive forms of game play that will inspire your game to be played by players who don’t have the time to invest in a large project. Casual Game Design’s focus on example games really helps the experienced designer looking to work on a different genre to see design differently.