The Free to Play Game Design Bible: Getting Started in Mobile Game Design

As with the mastering of any new skill or technique, you have to start somewhere. Indeed, a crash course in the basics and terminology often used by game designers is undoubtedly the best place to kick off, given much of what’s covered here forms the foundation of what’s to come.

Game Design as a fundamental skill is something that you have to learn and train yourself at. There’s no getting around the fact that it takes years of practice and experience to be a good game designer.

The best game designers have a backbone in both building games and playing games. Having a massive repertoire of games that you’ve played and enjoyed since childhood already can give you a good basis in game design. However, to go further you need to view play games with critical eyes – just as a game designer would do.

  • Why is the game fun? When is the game not fun? Why?
  • Why did the developer include this mechanic?
  • What would be the impact if the mechanic was removed? What mechanics could be added to make the gameplay experience better?

Modding is a great starting place to start deconstructing and understanding game design – getting involved in designing new levels, adjusting mechanics in the game and seeing how it impacts can really change your mindset.

Another way to learn game design is to make sure you’re playing a few key games all the way to the end. Being a hyper-competitive player will keep you far more tuned-in with the small changes that designers make and what impact that has on the community. There’s no better opportunity to get into this then now with Twitch, YouTube, and so many community-focused games.

Besides this, playing a large variety of games is imperative. Not just playing the big hits, but playing good and bad games across multiple platforms on a consistent basis. Picking up a new game each week and diving deep into why it succeeds or fails will help you immensely in your day to day design work, namely because being able to pull from a library of experiences is essential. Being able to mix and match interesting mechanics you’ve seen before, as well as spotting a mechanic will most likely fail, only comes from feverishly playing a wide variety of games.

Below are the books, articles, and blogs that we’ve used over the years to get our footing in game design – links that, hopefully, should inspire you as much as they did us.

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Title Source Complexity
Fundamentals of Game Design Ernest Adams
100 Principles of Game Design Wendy Despain
Game Design Workshop Tracy Fullerton
Extra Credits: Making your First Game Extra Credits
A Dictionary of Video Game Theory Half Real
Four Lessons from Bruce Straley - Naughty Dog Bruce Straley
Balancing 101 Dan Felder
Complexity vs Depth Dan Felder
The Structure of Fun Dan Felder
Theory of Fun Raph Koster
The Art of Game Design Jesse Schell
How I teach game design Eric Zimmerman
20 years, 20 lessons in Game Design Mark Rosewater
Game Design Course Coursera