Five good books about games

6 mins read

The games industry is a reasonably mature one now. People are thinking more about games, the debate “are games art?” rages on, and as a marketing tool, games are becoming a powerful force.

As a side effect of that, there is a growing amount of literature looking at games from design, art and even philosophical viewpoints. For those looking at getting a deeper understanding of games and what holds them together, here’s a few reasonably accessible books to look into:

Part of the “… and Philosophy” series of books, you’ll get much the same content in this one as any of the others – some very entry-level philosophy applied to some of themes found within various Zelda games.

These books are written in a very accessible way, and for the most part, the essays within do a good job of disseminating the core philosophical theories discussed to be easy to read and follow.
The side effect is, of course, that the book is relatively shallow, and anyone doing philosophy will find little value here, but for most of us, and anyone curious to read a different perspective on the Zelda games, this is a good pick.

If you’ve ever wondered how video games might fit into the corporate world? Here is a good book to start with.

By nature video games are directly engaging, and as business wisdom knows, an engaged worker is a good worker. So how do you make optimal use of video games to engage your workers and improve their productivity.
This book gives a very different vision of video games – looking at them as more than mere ‘entertainment,’ but also productivity tools that can help build a successful business. We’ve seen this happen with the likes of the iPhone and iPad, and how these fun ‘toys’ are increasingly relevant in the work force, and soon, perhaps, games will be the same.

Part of the same series of books that brought us The Legend of Zelda and Philosophy, this book looks at the entire series of Final Fantasy games. Much of the content is focused on Final Fantasy VII; generally considered to be the thematically deepest of the series, but just about every other game is touched on.

So once again we get the “lite” versions of the Machiavelli, Foucault and Marx vision and how it related to the Chocobos and Moogles. Once again you’ll get a slight understanding on how these games can be looked at underneath the surface, why we enjoy them as we do, and perhaps even why we should play the games through again.
But mostly we’ll get a nice, easy read that allows us to engage with these games on a slightly different level.

As I discussed in a review a while back, this book is controversial, but great to have around. While you almost certainly will not agree with the list, and while you might argue that there isn’t even 1001 “must-play” games that have been made in the relatively short history of the games industry, it’s still a reasonable list.

See, the book’s value is in giving a snapshot of a history of games development – where it’s come from, where it’s moving too. Through this book we see concepts and ideas that were once popular, but have fallen to the wayside, and we see what has influenced the hits of today.
Combined with high quality images, it’s a good, chunky coffee table book that will also be a good reference source into the future.

This is a more expensive book to buy, but it’s also a more scientific study – specifically this book looks at the psychology of games playing. It looks at how people react to games, and as such will be a good resource for games developers.

It’s heavy on the research, but provides plenty of insights for designing games to be attractive to the gamer. It asks what attracts us to playing a game in the first place, why we play the games we do, and what makes them addictive.
One for the more serious researchers into games development and behaviour.
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