Game Design Readings: Understanding Comics

Game Design Readings Banner

So I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but throughout my career I’ve been asked to chime in on a great many artistic issues. It’s a collaborative process but also an intimidating one to non-artists like myself. Clearly there is a minimum standard of artistic knowledge that should be held by anyone in game design, and clearly it needs to be presented in a clear, easy to absorb form.

 

Luckily for us, one artist/author has created just such a resource, albeit for a different industry. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art is a phenomenal resource for any game developer. McCloud does it by the simple expedient of writing an ever evolving comic starring himself, then constantly changing the art style and presentation to match whatever artistic concept he’s talking about. It’s a brilliant concept and goes through a stunning amount of content in a short space of time.

It’s of course centered on the art of comics but it’s done with such skill that it applies to any related artistic field, including of course games. In reading this book you learn the basics of comic grammar, but also types of transitions, iconography, how time works in presentation, how line influences communication, interplay of words, images and colour, and even the artistic process that leads to artistic creation. It’s also a delight to read, the best textbook you were never given.

Part of the work even dedicates itself to the “Are comics art?” debate and nicely enough, the arguments mirror exactly the struggle we in the game industry face when our detractors ask us to explain ourselves and prove our worth. It is, as Scott McCloud himself puts it, “A really stupid question.”

In short it’s a simple but powerful book that any game developer, comic fan or not, should take time to read. It’s a detailed look at the history, purpose and art of comics but also an important resource for any non-artist seeking to educate themselves.


Chris Mitchell teaches Pre-Production, Game Theory and Project Design at VFS

Game Design Readings : The Code Book

Game Design Readings Banner

Two people want to exchange a secret by mail. They do not trust the mail system, and they live too far apart to meet, how can they securely send a locked box without also mailing a key?

The answer is surprisingly straightforward. Person A mails a box secured with a padlock to person B. Person B receives the box and adds their own padlock, then mails it back to Person A. Person A takes their lock off the box and mails it back to Person B, who removes their padlock, opening the box.

I credit games with granting me many interests and hobbies. One of the strongest in particular is a love of cryptography and cryptanalysis, which was started by a game series called Ultima. The Ultima games themselves contained many of the elements that we now consider axioms of role-playing games, but which were at the time considered revolutionary: Character progression, variable party members, ethical decisions, conversation choices — things that we take for granted now were strange frontiers of gameplay for me in the summer of 1986.
Read More

Game Design Readings : The Art of Game Design

I’m a great believer that a certain amount of wandering obsession is a valuable as a game designer. Many of the designers I know and admire have a remarkable capacity to be astounded and delighted by discovery, and are uncaring what that discovery might be. Game design detractors like to call us masters of none, but I much prefer the idea of being a student of everything. The world is large but my head is small, and I like it that way very much.

However, oddly enough, I’ve always been unsatisfied by the readings available on game design. Too often it feels like we’re playing at academics when our chosen profession is closer to a craft, uncovering through experimentation and experience. Plotted down in a textbook, game design feels too algorithmic; creating a fallacy that plugging in variables gives you enjoyable games emerging out the other end.
Read More