In preparation for the course I’ll be teaching this semester, I read John Ferrara’s Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. John did a good job with the book. The writing is very accessible, and it’s broken up into relatively short chapters, making it easy to reference. John’s target audience is the User Experience (UX) community, so the book approaches the topic from the perspective of applying game design principles to interaction design. Having already read Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design, I didn’t find value in Part II of Playful Design: Designing Game Experiences, but that part of the book will be quite useful to any designer new to the subject. Parts I and III I enjoyed more, with the latter, titled Playful Design in User Experiences, being most beneficial. Here are the descriptions of the chapters in that part of the book:
Chapter 11: Games for Action surveys a variety of ways that games have been applied to influence people’s actions in the real world.
Chapter 12: Games for Learning takes a look at games that have been designed to help people learn new concepts and skills.
Chapter 13: Games for Persuasion describes how games can convince people to adopt a different point of view.
Chapter 14: How Games Are Changing concludes the book with a speculative look toward the future of games, as suggested by current trends in design.
While Schell’s book touches on such topics, it doesn’t do so in great detail, as his book primarily deals with the “how” of game design. Spending a chapter each on learning and persuasion gave Ferrara the opportunity to cover a number of examples I wasn’t previously aware of. Note, also, that Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber has similar chapters with even more examples.
If you are seriously interested in designing games, I would first recommend The Art of Game Design, and it will still be the primary text for my class. If you are a designer looking to add game design principles to your tool belt, Playful Design will be perfect for your purposes. I am already sprinkling my lectures with notes from it.