The biggest media event of December is here!

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I’ve been bombarding social media but forgetting about my poor old blog as I slave away in the education mines.

Players Making Decisions is out! You can buy it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, right from the Publisher, or anywhere else fine game design books are sold. In January, I plan on poking various media outlets for coverage, but I figure that is a useless task this close to Christmas.

It is slowly trickling into real people’s hands, and if you own two of those lucky hands, I have a favor to ask. Would you please leave kind reviews at Goodreads and Amazon? Those two sites drive a lot of impressions.

Features:

  • Beautiful matte cover.
  • No The Force Awakens spoilers. However, the book does contain a game theoretic discussion of what Lando Calrisssian should have expected in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • Lots of images and diagrams to help distract from the author’s reliance on words.

But seriously, here’s a list of contents. If any of this sounds interesting, I’d be thrilled if you picked up a copy:

Part 1: Getting Started

1. What Is a Game Designer?

Responsibilities of a Game Designer
Attributes of a Game Designer
Make Things
Cultivate Your Gardens
On Ontology and Dogma
Formalism
Summary

2. Problem Statements

Defining the Problem
Low-Hanging Fruit
Functional Fixedness
Brainstorming
Summary

3. Development Structures

Production Methodologies
Waterfall
Iterative Processes
Climbing the Pyramid
Scope
Summary

4. Starting Practices

Analog Games
Theme and Mechanics
Next Steps
Designing for Others
Opening Questions
Summary

Part 2: Prototypes and Playtesting

5. Paper Prototyping Development Techniques

Software and Materials
Art
Cards
InDesign Data Merge
Summary

6. Playtesting

Playtesting Goals
Playtesting Benefits
Listening to Feedback
Fear of Critique
Confirmation Bias
Finding Playtesters
Iterating
Summary

7. Playtesting Methods

The Testing Environment
Keep Playtesters Talking
A/B Testing
Self-Playtesting
Summary

8. Prototypes and Intellectual Property

Part 3: Meaningful Decisions

9. Flow and the Fundamental Game Design Directive

Game Flow
Interest Curves
Learning Curves
Individual Differences
Summary

10. Decision-Making

Player Agency
Anatomy of a Choice
Less-Interesting Decision-Making
Blind Decisions
Obvious Decisions
Meaningless/Misleading Decisions
Handcuffing Decisions
More-Interesting Decision-Making
Trade-offs
Risk/Reward
Expected Value
Summary

11. Randomness

Completely Random Games
Completely Skill-Based Games
Fairness and Mitigating Randomness
Summary

12. Goals

How Players Determine Game Goals
Criteria for Goals
Solving Goal Problems
Summary

Part 4: Describing Game Elements

13. Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics (MDA)

What Are Games About?
MDA
Example: Realm of the Mad God
Example: Monopoly
Example: Habitat
More Dynamics
Turtling
Kingmaking
Button Mashing
Grinding
Press-Your-Luck
Summary

14. Milieu

What Is Milieu?
Polish
Player Types
Motivation
Milieu as Design Focus
Summary

15. Rules and Verbs

Rules
Qualities of Rules
Types of Rules
Verbs
Summary

16. Balance

Symmetry
Self-Balancing Mechanisms
Progression and Numeric Relationships
Balance Heuristics
Summary

17. Feedback Loops

Positive Feedback Loops
Negative Feedback Loops
Feedback Loops in Action
Fixing Problems
Summary

18. Puzzle Design

What Is a Puzzle?
Possibility Space
Breadcrumbs
Features of Ineffective Puzzles
Incomplete Critical Information/Missed Assumptions
Lack of Ability to Experiment
Brute Force
Triviality Surrounded by Complexity
Lack of Possibility Space
Arbitrariness
Types of Puzzles
Deduction Puzzles
Truth Puzzles
Deception Puzzles
Paradoxes
Other Puzzle Types
Critical Path Puzzles
Strategy Puzzles
Algebraic Puzzles
Physical Manipulation Puzzles
Summary

Part 5: Game Theory and Rational Decision-Making

19. Equilibria in Normal Form Games

The Prisoner’s Dilemma
Solving Games Using Strict Dominance
Using (and Abusing) Dominance
Zero-Sum Games
Stag Hunt and Coordination
Determining Nash Equilibria in a Larger Matrix
Mixed Strategies
Stag Hunt Redux
Summary

20. Sequential and Iterated Games

Game Trees
Promises and Commitment Problems
Iterated Games
Experimenting with Strategies
Successful Strategies
Summary

21. Problems with Game Theory

Rational Actors
The Dollar Auction
The “Guess Two-Thirds” Game
Second-Price Auctions
Summary

22. Marginal Decision Analysis

Marginal Nuggets
Balance on Margins
Summary

Part 6: Human Behavior in Games

23. Behaviorism and Schedules of Reinforcement

Operant Conditioning
Schedules of Reinforcement
Anticipation and Uncertainty
Ethical and Practical Concerns
Summary

24. Learning and Constructivism

Historic Approaches
Novices and Experts
Cognitive Load
Expertise Reversal Effect
Split-Attention Effect
Tutorials and Learning Design
Summary

25. Motivation

Two Types of Motivation
What’s the Problem with Rewards?
Self-Determination Theory and Challenges
Competition and Motivation
Personality
Other Motivation Effects
Summary

26. Human Decision-Making

Mental Shortcuts
Attribution Errors
Misunderstanding Randomness
Anchoring and Adjustment
Understanding Value in Uncertain Situations
Loss
Framing Decisions
Summary

27. Attention and Memory

Attention
Memory
Helping with Memory Limitations
Perception
Summary

Part 7: Game Design Tools

28. Documentation and Written Communication

The Game Design Document
The GDD Creation Process
Step One: Determine Purpose/Desired Scope/Connected Systems
Step Two: Research
Step Three: Idea Generation
Step Four: Murder Your Darlings
Step Five: Fully Detail the Best Answer
Step Six: Edit and Find Edge Cases
References
Documentation for Tabletop Games
States and Flowcharts
Summary

29. Probability

Probability Is Counting
Joint Probability
Conditional Probability
Adding Die Rolls
Example: The H/T Game
Being Careful
Problem #1: The Boy-Girl Problem
Problem #2: The Weirder Boy-Girl Problem
Problem #3: Isner-Mahut at Wimbledon
Summary

30. Spreadsheets for Simulation

Why Use Spreadsheets?
Basics
Formulas
Formula Operator
Basic Math
SUM, PRODUCT
MAX, MIN
AVERAGE, MEDIAN, MODE
RANK, PERCENTRANK, PERCENTILE
ROUND, TRUNC
RAND, RANDBETWEEN
CONCATENATE
VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP
IF
COUNTIF, SUMIF
OR, AND
Common Formula Errors
Anchors
Goal Seek and Solver in Excel
One-Way Data Tables
Summary

31. Monte Carlo Simulation

Answering Design Questions
Hot Hand
Monty Hall
Once Around the Board
Martingale Betting
Summary

32. Presenting Ideas

The Thesis
Text on Slides
Data-Ink
Do Not Waste Time
Documentation
Acquiring Images
Example: State of Mobile Games 2014
Risk
Risk Analysis
Pitch Questions
Summary

Part 8: The Game Design Business

33. Profit, Loss, and Metrics

Profit and Loss
Metrics
Virality
Cash Flow
Summary

34. Sustainable Lifestyles

Life in AAA Digital Game Development
Life as an Independent Developer of Digital Games
Life in Tabletop Game Development
Market Luck
Summary

Conclusion