Game Design: Reading List

I like to read a lot. Here’s my whole reading list, and a few brief descriptions to accompany each one. These are sorted by topics so similar articles are grouped together. But some of them are written with a very specific game in mind, so I put them in their own section.


Composite design

An overview of what composite design is and how we can build levels out of one core scenario


World’s Hardest Platformer 2

Balancing difficulty and novelty


League of Legends

More depth for less complexity through level design


Super Mario Bros

Teaching players through carefully crafted levels


Naturalism in level design

Make levels feel like real, liveable environments rather than just gamey obstacles


Game feel

Using screenshake and other small details to make a game feel satisfying (Dropbox link to download, it’s an interactive presentation)


Complexity versus depth

Too much complexity means a high barrier of entry, complexity is not equivalent to depth



Give players opportunities to do things in response to what other players do


Anti-design patterns

Things that don’t make games fun, and we should avoid them


No random elements

Randomness is bad for game design


Asymmetry in game design

Asymmetry should not always be a default standard


Competitive games

Trying to make a game competitive makes it better


Consistent theming in game design

Make sure that all elements of a game deliver on a core theme, even through gameplay


Rethinking fighting games

Fighting games always adhere to a certain formula but there’s a lot of potential if we switch it up


Balancing multiplayer games

Four-part series by David Sirlin on balancing multiplayer games



LoL is driven by a clarity-focused philosophy: players should fight their opponents, not the game


Why layers

Keep asking “why” and keep giving answers, and you get better narrative


Designing game narrative

Hitbox Team (makers of Dustforce) on using game design to deliver narrative


Character development

Characters drive the story, not the other way around


GDC Vault game narrative reviews

Essays about examples of narrative in games (mine is the Binding of Isaac essay in 2013)


The underlying issue with narratology/ludology

Why games shouldn’t separate gameplay from story


Fuck videogames

A controversial talk about how games should not be a default medium for storytelling


Death to the three-act structure

Traditional storytelling for movies and books isn’t great when used in games, focus on characters instead (needs GDC Vault access)



Beats of a story should be connected with either “therefore” or “but,” not “and then” (the video is about 2 minutes long)


Consistent theming in narrative

Making sure that a story (and conversely, the whole game) delivers on a consistent theme


Don’t start with story

Stories are linear, games should not start with a story, start with an idea instead


Stories versus games

Stories and games are different mediums and merging them can harm both of their goals


Narrative design in games

Developer from Frictional Games (makers of Amnesia) on how to make narrative interactive


Max Payne 3

An article about the design philosophy behind Max Payne 3’s multiplayer



An article about how the multiplayer campaign in Titanfall works



“The End of A Genre As We Know It,” merging single player and multiplayer


League of Legends

Riot Games (makers of League of Legends) about how they do narrative (needs GDC Vault access)

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