Books for Game Developers and How to Find Them

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed as a game designer, it’s definitely that it’s hard to find good books on development subjects. Obviously, since I go to a university with specific degrees in those subjects, it’s a lot easier for me to get my hands on development books, but even then, they’re supplied by the school, not always used, and not always very good.

So how do you find books on development that are good? Well, for starters, check out game developers’ resources and recommendations. Many developers in the industry have blogs or web sites that often link to things they like, including books. I find Twitter to be an excellent tool for this, as well. Twitter allows you the ability to ask specific people for recommendations on what you are trying to learn, without getting too personal or creepy. An added plus: it could also be a good way to get your name out there. Just be sure to keep it short and simple (there is a character limit), and don’t act like a fanboy.

Developers in the industry also have this neat hobby of writing their own books! Who better to get a book from than someone who is already in the industry? At least as far as I know, most books written by developers are usually cooperative efforts, i.e. more than one developer writes the book. This provides knowledge from two different perspectives, which is always helpful.

Another great place to find both good books and recommendations is GDC. The Game Developers Conference is packed with knowledgeable people, and asking for a book recommendation is a great conversation starter. There are also a lot of students and other people looking to get into the industry, and some of them may have found a great read you would have never found otherwise. And guess what else is cool about GDC? They sell books! That’s right: there is actually a little book store at GDC. Even though the books may be a bit pricey, you can always jot down some of the titles and grab them later. And if you have any questions about any of the books, there is most likely someone who can help you out.

Of course, you should always ask professors or other students in your major if you, like me, are attending a school specifically for game development. Professors tend to do much much more reading than students, and can help you to find a specific book that will be good for what you need. Most of the game design classes I’ve taken only have one book listed for the course, but oftentimes the professor will have recommended reading that goes beyond the required book, or perhaps focuses on one area in great detail.

Finally, there is the internet, which can be both good and bad. On the good side, it is full of book titles just for you; on the bad side, most of the books you may come across probably aren’t very helpful. If you want to avoid wasting time checking to see if a book is legitimate or not, narrow your search. Look for books on specific subjects and go from there, or else you may find yourself reading a book you don’t want. Also, check up on the author. You want to read things written by actual game developers, professors, indies, or at least people who know a thing or two about making games (NOT playing them). While I could go on forever about how to find good books on the internet, I wouldn’t really recommend using it if you don’t have to. These days, there are even game magazines that review game development books, so there are plenty of options to try first.

If you have any suggestions on where to find good game development books, or even some interesting and helpful reads you’ve found, please share! I’ve been adding books to the resources page at the top, so check back to that every once in a while to see if I’ve added any new ones. I hope this post helped!

    • Tyler
    • December 29th, 2010

    A few of my favorites include :

    A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell (the cards are also stellar)

    David Perry on Game Design

    Challenges for Game Designer by Brenda Braithwaite

    Ironically, Amazon tends to group those three together as well.

    • I’ve read Brenda’s book, and the other two are great finds. I’ll have to check them out and add them to the Resources. Thanks!

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