A Review of A Theory of Fun for Game Design
written and illustrated by Raph Koster
In an illustrated essay that is somewhere between a meditation and a manifesto, Raph Koster works to justify games to a general audience by characterizing them as learning experiences that can be tuned to challenge us in new ways. The book, based on a 2003 talk at the Austin Game Conference, is, unfortunately, short on real argument; Koster has thought out his positions in the book, but he usually neither backs up the claims he makes with much discussion nor follows through to investigate their implications. It’s interesting, though, that Koster has tried to make A Theory of Fun for Game Design itself a playful learning system, by juxtaposing text with diagrammatic or cartoon sorts of discussion, for example, and by providing copious endnotes with digressive comments and references. On the recto there are some gems: a nice chart showing the evolution of the 2-D shooter, drawings of game patterns for some of those shooters, and amusing cartoons in which teens brag about, among other things, beating the last level of Ulysses.