Textbooks and Other Reading

Primary Text

The main text for CS/INFO 3152 is Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton. This text was chosen because it is readable and has a lot of good information on game design. It is also accessible to both programmers and designers. It emphasizes the design process over the technical challenges. In our experience, most of the programming aspects of game development are covered much better online than in a text. Design principles are the reverse. Reading a text is better than the most of the material online.

The lectures in this class are intended to complement the book, not replace them.
Therefore, this book is an important resource. In particular, its chapters on prototyping are invaluable. While there are no exams testing whether you have read the textbook, your final project will graded according to many of the criteria in this text.

Other Texts

The Fullerton text is nice in that it is an excellent survey of all of the different aspects of game development. However, for any specific topic, there is often another book that goes into more detail. In particular, the Fullerton text is particularly weak on game mechanics. In case you are interested, here is a list of alternative texts that you might wish to check out.

Rules of Play

This is the academic text on game design, and is a must read for anyone who wants to work in games. Some people criticize it for an overly formal approach to the field, but this just means that its strengths are in rules and mechanics rather than more artistic aspects of game design. It has the added bonus that it is available as an e-book. through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).

The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology

This is a companion text to Rules of Play, consisting of individual articles written by people on various topics in game design. While it is not available as an e-book, there is a copy in Uris Library.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

This book is a reaction against the heavy formalism present in Rules of Play. It approaches game design more from a HCI (human computer interaction) perspective. As with Rules of Play, it is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).

Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design

In the past we used Ernest Adam’s textbook for this course, but we replaced it with the Fullerton, which is much better. Ironically, Ernest has some of the most in-depth understanding of game mechanics of anyone; he just never put any of it in his book. This book remedies that. It has much of the material that he presented in his GDC tutorials, and which should have been in the first book.

This book is also notable in that it is one of the first texts to present a formal definition of a game grammar.

Challenges for Game Designers

This book is less of a how-to and more of a collection of exercises to give you practice with game design. It was written as a part of the game design curriculum at the Savanah College of Art and Design (SCAD). We used the text in this course one year, but it is more appropriate as an extra resource than a primary text. It is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).

A Theory of Fun

Raph Koster’s text on the nature of fun is still a bit controversial, but he understands the social game phenomenom better than just about anyone (and he gives some of the best GDC talks. While it is not available as an e-book, there is a copy in Uris Library.

Introduction to Game Development

As an antidote to all of the design texts, this is a text that focuses heavily on the software aspects of game development. It is by Steve Rabin, one of the founders of the AI Wisdom series. It is not a bad book, and is a decent resource. Its presentation of software engineering and architecture, however, are a bit lacking. It is available as an e-book through the Cornell library (must be accessed from a Cornell IP address).

Online Resources

In addition to the above texts, there are several online resources that you may find valuable. We have separated these by area of interest.

Software Development

There are many, many game-related software development resources online. Game programmers have a long history of sharing information with one another as they tackle hard problems. Indeed, sometimes you can learn a lot about the industry from just reading a developer’s blog. With that said, there are certain sites that are very well known “one stop” resources for game developers. Here are just a few that we know.

Game Dev Net

This site is the Redit of Game Development. Its forums are comprehensive, and it is always the first place you should look when trying to understand how to do something in game development.

AI Game Dev

This site used to be the go-to site for AI development. It is a much weaker site now that most of the material is stored behind a pay-wall. However, you can still find a few nuggets of wisdom in the free section.

AI Wisdom

This site is really just a table of contents for the various books in the Charles River Media collection. However, these books are major venue for game developers to share their wisdom, and it is worth owning some of these books.

Game Design

Most of the best game design resources are textbooks. With that said, there are some a few value online resources for you to look at.

The Designer’s Notebook

In many ways, Ernest Adam’s website is even better than his popular textbook. The No Twinkie Database is a great resource for learning from the mistakes of yeterday to make the games of tomorrow.


This site is a major source for game designers and developers, as it contains summaries of GDC presentations written for a more general audience. It is also a common venue for industry postmortems.

The Art of Computer Game Design

This is Chris Crawford’s famous essay on the topic, written in the 1990s. With that said, his approach is very, very different than the one we use in this course.

User-Interface Design

In addition to general game design, there are some online resources that focus specifically on the user-interface aspects of game development. Here are two of note.

Game Interface Design

This is a collection of resources used by ITT Tech for its course on Game Interface Design. You may find them useful.

User Interfaces for Games

This is a lecture given at the University of Michigan by David Kieras. It is really an adaptation of general HCI principles to games, and the fit is not always perfect. There is a bit too much focus on input speed and productivity, and not on experience. However, but there is some interesting information to be found in this lecture.

Audio and Music

If you are interested in this material, you should really talk to the faculty in the music department. We have some great faculty at Cornell that specialize in This course no longer has a track in music or game audio. We generally only recruited two or three musicians a year, and most of the teams ended up using music from Newgrounds (see below). Furthermore, we could no longer support them in the course reorganization.
With that said, we still provide several of the resources here.

The Newgrounds Audio Library

If you do not have a talented musician on your team, that is okay. The Newgrounds Audio Library has a vast library of material that you can use in your game without violating copyright. Please respect the licensing requirements for any material you use. They often require credit, which means credit in both the game itself and in the game manual.


This site started out as a developer blog for audio in computer games. It has now morphed into a collection of resources and tutorials. It has the advantage that it is very game focused, as opposed to the other sites which include general audio production.


This site is good one for building up your fundamentals in audio design. It is primarily a collection of tutorials in audio engineering and sound design. With that said, they are not specifically targeted at games.

Sound on Sound

This website is a huge collection of tutorials on general audio engineering and sound design.