As you may recall from a previous post, I have been prepping to teach an updated version of SYS 270 Game Studies. As part of this prep, I have been reading books on games, game theory, game design, and gamification. A newer book that has really stood out in this research has been GameTek: The Math And Science Of Gaming by Geoff Engelstein. Geoff is a game designer and has a podcast on game studies called Ludology. His knowledge of game theory, game design, and the game industry runs deep and his discussions on the podcasts are fascinating. He has also been running a small segment about game studies on the Dice Tower podcast. This book pulls together some of his best segments, sharing his knowledge in writing. The back of the book gives a great overview and commentary on the book.
2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of the GameTek segment on the Dice Tower podcast. Connecting games to math, science, and psychology, GameTek has grown to be one of the most popular parts of the show. This volume commemorates the anniversary with a collection of over seventy of the best segments, many with annotations and illustrations. With chapters on everything from Rock, Paper, Scissors to the Prisoner’s Dilemma to Player Engagement to Quasicrystals to Buddha’s Forbidden Games, GameTek is sure to delight not just game designers and players, but anyone who wants to learn about the world from a new perspective.
Sections: • Game Theory • Math • Psychology • Science • Game Mechanics • Psychology Games • History
“From the first time I heard it, the GameTek segment in The Dice Tower podcast became my favorite part of the show. Listening to Geoff is like going to your favorite lesson with your favorite teacher. He teaches about games (yay!) and does it in a very interesting way with lots of examples. He does amazing stuff. He knows about the construction of games, he knows the theory, he knows all that stuff behind the scenes that we gamers do not see when just playing a game and having fun.” – Ignacy Trzewiczek, Portal Games
“There are many hobby game ‘experts’ out there, dying to give you their opinion on how the industry works, how games work, what types of games are best, and so on. Geoff Engelstein is the expert that requires your attention. He is a scholar of games, and his research on games and other principles that apply to gaming is matched by none.” – Stephen Buonocore, Stronghold Games
“Over the years, I’ve listened to a lot of people talk about board games, yet the short snippets that Geoff puts out are the ones that I find myself thinking about in the quiet of the night. His are the segments that you laugh at and say, “I have NO idea what you are talking about” — but later on use to show people just how intellectual you are.” – Tom Vasel, The Dice Tower
If you are like me and have a fascination with the study of tabletop games then I highly recommend this book. That said, prepare to be challenged mentally as Geoff really delves into the math and science behind these topics, but does so in a way that you can relate. You will understand games at a much greater depth and have an increased appreciation of the work that designers put into your favorite games.