While grabbing a different book on my shelves, I noticed this small orange book and realized I have not yet written about it. In truth, Uncertainty in Games by Greg Costikyan, is the book that started me down the path of reading all these game design, history, theory, mechanics and studies books. My wife purchased this book for me as a gift and it grabbed my attention instantly.
It was overlooked because of other books that were more recently read and on my mind, but now as I flip through this book again, I remember how it impacted so much my view of games, probability, and general uncertainty around us.
In this concise and entertaining book, Costikyan, an award-winning game designer, argues that games require uncertainty to hold our interest, and that the struggle to master uncertainty is central to their appeal. Game designers, he suggests, can harness the idea of uncertainty to guide their work.
Costikyan explores the many sources of uncertainty in many sorts of games—from Super Mario Bros. to Rock/Paper/Scissors, from Monopoly to CityVille, from FPS Deathmatch play to Chess. He describes types of uncertainty, including performative uncertainty, analytic complexity, and narrative anticipation. And he suggest ways that game designers who want to craft novel game experiences can use an understanding of game uncertainty in its many forms to improve their designs.
Understanding games and how they impact us is more than just understanding rules and components. There are core emotions and intellectual insights that draw us to the playing of games. This book encourages you to contemplate games as more than just entertainment.