What do beginners and industry veterans have in common? They all want to be great developers. Yes, even seasoned professionals need to seek constant improvement and challenges. The learning never quite stops, especially in this field.
There are many resources out there, like educational conferences, speeches, podcasts, blogs and courses, but sometimes nothing beats a good old fashioned book. There’s something about reading through book spines until you find the exact subject you’re looking for that is magical. It’s almost a forgotten art form at this point.
“Ha, why do that when I can type it into Google?!”
Because while the internet is filled with information, a lot of it is written by noobs. Or people with great intentions, but little experience to back it all up. With a book, you see the author’s credentials right there on the bio! (Or, just read the following list and we’ll curate everything for you!)
Plus, don’t you want to have a library filled with valuable information to impress your friends? Of course you do.
Let’s dive in to our list of the top 5 books you should read to become a great game developer.
1) Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design
Written by game designer Scott Rogers, known for his work on Pac-Man World, God of War, Darksiders and Warhammer 40k, this book is a goldmine of information. It teaches you everything from how things work in a large game design company, to how to create design documents (GDDs). There are industry insights, practical knowledge and a variety of other great resources.
What gets commented on most is Rogers’ writing style, which is casual and inviting. He can add a dose of humor from time to time, without detracting from the book’s overall mission: to inform. In essence, it’s a great book to read if you’re just starting, thinking about starting, or looking for further direction on specific aspects of the game design process.
Available on Amazon for $26.70, and Kindle for $23.99.
2) Video Game Storytelling: What Every Developer Needs to Know About Narrative Techniques
Written by Evan Skolnick, known with his work with Marvel, Activision and Lucasfilm, this book focuses on writing. More specifically: what makes up modern game stories? It explains basic principle techniques, such as character development, and the three act structure. But it also explains more technical subjects, like how to best tell a story via the ever-changing games environment, and how to design levels that work in tandem with the narrative, so everything comes together seamlessly. (Ludonarrative dissonance, anyone?)
Despite delivering plenty of detailed content, Skolnick pulls off an inviting tone, which comes across as very down to earth. He doesn’t preach what’s right, nor wrong, he simply teaches you how to get things done.
Available now for $14.91 on Amazon, or $9.99 on Kindle.
3) Directing Video Games: 101 Tips for Creative Leaders
The longtime director of the Ratchet & Clank series, Brian Allgeier, decided to put his 25+ years of experience to further use when he decided to publish this gem in May 2017.
This book is for both beginners and advanced directors, but curious onlookers are more than welcome to pick up a copy as well. It’s informative enough for everyone, covering a variety of tips and tricks that illustrate how to properly lead a team of any size.
It reads like a Cliffsnotes guide, and therefore can be used as a cheat sheet of sorts. Any time you have a doubt or nagging question about how to best approach a situation with your team, you can pull up the information and get genuinely good advice from someone with decades in the industry. Think of it like a gateway to your mentor!
Available on Amazon for $29.95, or Kindle for $9.99.
4) Game Development Essentials: An Introduction
Jeannie Novak, the lead author and editor of the Game Development Essentials series, wrote this textbook in 2011, and it is still one of the highest rated game development books available online.
The book covers absolute essentials, so if you already have experience in game development, or if you’ve been a hardcore gamer for a long time, this is not the book for you. It is for absolute beginners.
But don’t pass on this book right away! If you really have no clue where to start, and are very new at this, this is a great starting point. The writing style is clear, the points are well-explained, and overall, it’s a solid educational read. Just be sure to shop around for it, as prices tend to be on the higher end.
Available on Amazon for $81.47, or Kindle for $51.99. You can also rent it for $32.59.
5) Game Engine Architecture, Second Edition
This amazing book was written by Jason Gregory, a professional software engineer since 1994. The book is packed with valuable information.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking this book is for everyone. While each of the books on this list have been rather specific, nothing has been quite as niche as this.
Gregory’s book provides every detail on what a modern game engine needs to have. It is very heavy reading, so junior programmers would love this. This is not the ideal read for anyone pondering whether they should dabble in the field.
If you are a game developer looking for deep insights into what makes up a game engine, this is the book for you. Be prepared to take notes!
Available for $47.49 from Amazon, or Kindle for $45.12. Rent for $19.
Still Not Sure Where To Start?
That’s fine too! Whether you’re thinking of starting a career in games, or you’re an industry veteran, there is bound to be a book out there for you. It could be on this list, or hidden in a dusty corner of the public library. It could even be a blog instead! All you need to worry about is taking the time to sift through options until you find the one that speaks to you and your career needs.
To make the process streamlined, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I trying to get a broad perspective, or a niche one?
- Do I have specific questions that need answering?
- Am I looking for more of a checklist or cheat sheet, or an in-depth tutorial?
- Have any of the industry leaders I admire written a book?
- What would best fit my lifestyle: a physical book, or a digital copy?
- What’s my ideal price range?
Best of luck on your search!