These essays are a selected sampling of the writing I’ve done over the last several years, arranged in rough chronological order. I have yet to add essays from the last few years.
Most of these writings are not formal academic essays with proper references. If you’re looking for a good bibliography, there’s a very long one in Rules of Play.
A Bill of Rights for Game Developers (2005)
This intentionally provocative thinkpiece was originally published for the International Game Developers Association website and subsequently as a feature at the game developer community site gamasutra.com. Based on a keynote talk I gave at the Montreal International Game Summit, it caused a bit of stir when published, although not as much as I would have liked.
Learning to Play to Learn (2005)
Co-authored with gameLab game designer Nick Fortugno, this practical design piece outlines common pitfalls in educational game design. The main message is for game developers and educators to learn how to respect each other and work together to solve the daunting design and implementation challenges of educational games.
The Missing Piece (2003)
This catty little rant about the game industry was written for an early issue of the German game magazine GameFace. It was later republished in the program for the Australian conference Playthings.
Creating a Culture of Design Research (2003)
This tiny essay was published in Design Research: Methods and Perspectives, a book that Brenda Laurel edited, and it outlines the strategies that Peter Lee and I use to craft the company culture at gameLab.
Play as Research: The Iterative Design Process (2003)
Also a chapter of Design Research, this piece outlines the basics of iterative design by examining how the games SiSSYFiGHT, LEGO JunkBot, and LOOP were created.
Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games: Four naughty concepts in need of discipline (2004)
This essay appears in the volume First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game, edited by Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardup-Fruin. Although this book came out after Rules of Play, I wrote this essay much earlier, and the “four naughty concepts” presented in the essay were further refined and clarified by myself and Katie in Rules of Play.
I was asked to contribute something for an issue of Print dedicated to the theme of sex. My response was to design seven fanciful games on the theme of sex, each presented as a short concept. The final version of the piece included kickass illustrations by Ross MacDonald, but they did take out two of the games. Enjoy the full text here.
Do Independent Games Exist? (2002)
A meditation on what is wrong with the game industry, this two-pronged essay was first published in Game On, the catalog for the museum exhibition of the same name.
No Future (circa 2001)
Never actually published, this choose-your-own-adventure style interactive story about the ad world was written with game designer Frank Lantz for a design magazine whose art director eventually found it too challenging to run a little dollop of text at the bottom of every page of the issue. Enjoy.
Thinkpiece for “Playing by the Rules: The Cultural Policy Challenges of Video Games” (2001)
This paper, in addition to addressing the inane question “Are videogames art?” spends most of its time detailing a court appearance I made as an expert witness in a Canadian court. The end of the paper begins some of my thinking about independent games, which reached fruition in my essay Do Independent Games Exist? the following year.
Against Hypertext (2000)
A diatribe against the hypertext model of interactive narrative, this essay was written as a response to a piece by Stephanie Strickland, both of which appeared in American Arts and Letters #12. Despite this essay, Stephanie and I get along very well and enjoy each others work.
The Rules of the Game (1999)
This essay on boardgames and their implications for design was published in the first (and only) issue of If / Then, a fantastic design journal in book form. Design diva Janet Abrams edited the issue, which was themed on play and linked to the Doors of Perceptions conference on the same topic.
Rules, Play and Culture: Towards an Aesthetic of Games (1999)
This short essay on game design, co-authored with Frank Lantz for the now-defunct Merge Magazine, was the first appearance of the rules/play/culture schema which was later to find overfull fruition in Rules of Play.
Technologies of Undressing: The Digital Paper Dolls of KISS (1996)
This early essay was written with film scholar Elena Gorfinkel and was spurred by our mutual fascination with the early internet-based culture of Kisekae dolls. It was published in the now-defunct tecnhoculturejournal 21C, as well as Katie Salen’s design theory journal Zed.
copyright © 2010 eric zimmerman