Well, now, here’s a book to add to the Backburner in a few months.
Two years ago, independent game designer Steve Swink wrote an essay, an amazing, brilliant manifesto titled “Principles of Virtual Sensation.” In this design primer, Swink lists the tenets of movement and animation, and how these principles correspond to virtual sensation, which in turn makes for what Swink simply calls “good-feeling gameplay.” But what is virtual sensation? Swink explains:
Driving a car, you have a very strong sense of the position of that car, the feel of steering and controlling it, of mastery. This is the ability that every person who’s ever learned to drive a car has: the ability to extend precise control over something outside your body. There is a great amount of pleasure in the learning and eventual mastery of such a motion translation. [...] Many people also find this pleasure in video games, where it is both distilled to its essence and free of the constraints and dangers of more physical activities. You can change the turning radius of a car, but you can’t change gravity. This experience of control is derived from an artificial kinesthesia. This is the ‘feel’ of the game, the thing that makes your mom lean left and right in her seat as she tries to play Rad Racer.
If Swink’s essay leaves you wanting more, don’t worry!
Game Feel: a Game Designer’s Guide to Virtual Sensation is over 300 pages of game design philosophy, with plenty of insights from Swink’s indie design peers. (Incidentally, Phil Fish of Fez designed Game Feel’s cover jacket.)
Game Feel drops this October.