Raph Koster Revising “A Theory of Fun”

Former Ultima Online lead designer Raph Koster has recently undertaken a project to update his book, A Theory of Fun, and has posted the first update as to how that effort is progressing:

I have been going back and forth with the publisher on what exactly needs to be revised. I have my own list, and I was hoping that the revisions would be shaped by responses from people as to things they disagreed with or have changed over time. I haven’t gotten a lot of those, alas…many thanks to those who have sent in stuff!

The reason this matters now, before any writing actually starts, is in order to set schedules for milestones. That said, I fully expect the coloring of all the artwork to take far longer than the text revision.

One thing that I have gotten as a vibe overall is “don’t break it.” Meaning, don’t change it too much or revise it to the point where it loses the qualities that make it what it is.

One big example of this that has come up and is still up in the air is the layout format of the book. As you know, it’s a non-standard trim size, wider than it is tall, and famously fits poorly on many bookshelves. I ran an informal poll on Twitter, and got very split results as to whether to change that. One of the biggest reasons in favor is that if it changes to a standard trim size, it cam move to print-on-demand in the book supply chain, and then it’ll tend to never fall out of print the way that it has in the past.

If you haven’t read A Theory of Fun, allow me to highly recommend it. While it is ultimately a book about game design, it leverages a great deal of philosophy and science to illustrate the vital role that games play in our formation as persons as well.

You can buy it through Amazon, or on Kindle, although it might be prudent to wait for the updated copy. Unless, of course, you want to do a comparison between the original and revised versions at some later date.

2 Responses

  1. Sanctimonia Sanctimonia says:

    I’d take five to ten measurements of common book case shelf heights, average them, subtract one inch and use that for the width of the new book while maintaining the aspect ratio of the old book. You could then place the book on your shelf vertically (spine at the top, leaf at the bottom) without issue. I prefer to think of games as being “engaging” rather than “fun”, but it’s all the same in many ways.

  2. Raph says:

    Book trim sizes are largely determined by printing press factors, so though I like Sanctimonia’s idea, I’m likely to just be at the mercy of “pick one.”