Books: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

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101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, by Matthew Frederick.

This is undoubtably another title to add to my “Secret Books of Game Design” list, and I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice it. There is a lot of general purpose design wisdom in this book that applies well beyond architecture, and it is presented in delightfully plain and pithy language. The topics range from the profoundly aesthetic (Beauty is due more to harmonious relationships among the elements of a composition that to the elements themselves) to the immediately practical (Roll your drawings for transport or storage with the image side facing out).

If I may reproduce one of my favorite entries (on a topic that I struggle to get my students to understand):

Improved design process, not a perfectly realized building [or game], is the most valuable thing you gain from one design studio and take with you to the next.

Design studio instructors, above all else, want their students to develop good process. If an instructor gives a good grade to what appears to you to be a poor project, it is probably because the student has demonstrated good process. Likewise, you may see an apparently good project receive a mediocre grade. Why? Because a project doesn’t deserve a good grade if the process that led to it was sloppy, ill-structured, or the result of hit-and-miss good luck.

There is, of course, also a lot of architecture specific wisdom in the book, but this is also of value to game designers. All level design is architectural, insofar as architecture is fundamentally about the interaction between people and space. Understanding the concepts of positive and negative space and their psyhcological impact on their occupants, for instance, is as important in a game as in the real world.

There are a lot of books on Level Design which can tell you everything you need to know about the Unreal editor, but few that can explain how to make your spaces feel meaningful. For that, I strongly recommend we learn from the architects. They have been designing levels much longer than we have. This little book is a nice starting point; a teaser, if you like, that might start a love affair with something more profound.

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