Game design used to be the province of individual experts who worked more or less independently. It is rapidly becoming a field, complete with guiding lights others look to. Below are some of mine.
If you’re interested in the theory of game design, as distinct from the practice of building games on a day-to-day basis, Game Design Advance is a great resource. Several NYU professors post there on macro-level issues relating to games, the game industry, and game design’s lessons for other fields.
Keith Burgun is a theorist working toward a comprehensive theory of how games work, with the goal of applying that theory to create better games. His writing is often controversial and always fascinating. I would encourage anyone interested in the theory behind games to follow his posts; you’ll find them interesting and insightful even if you don’t agree with his overall taxonomy.
For a long time, Dave Sirlin was one of the few game design voices on the internet, period. Today he stands out from an increasingly crowded field as a leading authority on asymmetric game design. His current posts can be found at the link above; his older site, which has many worthwhile articles not (yet?) available at the redesigned location, can be found here.
Jake Thornton maintains the Quirkworthy blog. Long-time miniatures gamers may recognize Mr. Thornton’s name from his time with Games Workshop; more recently he has done a number of well-received designs for Mantic Games. Mr. Thornton has a wealth of experience in game design; if you’re interested in the topic his posts are well worth your time.
Jason Rohrer talks through his design of some fascinating games in a series of articles for The Escapist. His website is also worth a look; check out, inter alia, the critically acclaimed Passage and Gravitation.
Mark Rosewater, Lead Designer for Magic: the Gathering, has a weekly column on Magic’s official website. It’s an invaluable resource, quite possibly the single largest repository of professional game design thinking currently available on the internet. Recent articles (and a smattering of older ones of ongoing importance) are here; a more extensive (but no longer updated) archive can be found here.
Riot Games, makers of League of Legends, encourages its employees to discuss design issues with players. If you follow the discussions you can see design work being done in as close to real time as it’s possible to get–and that’s not even mentioning the opportunity to participate in the discussions yourself. Understanding what’s going on takes a certain amount of proficiency with the game, but it’s worth investing a few hours (and zero dollars–the game is free to play) to be able to follow along.
Alexander “Xelnath” Brazie maintains a blog where he discusses game design lessons and evaluates his own work. It’s informative, courageous, and all-around fascinating.
Jay Treat posts at Playing > Winning. If you’ve never played one of Jay’s games, I urge you to seek them out. He’s a great designer, and even his prototypes are consistently fun.
Many talks given at the annual Game Developers Conference are archived at the GDC Vault. The topics addressed range from high-level theory to nuts-and-bolts advice on achieving specific technical goals. Watching these videos can be like attending a master class or workshop; they’re a great way to get a lot of top-quality information about specific matters of interest.
If you know of other resources, let me know.