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Game development is currently a largely non-academic enterprise. There are a lot of commercial developers of games, as well as a large hobbyist community. The academic community focusing on games seems to be small, and new. [Or so it appears to me].

Having said all that, are there some must read papers/books on game development from academics?

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closed as too broad by Alexandre Vaillancourt, Kromster, Josh Petrie Jun 21 at 16:23

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

If you intend for this to be a list, please mark it as Community Wiki. – Noctrine Aug 2 '10 at 21:02
I did not think that there would be enough answers that the result would be a 'list', thus I did not think CW was a good fit. And the first answer 'fits' my expectations. – Jacques Carette Aug 2 '10 at 21:12
There are tons of academic papers related to games; a simple literature search will confirm this. The problem is that so much is written (and so much is academically dense) that it takes awhile to filter out to the game industry. Try taking a look at papers and poster sessions from GDC, SIGGRAPH, FuturePlay, Game Education Summit, or other academic/developer conferences. As for "must read"... that's in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? (Also, game development is such a huge field -- a "must read" design article might not be "must read for programmers.) – Ian Schreiber Aug 2 '10 at 22:44
A lot of stuff at places like GDC and SIGGRAPH isn't really "academic" in the traditional sense. It is hard-hitting research, but much of it is done by game (or others, eg. Pixar) companies in the normal course of development. – coderanger Aug 2 '10 at 23:19

A professor at my school, Dr. R. Michael Young, was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Game Development. It had 9 issues before it apparently disappeared. I don't know the story, though I should ask him. The main website is down but here's a wayback machine result from June 2008 if you're interested. You should look around for the issues; they are probably pretty rare since it was discontinued.

So right now I think the closest you're going to get is the Game Developer magazine.

I like to keep up with the industry online. I highly recommend becoming a member of IGDA and keeping up with your local chapter. There's also Gamasutra, they have a lot of game industry news and articles, and of course

You might also search around for textbook lists. I'm not sure how many schools publicize them; mine doesn't. But for example, my game design class last Fall required the book Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. If you can figure out what books are being required as textbooks by professors, it's a good bet they are great resources. (though I personally didn't like Rules of Play all too much, it's way too much theory and nothing concrete)

You may also find, scholars tend to be "lazy" and just use existing solutions. So whereas indie developers love to code their own engines, libraries, etc., the game development researchers and masters students at my school use the Unreal engine (and now the UDK) or the Unity engine. Being an aspiring game programmer, I find it to be extremely boring, but they are mainly interested in design and AI studies.

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Some papers from a friend of mine:

Most game-related research can't be labeled as such or funding (90% of which in the US comes from the Navy) will dry up in an instant. If you look for "cognitive modeling" or similar that might help.

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Cool. You can look my stuff up at either… or I have mostly done mathematics and DSL related work, but I am branching out into games [I started the game design program at McMaster]. – Jacques Carette Aug 2 '10 at 23:38

I think everyone who is interested ought to find good resources on story telling. Most games have some story that drives the game play and creates the world that players are immersed in. I myself don't know any good story telling resources but a great place to start might be contacting a game development institute like DigiPen. I am sure there are others out there too that would put you in contact with an English professor or someone who is an expert in storytelling.

You could also ask what other resources the deans of the school think are important for their students to know.

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Mind you, good resources on storytelling from an academic point of view, are far from what the average programmer would consider a good resource on storytelling. For one, the background in text theory is assumed, and secondly, computer story generation is really in its infancy - they've come a long way, but there's still a heck of a long way to go before we can retire the 10.000 monkeys with typewriters. – Kaj Aug 3 '10 at 5:23

For game designers, "MDA Framework" (Hunicke, LeBlanc, Zubek) is one of the most useful papers I've seen come out of academia. For books, "Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses" (Schell) and "Game Design Workshop" (Fullerton) are good picks, both written by professors. (In fact, most game design books worth reading were written by professors, as they tend to have more time for book writing than your average working game developer. Most game design books that aren't worth reading were also written by professors, though.)

This question seems like it carries some kind of mistrust of academia (the whole "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" thing), but that ignores that especially these days, there's an awful lot of crossover between academia and industry. I worked in games for ten years before crossing over into teaching, and I still do industry contract work when I can; does that make me part of the game developer community, or the academic community? I could name a dozen others off the top of my head in the exact same situation. So I'm not sure that the distinction of "academic or industry" is even meaningful anymore.

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I am currently an academic! I used to be in industry (but not games related). I've done the whole gamut from lowly programmer (even a stint a Microsoft, working on OS/2 of all things) to Sr. Architect, to Management drone. I decided to reboot my brain and academia made that easier for me than industry did. – Jacques Carette Aug 2 '10 at 23:30

This is a starting point:
as is:
links a fair amount of papers on a fair amount of topics (check the forum too)
Of course in graphics there's a lot of research that makes it into games or is developed for games, so always keep up on what's going on in SigGraph circles.
And for AI there's

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There is not and never will be any de-facto must-read; like the book that everyone agrees every self-respecting game developers should have read. Won't happen.

Everyone find their own must-reads from time to time. A complete game-changer for me could mean nothing to you, due to our different personalities, past experiences and so on. You'll find your must-reads as you get involved in the game development scene.

I started out by frequenting Gamasutra and GameCareerGuide because they had the best articles on what I was most interested in at the time; writing game design documents and 'breaking in'.

The beast readers tips come when you are actively engaged with other game developers. Conversation with your peers will always be in the context of game development, and suggestions to 'further reading' will be always relevant to what you are currently trying to achieve, e.g. learning a new toolset or researching good level design. It won't matter so much that you could have read a slightly better book, if the one you're reading in its stead makes it easier to collaborate/talk with your fellow developers because you have a resource in common that you can refer to.

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One more book to add to the list:

Software Engineering for Game Developers is an interesting approach to combining traditional software engineering to the typically chaotic process of game development. I have not gotten through the entire book yet, but the parts I have were pretty enlightening in respect to how to approach the chaotic nature of creative process with a orderly and structured process to approach the best of both worlds.

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