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Handbook of digital games
Angelides M., Agius H., Wiley-IEEE Press, Piscataway, NJ, 2014. 784 pp. Type: Book (978-1-118328-03-3)
Date Reviewed: Jun 10 2015

This handbook focuses on the state of the art of video game research, mainly from an academic perspective. It covers some interesting tools and techniques, but not from the point of view of professional programmers in the gaming industry. It is organized around three main areas: gaming techniques and tools, game play, and game design and development.

The first part, on tools and techniques, is the most interesting from a technical point of view. It starts with chapters on automatic content generation for video games, from a survey of procedural content generation (PCG) to automatic storytelling techniques for improving player experiences by creating video clips and comics based on game logs. It also includes riveting chapters on using navigation meshes for collision detection, complementary techniques for simulating crowds, resolving synchronization problems in multiplayer games, and the use of different artificial intelligence (AI) techniques for strategy games. Other chapters that complete this part of the handbook delve into the exchange of social information, the incorporation of advertisements, and the development of collaborative games.

The second part of this handbook turns its attention to game play, the specific ways in which players interact with video games and their user experiences. The chapters provide different psychological models of game experience. They analyze players’ immersion in the virtual world of video games and their continuation desire, a key aspect for the success of a commercial video game. A chapter on game aesthetics surveys existing user satisfaction models. The evolution of the support video games provide to players is analyzed in a delightful chapter, “From the Deceptively Simple to the Pleasurably Complex,” which traces video game evolution from coin-operated arcades. Another interesting chapter tackles digital preservation issues, with interesting initiatives both by video game aficionados and professional organizations (museums and professional associations).

The third part of the handbook focuses on game design and development. Starting with a chapter on theories of emotion, which might fit better in the second part of the book, it combines design guidelines with philosophical discussions. A chapter on deploying puzzles and quests in different spatial structures, such as ladders of progression or mazes, gives way to a discussion on the social ontology of games. An outstanding chapter surveys human computation games (for example, the Foldit video game for protein folding) and the use of isomorphs to design games that solve actual problems (even for theoretical computer scientists, as in A final chapter on artisanal local networks considers peopleware issues in communities of independent game developers.

As is usual in this kind of handbook, numerous topics are briefly touched upon. Several chapters describe how video games can be used in educational settings. Two interesting chapters explore overcoming simplistic gender stereotypes, and one traces the evolution of the tools that support game making for learning. An unending list of formal models and their acronyms are scattered throughout the 28 chapters that comprise this volume. The broad overview of the field and the varied perspectives different chapters offer are valuable summaries of the state of the art in video game research. Both graduate students starting their research work and professional developers can benefit from this wide-ranging appraisal.

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Reviewer:  Fernando Berzal Review #: CR143509 (1508-0696)
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