Curse You, Amazon Gold Box!

Saving up money for the new house has been more difficult lately, what with all of the great books popping up in my Gold Box.

First up was What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee. When I first opened the book I was struck with the fear that Mr. Gee might be a wanker, because the chapters had names like “Semiotic Domains”, and “Situated Meaning and Learning”. Turns out I was wrong; Mr. Gee has many useful things to say about the spaces our minds inhabit when we are immersed in the gaming experience.

Next: A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Ralph Koster. I have not read this one yet, but a quick skim tells me that the ideas in this book will be compatible with the ideas in Mr. Gee’s book.

And finally, Chris Crawford on Game Design by Chris Crawford. I love this book. Crawford uses lessons learned over twenty years of designing and building games, to come up with 95 principles to keep in mind when starting the game development process. He is a wonderful writer.

Only a few more weeks until A Feast for Crows hits the shelves. Five years is a long time to wait for a sequel.


This is the first draft of my version of one of the first video games I ever played. Variously called Kingdom or Hammurabi, it is a simple economic game. I first played it in the Impressions 5 Science Center in Lansing, Michigan. I must have been about eleven years old.

You are the ruler of a kingdom. Your duty is to acquire land and peasants. You do this by planting crops, feeding your peasants, and indulging in simple land speculation (buy low, sell high). Chaos enters the system in the form of rats eating your grain, peasants dying of plague, and variation in the price and fertility of your land. The “bushel of grain” is the standard unit of currency.

Right now the balance of values is as follows:

-Each peasant eats 20 bushels of grain a year
-It takes 2 bushels of grain to plant an acre of land
-Each acre of planted land will grow between 2 and 5 bushels of grain
-If you under-feed your peasants, they will starve to death.

If you try to spend more grain than you have, the game will simply do nothing when you click the button. And this leads me into the “to do” list for the game

-alerts which tell you when you are spending too much.
-adding logic so that each peasant can farm no more than 10 acres of land
-allowing a set number of years so the game does not continue forever
-if too many peasants die, the survivors revolt and cast you from power

I like this kind of game. It packs a nice amount of complexity into a very small package. I imagine that the idea for Warcraft grew out of something very like this.

Click here to play my version of The Kingdom of Hamurabi.