Meadows book is a classic. If you want something with more application to game design, check out Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach. This kind of thinking is why I wrote the book.
All games are systems, and we can understand systems in the world via games better than any other way. I now spend my time talking about this. A lot.
A systems approach to game design: Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach (possibly the most boring title ever, so it goes). The book goes from deep theory to the specifics of design and development.
Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach
Game Mechanics: Advanced Game Design
It's the core of our game design program, and my book . :)
Short-term and long-term cognitive interaction, respectively. ST cognitive are puzzles, tactics, or goals you have that have at most a few intermediate steps. LT cognitive includes strategy and goals that require multiple intermediate steps.
Fast action (typically less than 1 sec in duration) involves primarily perceptual reactions -- shooting at fast-appearing targets, for example. The types of interactivity shown go from fastest to slowest, from most urgent to least urgent, and from (in psychological terms) those using reflexive, executive, and reflective attention.
The faster loops support the longer, but the fast also drives out the slow, in terms of what the player can actively attend to. So if you want to have an emotional, reflective game, you don't want to use up the player's psychological interactivity budget on too much fast action or short-term cognitive puzzles, for example.
This is part of our curriculum and explained at length in Chapter 4 , so it's not elaborated on in this doc.
Here is a suggested high school curriculum for aspiring game designers that I put together. I've been a professional game designer for more than twenty years, including being a hiring manager, running three game studios, and now being a professor teaching game design at the university level.
As the curriculum doc says, there's a lot a high schooler can and should be doing now -- including learning to program. He doesn't have to be amazing at it, but any digital game designer has to know some programming. (He could of course look at tabletop game design, but it requires the same fundamentals, if not the same level of computer programming.)
Most of all though, he needs to make a game. Or two or three. Making small, finished games provides incredibly valuable experience.
If your son is specifically set on being a systems designer, you might consider getting him the book I wrote. Yes, that's a self-endorsement, but the book is specifically about systems thinking and game design, and intended for aspiring systems designers. It's written at a university level, but I've had reports from numerous high school students who are finding it useful.
I'm happy to answer any other questions I can too.
Really excellent video - thanks for posting that!
Systemic game design is the entire point of my book, "Advanced Game Design: A Systems Approach" , published last December. The book takes a deep look at systems thinking and game design.
Not coincidentally, systemic game design is the focus of our game design degree program at Indiana University.
In terms of the benefits of systemic game design, this makes for much more flexible, varied gameplay, and just as importantly it frees you as a game developer from the dreaded "content treadmill." If you're trying to make a game by throwing more content at it, you're setting yourself up for a lot more work and expense to get less gameplay.
The discussion of emergence in this video is really important as well. The way I like to think of it is that you can create emergent systems by providing behavioral connections that are local, generic, and modular. There's some really good work that's been done on this in cellular automata, most notably in Conway's Life. This video has some great examples of the conditions for emergence, in particular in terms of making the connections relate via underlying attributes than in terms of specific object interactions. The more you can think about your game design in terms of systems -- leaving behind linear narratives and missions -- the easier it becomes to get to this kind of gameplay.
ETA: Hmm, the downvotes coming in. Too much self-promotion? I'll remove this if so.
> he has an idea / concept in mind that he feels can be only incompletely expressed with words.
Well a bunch of us have tried (see the talks and videos in his description on youtube, which includes one of my talks), and continue to try .
It's a difficult topic for sure, but one that seems to me to be at the heart of game design as the area matures.
I probably could. I just wrote a textbook (link for the curious ) that's getting some traction, and in some places that would take me a long way toward a PhD. But I'm honestly not sure I see the point -- for me anyway, given my career path. It would put me on the path to tenure, I suppose, which means being on the path to having to do a tenure case, and that just seems like a big distraction. I might feel differently if I was in my 30s or something though.
This blog post didn't really do much for me. The blog author's definition of system is not how contemporary game development community uses the word. We wouldn't call decks of cards "systems", they're just game pieces. Systems are things more like "economy" or "crafting" - networks of mechanics working together.