10 Top Books to Become a Video Game Developer in 2021
Video game developers write code for games for a variety of formats, such as PCs, consoles, web browsers, and mobile phones.
I absolutely love video games — as both a social and solitary activity — and like most people who love games, I have dreamed of learning to make my own.
Whether you intend to be an indie developer for a small team or you plan to work on triple-A titles, you can find a book here to start you on your path.
In this article, we have compiled a list of the best books for video game developers through a collection of book reviews. Each book review will highlight the taste of the book, the contents covered, and how it can benefit you.
Why Learn Video Game Development
Game development is the perfect combination of art and science. Let's have some reasons why you should learn video game development:
Creative: Video game development is all about creativity and fun. Imagine enjoying work and getting paid for it! Is there anything that can beat that? If you are a gamer at heart and a game developer at mind, this can be the way ahead for you.
Constantly Evolving: Game development has become an increasingly popular career choice in the last decade. The reason is that it’s always evolving and constantly changing.
High-Demand: With new computer games hitting the entertainment market daily, games developers’ skills are in high demand.
Pays Well: If your goal is to earn money and get a good salary in the coming years, you should start learning game development.
Community Learning: Game development has a strong and thriving community support. You will find great learning resources online to polish your skills.
What Makes the Best Books for Video Game Developers?
For learning a deep topic like game development, nothing beats a book. Books are a great reference tool that will help you throughout your video game developer journey. It is sometimes overwhelming and confusing to decide which book to pick.
Here are our criteria for the selection of the books:
The book should contain a variety of instructional materials, including exercises, examples, questions, learning activities, and other features that promote the reader's engagement and active learning.
It uses clear, precise, and easy-to-understand language.
Content must be up-to-date and should thoroughly teach and explain the basic concepts of video game development.
Contain assignments for practice and hands-on experience.
The book should have a clear layout.
Best Books for Video Game Developers
To help you in selecting a well-structured and latest book for video game developers, we have narrowed it down to the best books for video game developers. Any game developer that wants to make it big in the industry must have these books in their collection.
1. Best Book for Learning About Game UX: The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell takes readers on a unique journey to let them understand the game design process in-depth. It step-by-step presents the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design. The book helps to analyze every step of the process that leads to the development of a game.
The author presents 100 plus sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game‘s design. The book includes many great examples from new VR and AR platforms as well as examples from modern games.
The book is divided into thirty-five chapters and includes the following topics:
Chapter 1: In the Beginning, There Is the Designer
Chapter 2: The Designer Creates an Experience
Chapter 3: The Experience Takes Place in a Venue
Chapter 4: The Experience Rises Out of a Game
Chapter 5: The Game Consists of Elements
Chapter 6: The Elements Support a Theme
Chapter 7: The Game Begins with an Idea
Chapter 8: The Game Improves through Iteration
Chapter 9: The Game Is Made for a Player
Chapter 10: The Experience Is in the Player’s Mind
Chapter 11: The Player’s Mind Is Driven by the Player’s Motivation
Chapter 12: Some Elements Are Game Mechanics
Chapter 13: Game Mechanics Must Be in Balance
Chapter 14: Game Mechanics Support Puzzles
Chapter 15: Players Play Games through an Interface
Chapter 16: Experiences Can Be Judged by Their Interest Curves
Chapter 17: One Kind of Experience Is the Story
Chapter 18: Story and Game Structures Can Be Artfully Merged with Indirect Control
Chapter 19: Stories and Games Take Place in Worlds
Chapter 20: Worlds Contain Characters
Chapter 21: Worlds Contain Spaces
Chapter 22: Some Interfaces Create a Feeling of Presence
Chapter 23: The Look and Feel of a World Is Defined by Its Aesthetics
Chapter 24: Some Games Are Played with Other Players
Chapter 25: Other Players Sometimes Form Communities
Chapter 26: The Designer Usually Works with a Team
Chapter 27: The Team Sometimes Communicates through Documents
Chapter 28: Good Games Are Created through Playtesting
Chapter 29: The Team Builds a Game with Technology
Chapter 30: Your Game Will Probably Have a Client
Chapter 31: The Designer Gives the Client a Pitch
Chapter 32: The Designer and Client Want the Game to Make a Profit
Chapter 33: Games Transform Their Players
Chapter 34: Designers Have Certain Responsibilities
Chapter 35: Each Designer Has a Purpose.
The book gives readers useful perspectives on how to make better game designs faster. It also provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again.
2. Best Book for Learning About Systems: Game Engine Architecture
Game Engine Architecture by Jason Gregory presents both the theory and practice of game engine software development. The book highlights the broad range of technologies and techniques used by AAA game studios and their roles within a real industrial-strength game engine.
The book is divided into sixteen chapters and includes the following topics:
Chapter 1 gives the introduction
Chapter 2 talks about 2 tools of the trade
Chapter 3 covers the fundamentals of Software Engineering for Games
Chapter 4 covers Parallelism and Concurrent Programming
Chapter 5 talks about 3D Math for Games
Chapter 6 covers Engine Support Systems
Chapter 7 covers the Resources and the File System
Chapter 8 talks about the Game Loop and Real-Time Simulation
Chapter 9 covers the Human Interface Devices
Chapter 10 talks about the tools for Debugging and Development
Chapter 11 covers the Rendering Engine
Chapter 12 talks about Animation Systems
Chapter 13 covers Collision and Rigid Body Dynamics
Chapter 14 talks about audio
Chapter 15 gives the introduction to Gameplay Systems
Chapter 16 covers Runtime Gameplay Foundation Systems
The examples in the book are grounded in specific technologies but discussion extends beyond any particular engine or API. This book is ideal for beginners but also has content for senior game developers.
3. Best Book for High-Level Concepts: Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games
Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton helps you to create the digital games you love to play, using a non-technical approach to game design. The book gives you the skills and tools necessary to create a compelling and engaging game.
It provides clear and accessible guidance on the formal and dramatic systems of game design. The book includes examples of popular games, illustrations of design techniques, and refined exercises to help you understand how game systems function.
The book is divided into sixteen chapters and includes the following topics:
Chapter 1 talks about the Role of the Game Designer
Chapter 2 covers the Structure of Games
Chapter 3 talks about working with Formal Elements
Chapter 4 talks about working with Dramatic Elements
Chapter 5 talks about working with System Dynamics
Chapter 6 covers Conceptualization
Chapter 7 covers Prototyping
Chapter 8 covers Digital Prototyping
Chapter 9 covers Playtesting
Chapter 10 covers Functionality, Completeness, and Balance
Chapter 11 talks about Fun and Accessibility
Chapter 12 covers Team Structures
Chapter 13 talks about Stages of Development
Chapter 14 covers the Design Document
Chapter 15 talks about understanding the Game Industry
Chapter 16 talks about selling yourself and your ideas to the Game Industry
The book will provide the foundation for your career in any facet of the game industry including design, producing, programming, and visual design. It is really a precious reading!
4. Best Book for Cultivating Mindset: GAMEDEV: 10 Steps to Making Your First Game Successful
GAMEDEV: 10 Steps to Making Your First Game Successful by Wlad Marhulets guides you through a step-by-step process of making a commercial game.
The 260-page book is a mine of valuable information for young developers and anyone interested in learning the entire game production process. These steps include pre-production, funding, coding and development, business and law, marketing and PR, publishing and distribution, pre-launch, launch, post-launch.
Let's have a look at the topics covered in the book:
Part I: Chapters 1- 3: This part will cover ‘Mindset, ‘Preproduction,’ and ‘Funding.’
Part II: Chapters 4 – 7: This part will cover ‘Development,’ ‘Business & Law,’ and ‘Marketing & PR’
Part III: Chapters 8 – 10: This part will cover ‘Publishing & Distribution,’ ‘Preparing for Launch,’ and ‘What’s Next?‘
This book captures the process and creates a valuable resource for aspiring developers and creators alike. It is for beginners and assumes no knowledge of game development on the reader's part. I absolutely recommend it!
5. Best Book for Hands-On Learning: Hands-On Unity 2020 Game Development
Hands-On Unity 2020 Game Development by Nicolas Alejandro Borromeo helps you to build, customize, and optimize professional games using Unity 2020 and C#.
After reading the book, you will be able to:
Unleash the capabilities of C# scripting for creating immersive UI, graphics, Game AI agents and much more
Explore Unity's latest tools, including Universal Render Pipeline, Shader Graph, and VFX graph, to enhance graphics and animation
Get started with building augmented reality experience using Unity's AR Foundation
The book includes hands-on tutorials and Unity projects discussed in a step-by-step manner. This easy-to-follow guide will show you how to develop your first complete game using a variety of Unity tools.
The contents covered in the book are:
Designing a Game from Scratch
Setting Up Unity
Working with Scenes and GameObjects
Grayboxing with Terrain and ProBuilder
Importing and Integrating Assets
Materials and Effects with URP and Shader Graph
Visual Effects with Particle Systems and VFX Graph
Lighting Using the Universal Render Pipeline
Fullscreen Effects with postprocessing
Sound and Music Integration
User Interface Design
Creating Animations with Animator, Cinemachine, and Timeline
Introduction to Unity Scripting with C#
Implementing Movement and Spawning
Physics Collisions and Health System
Win and Lose Conditions
Scripting the UI, Sounds, and Graphics
Implementing Game AI for Building Enemies
This book is for game developers looking to migrate to the Unity game engine. By the end of this book, you'll have built a solid foundation using Unity's tooling ecosystem to develop game projects of any scale.
6. Best book for pragmatic learners: Unity in Action: Multiplatform game development in C#
Unity in Action: Multiplatform game development in C# by Joe Hocking teaches you to write and deploy games with the Unity game development platform. This practical guide exposes every aspect of the game dev process, from the initial groundwork to creating custom AI scripts and building easy-to-read UIs.
The book offers ample hands-on practice exercises with Unity's intuitive workflow tools and state-of-the-art rendering engine.
The book is divided into three parts and thirteen chapters:
Part 1 - First steps
Chapter 1 helps you in getting to know Unity
Chapter 2 talks about building a demo that puts you in 3D space
Chapter 3 talks about adding enemies and projectiles to the 3D game
Chapter 4 talks about developing graphics for your game
Part 2 - Getting comfortable
Chapter 5 guides you to build a Memory game using Unity's 2D functionality
Chapter 6 talks about creating a basic 2D Platformer
Chapter 7 talks about Putting a GUI onto a game
Chapter 8 talks about creating a third-person 3D game: player movement and animation
Chapter 9 talks about adding interactive devices and items within the game
Part 3 - Strong finish
Chapter 10 talks about connecting your game to the internet
Chapter 11 talks about playing audio: sound effects and music
Chapter 12 talks about putting the parts together into a complete game
Chapter 13 talks about deploying your game to players' devices
It is an ideal book for app developers to make a switch to video game development.
7. Best Reference Book: Unity Game Development Cookbook
Unity Game Development Cookbook: Essentials for Every Game by Paris Buttfield-Addison is a collection of techniques and approaches for a number of Unity tasks, organized into sections such as 2D Graphics, 3D Graphics, Physics, Animation, and so on. Each section, or recipe, consists of detailed code examples and explanations.
The book is divided into two parts:
Part 1 - Discusses the Unity game engine and how to work with the same using succinct exercises focused on various Unity features.
Part 2 - A tutorial-oriented guide for fixing the usual gameplay issues and complexities.
The main topics covered in the book are:
Features of Unity
Gameplay issues and fixes
Unity game engine
The book leverages a unique, friendly, and straightforward approach to teaching game development. Unity Game Development Cookbook is ideal for beginning to intermediate Unity developers.
8. Best Book for Unity Fundamentals: Unity From Zero to Proficiency
Unity From Zero to Proficiency by Patrick Felicia is a step-by-step guide to creating your first game. With this book, you will build your own 2D and 3D environments.
All chapters include step-by-step instructions with examples that you can use straight away. Each next chapter builds on the topics covered in the previous chapters.
The book is divided into six chapters and the topics covered in the book are:
2D and 3D game world designing
2D platform game development without scripting
Basics of Unity
Core features in Unity
Introduction to video game development
After completing this book, you will be able to:
Feel comfortable with Unity's core features
Apply transformations (e.g., rotate, or scale)
Create a 3D Maze with lights, walls, and textures
Create an island with trees, sandy beaches, mountains, and water
Use cameras and vehicles
Create a 2D platform game (with no scripting)
Export your games to the web
Every step is explained in great detail so that you never feel lost. No prior knowledge of Unity or game development is required for getting started with the book.
And guess what? If you are more of a visual learner, you will gain access to a free video training that covers all the topics and features introduced in the book.
9. Best Book for Designers: Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design
Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design by Scott Rogers helps you to design and build cutting-edge video games. It is perhaps one of the best choices on this list to have as a first game design book.
After reading the book, you will be able to:
Develop your game design from the spark of inspiration all the way to production.
Understand why a story is important for the gameplay.
Learn how to design the most exciting levels, the most precise controls, and the fiercest foes that will keep your players challenged.
Learn about the three Cs: Character, Camera, Controls, and how to best use each one of them to make a great game experience.
Create games for mobile and console systems. This includes detailed rules for touch and motion controls.
Monetize your game from the design up.
Write effective and professional design documents with the help of brand-new examples.
The book provides plenty of attractive cartoon art that helps present the topics in a way that’s both approachable and instructive. The chapters in the book are called levels and as you progress through the book you level up, just like in a game.
It is not a technical book and there are no code samples. The book has a general approach and you will have to customize the solutions to your specific needs.
If you want a game design book that trades lengthy theoretical language for delightful illustrations, this book is for you!
10. Best Book for Total Beginners: Getting Started with Unity
Getting Started with Unity by Dr. Edward Lavieri will guide you through the entire process of creating a 3D game, from downloading the Unity game engine to publishing your game.
This book will help you to learn to create immersive 3D games and Virtual Reality experiences with Unity 2018. You will be able to build custom scripts to make your game characters interactive.
After reading the book, you will be able to:
Set up your Unity development environment and navigate its tools
Import and use custom assets and asset packages to add characters to your game
Build a 3D game world with custom terrain, water, sky, mountains, and trees
Animate game characters, using animation controllers, and scripting
Apply audio and particle effects to the game
Create intuitive game menus and interface elements
Customize your game with sound effects, shadows, lighting effects, and rendering options
Debug code and provide smooth error handling
Explore and implement AritificiaI Intelligence techniques to bring your game to life
The book is divided into fourteen chapters and includes the following topics
Chapter 1 talks about Downloading and Installing Unity
Chapter 2 covers the Unity Interface
Chapter 3 talks about Designing the Game
Chapter 4 talks about Creating our Terrain
Chapter 5 covers Lights, Cameras, and Shadows
Chapter 6 talks about Creating and Importing 3D Objects for our Game
Chapter 7 talks about Implementing our Player Character
Chapter 8 talks about Implementing our Non-Player Characters
Chapter 9 talks about Adding a Heads-Up Display
Chapter 10 talks about Scripting our Points System
Chapter 11 covers Scripting Victory and Defeat
Chapter 12 talks about Adding Audio and Visual Effects to our Game
Chapter 13 talks about Optimizing our Game for Deployment
Chapter 14 talks about the First steps in Virtual Reality
The book not only gives you a strong foundation but puts you on the path to game development.
More Ways to Learn Video Game Development
We hope our book curation will help you to pick the right book to learn video game development.
When it comes to game development, there are many online resources. If you choose not only books, but online courses as well, you give yourself more experiences for emersion.
Here are some online courses to learn game development:
Coursera: C# Programming for Unity Game Development Specialization by Dr. Tim "Dr T" Chamillard is intended for beginning programmers who want to learn how to program Unity games using C#. It includes four courses and each of the courses includes 10-20 exercises designed to teach you small concepts in C# and Unity.
Course 1: Introduction to C# Programming and Unity
Course 2: More C# Programming and Unity
Course 3: Intermediate Object-Oriented Programming for Unity Games
Course 4: Data Structures and Design Patterns for Game Developers
Udemy: Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D helps you to learn Unity in C# & Code Your First Seven 2D Video Games for Web, Mac & PC. This 35-hour course includes 10 sections and 215 lectures.
Codecademy: Learn Game Development with Phaser.js is a 9-hour course that helps you to learn about the HTML5 game development framework and makes writing browser-based games a breeze. For more on Codecademy Pro, see my Codecademy Pro review.
In case you want to explore free online resources, I have compiled over 70 free coding resources so that you can learn without breaking your budget.
Good luck on your journey with video game development and I hope to see you in another article.