At Metanet Software, we love games — and we also love design books. We get a lot of inspiration from tons of different art and design books, and we think you can see that in our games. Since the early 2000s, we’ve spent hours and hours in bookstores and libraries poring over pages: bright colours and blocky text filling our imaginations with excitement and fresh ideas. Each book is a little spotlight on something special, and the creations of someone who has passion and dedication to their craft. Each is a delightful surprise, every page a step further into a new world we can get to know and to appreciate. And even the package of a good book is inspiring: full of gorgeously tactile papers and smooth, beautiful inks.
Eventually we started to want to have some of these books nearby as we work, for reference, and have visited bookstores all over the world to round out our collection — over the past decade, this love of books has developed into a curated design library. We feel that keeping an eye on what’s going on in other media is hugely important to be able to appreciate those who have gone before us, and also to have a broader sense of the world around us and where we fit. We might think we’re blazing new trails since games are so relatively young as a medium, and maybe that there’s little we can learn from other artists, but this is pretty narrow-minded — there’s so much we can learn. Everything on earth has been said before — we’re all really just figuring out how to say things using different words.
Really, every creative product is a collection of influences, and of the likes and dislikes and understandings of the people that created it. So we feel that to create the best games we possibly can, it’s very important that we keep pushing ourselves, and keep trying to understand new things. Our library has a huge influence on the work we do, but that takes a lot more than just looking through a book: to really understand something, you need to watch it evolve over time, and follow the context in which it exists. Maybe you even need to try creating within that world yourself, which takes time, research and lots of effort. But it’s worth it: a diverse and varied set of influences means a richer and more interesting game.
Check out some of the books in the photos below. We have a lot of organization to do still, but our library has lots of different categories, including architecture, painting, graphic design, wayfinding, logo design and typography. Each category has an important role in game design and development, and in creating something beautiful. We added the ISBNs of each book to a digital database using BookCrawler, and although this library is heavily skewed towards our design sensibilities, we try to keep an open mind when considering what to add to it. We have so much more to learn!
Books may be a dying medium, but we feel they have a lot of life left. We’ll be posting some of our favourite books periodically on the blog (under the Inspiration tab) in hopes that they’re inspiring to others as well, so keep an eye out for that. You don’t necessarily need to start your own library, but hopefully this has inspired you, fellow game makers, to take a look at other artistic media and try to understand their languages and the tools other creatives use to express themselves, so you can further enrich your own work. Good luck!