In chapter 19 of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, game designer Jesse Schell spends a considerable amount of time on the subject of space in games. It is one of his six categories of game mechanics.
Space is the abstract construction of a game's space; what is left over when all visuals are stripped away. According to Schell, all game spaces:
- "Are either discrete or continuous
- Have some number of dimensions
- Have bounded areas which may or may nor be connected" (Schell 131).
Discrete spaces (like the grid in tic-tac-toe) have a limited number of cells or positions that may be filled or moved into, while continuous spaces (like a pool table) allow for unlimited movement within a limited space.
By 'd'imensions, Schell means whether a game is played on a 2D or 3D space mechanically, not aesthetically. An improved graphical remake of a sidescrolling platformer, for example, is still only played in two dimensions. Interestingly, verbal games like "Twenty Questions" are still played in a space (the mental construction of the conversation), albeit one with zero dimensions (134).
Schell returns to the idea of Space in Chapter 19 of The Art of Game Design, in which he draws upon the field of architecture in order to explain how to design effective spaces. In it, he sets out five types of game spaces (331-333):
- Linear -- A player can only basically move forward and backward (Candyland, Monopoly)
- Grid -- Movement is restricted by discrete, adjacent shapes (Chess, Checkers)
- Web -- Several points connected by discrete paths (Trivial Pursuit, ToonTown Online)
- Points in Space -- Several points with no specified connecting path (Bocce, Final Fantasy)
- Divided Space -- Space carved up into irregular sections (Risk, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
He follows this by listing renowned architect Christopher Alexander's fifteen properties of living structures, which may be used to give game spaces the "nameless quality" essential to good space design (336-337).